Over the last month a number of Kidslox iOS based parents decided they didn’t need Kidslox any more as Apple’s new “Screen Time” settings provide similar features for free. At first we were alarmed, but now many are returning to Kidslox. Glossy as Screen Time looks, it seems it doesn’t yet meet the standards most parents have for parental control software.
Features Kidslox has that Screen Time doesn’t
Cross platform coverage
Obviously Apple’s app offers no help when it comes to limiting Android devices.
Screen Time lets you set daily limits for individual apps, but doesn’t have an overall daily limit for device use like Kidslox.
Kidslox original feature and longstanding favourite among parents everywhere is not an option with Screen Time. Sometimes though, you just need to be able to turn off their devices Now.
Screen Time doesn’t exactly have schedules. It does let you schedule a time to begin some “Downtime” (Lockdown mode), but it can only be an overnight schedule, there’s no room for allowing different settings at different times of day without manually changing the settings each time.
One strange oversight of Screen Time is that it only allows for control of children’s devices by one parent. With Kidslox you can add as many controllers to the account as wanted.
Screen Time has its quirks and peculiarities, it’s not easy to set up, but there’s no-one to turn to for help outside of Apple’s generic support channels. Kidslox dedicated support team work tirelessly to provide fast, accurate help getting Kidslox working for your family if something doesn’t go as expected.
Other inconveniences of Screen time
While Screen Time looks great, it has some confusing elements, like the fact that there’s no way to initially place limits on an app until after it first appears in a usage report. This also forces parents to be reactive rather than proactive and reduces their control.
Need to set up Apple’s family sharing
In order to have remote control over Screen Time settings on a child device, you’ll need to set it up to work with Apple’s family sharing. This is notoriously problematic and when we tested it we found it very challenging and time consuming to successfully set up. In fact some of our testers couldn’t get it working at all!
No standalone app
This might not seem a big deal for some, but the fact that Screen Time is only accessible through the device settings and doesn’t have an on-screen icon is surprisingly disconcerting and in practical terms discourages its use by making it easy to forget about.
Usage report excess
Screen Time offers a lot more statistics about device use than Kidslox can (Apple doesn’t make access to all it’s tools available to developers, so they can make features we can’t). Strangely though, this apparent bonus of the Screen Time system seems to work against it. Apple’s functionality is based on the idea that if they give you lots of information, you (or your child) will then make better decisions on the basis of the information. In reality, Kidslox simpler approach to reports highlights the truly actionable points, like occasions when the device was used at night, without overwhelming you and leaving you uncertain about next steps.
Screen Time’s content filtering is simply the old “Restrictions” menu repositioned in a different part of the device settings. It does include some, limited web filtering, at least for Safari, but it lets a lot through. There’s a reason Kidslox offers additional web filtering and it’s because Apple’s inbuilt blacklist is insufficient on its own.
Apple’s Screen Time looks good and offers great analysis of how much we’re using our devices. As a practical parental control tool though, it leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps Apple will take some of these points on board over the coming years and Screen Time will improve, but for now we’re much happier giving our kids Apple devices with Kidslox installed than relying on Screen Time.
We’ll be releasing a more detailed and nuanced breakdown of our testing of Screen Time in the near future, so check in with us soon.