Monday, May 16, 2016

Android restriction (parental control) solutions: Screen Time and MMGuardian advance to next step

For my book project I searched my moto E test phone (Android 5.1) user guide for “child” and “restriction” and “parental”.  I found “products are not toys and may be hazardous to small children”.

Ooookaaay. That’s not too encouraging. My iPhone User Guide has an extensive discussion of restriction options.

Next I tried “restricted profiles” (Android 4.3 and later). Oops. They’re only for tablets, not phones. So it was time to look for 3rd party options [1].

Google found me some lousy references and two useful ones: Five parental control apps for Android devices - Pocket-lint and 10 Android Parental Control Apps - Yoursphere for Parents [2].

From these I picked up MMGuardian, Funamo, AppLock, Kids Place, Screen Time, Net Nanny, Norton Family and a few others. Between the set of these Android, for a technically sophisticated user, can have advantages over built-in iOS restrictions (iOS security models limit the value vendors can add). 

I’m most interested in products that work for teens and/or adults with atypical minds, so that eliminated a few options. Next I looked for good quality companion web sites with clear pricing — that criterial took out both Norton Family and the (not-really-free) AppLock.

I ended up with four options:

  • MMGuardian: app usage, time use, texts including driving. $35/year. iOS solution from same vendor.
  • Screen Time: $48/year
  • Net Nanny: browser restrictions, remote access. $60/year - primary focus on browser control.
  • Funamo: $20 one time purchase.

Funamo is the value option, with a more limited and geekier web site than the competition. For my target users I think more support is needed. Net Nanny has the highest pricing, which may reflect longer tenure. MMGuardian and ScreenTime seem (hey, information is limited!) to have a good balance of price and value.

ScreenTime and MMGuardian both have well done blogs with working RSS feeds. ScreenTime is Android only, MMGuardian has an iOS product too. Both have a 14 day free trial. ScreenTime has 7,600 Play Store reviews, MMGuardian has 1,200. Both have well documented uninstall procedures[3]. They are well balanced competitors.

I’m going to have to test both of them — since MMGuardian also has an iOS product I’ll start there.

- fn -

[1] Android reminds me so much of Windows; only geeks can truly use it. Why hasn’t Google bundled even minimal functionality into their OS? The sort-of-free AppLock has 3.3 million reviews. There is a need.

[2] There’s something broken in the info-sphere. Exactly two useful reviews?!

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