For the most part, today’s parental control apps are designed to make parents get some control back, monitor (and feel a bit better about) what their kids are doing on their mobile technology use and most have had very little focus on the kids’ experience. This has led to many one star reviews with bad experiences for all of them, including us. We’ve even had some sneaky (and smart) kids send us support emails with the goal of impersonating their parents to request a password or how to remove it if a password was lost. Yes, true stuff! By far this one was the best so far:
Here are some examples from the Google Play and App Store app – some of these have been taken down due to the colourful language:
This app sucks. I just got a new phone and I can only use it for 5 minutes a month.
I request all the parent please don’t download it if you will download it doesn’t allow your child to place a call…highly recommend parent to don’t download these app it is f****** insane.
…I don’t appreciate the fact that this app has blocked me from playing games or going on YouTube this app is completely and utterly useless…
I hate it I am a child and it is the worst app ever because during the holiday I couldn’t do anything my phone was blocked the whole 5 week holiday I understand at school but not on Holiday.
We’ve used these as motivation in how can we make parental control apps more fluid, just like family conversation. We named our project – “What’s in it for the Kids?”. This includes a bunch of new features that we have recently released and others we are thinking about:
- More time requests: when the allocated daily limit or scheduled screen time is up, kids can request more time with a reason. This request is sent to all parent devices using our app in Parent Mode via our Family Messenger feature – then parents can add more time or decline it.
- Request apps to be unblocked: we introduced a new feature that allows parents to have all new app installs require their approval. We notify them automatically. Kids will be presented with a new block message with a request option including a reason for using the blocked app. A big goal of this feature is to spark a conversation on the types of apps their kids are using.
- Notify Kids when time’s about to run out: kids will get a 10 minute and 5 minute notification on their device prior to the end of their daily allocated screen time limit.
- Time Widget: So we’ve created a local widget that shows them the time on their home screen and inside Boomerang, they can now review their own app usage.
- Chore lists = More Play Time (planned): This feature has been requested often and the idea is, parents set some goals each week to earn more time (the amount they decide too) when it’s up.
- My Stats (planned): kids like to know where they stand on their Snapchat streaks or how many Likes they got on their recent Instagram post.
We continue to think about what else we should add to the kids’ experience – we are dads too and are living many of these scenarios that were “friction” points in our own use of our parental control app with our families. We continue to be the first generation of parents raising and leading kids with instant access to technology anywhere and anytime and have to adapt to the changing times. Parental Control apps are changing, evolving and improving every day. Got any other scenarios we should consider for the kids?