Qustodio Review: Flexible Cross-Device Parental Control Software

Parent checking the activity of his child with the help of Qustodio monitoring software
Qustodio

One of the biggest pitfalls of most parental control software is limited to a particular device or platform. Qustodio solves this problem by working with all of your child’s devices.

How (and where) it works

If you’ve done research on different content filtering and application management solutions for your family, you’ve probably discovered something quickly. There are a multitude of solutions of a rather limited scope. There are solutions that block web browsing, a computer or work well on a tablet or phone, but do not work on a computer at all. There are also solutions that combine these solutions.

Filtering and monitoring the contents of a single device may have worked well over 10 years ago, while the only thing you wanted to keep at home was a single computer . Nowadays, however, many families have multiple devices and it is not unusual for a child to have a computer, a phone and a tablet depending on his age and the amount of technology used in his household. If the goal is to keep your children away from adult content and monitor their use of the app, it’s clear that a solution exclusively for personal computers is worthless if they can just pick up their phone or their tablet and do everything they want without supervision.

It is above all here that Qustodio, a flexible content filtering and application management tool, really shines. While the free account is limited to one device (ideal for checking if the product will meet your needs or if you only need to secure a single device, such as your child’s iPad), a premium account allows cross-platform functionality across multiple devices Armed with a premium plan – $ 54.95 a year for 5 devices, $ 96.95 for 10 or $ 137.95 for 15 – you can get the same protection on your child’s computers (Windows or macOS), Android and iOS, and even on Kindle tablets.

Not only does this work on all these operating systems and devices, but also on the entire device. No matter what application or web browser your child uses, the Qustodio system covers it. Using a different web browser, a private browsing mode or other solutions to remove other simpler systems will not work.

In addition to this, Qustodio also offers additional features such as application time tracking, application blocking (with rules and time settings such as restricting games or video applications during hours of homework or at bedtime, for example), social media monitoring (currently limited to only Facebook), tracking mobile location and, under Android only, SMS monitoring and alert button.

Qustodio accomplishes this by combining embedded device applications with administrative profiles for these devices to control access to restricted content and applications in a more granular manner than many other tools can. Let’s see how to set it up, what the daily use looks like and what we thought of that experience.

Install

Despite the sophistication of the system, the configuration process is extremely simple. That’s the way it should be: you do not need a computer science degree to secure your kids’ devices.

Each Qustodio setup has two parts: the parental control account and the application installed on the child’s device (s). To begin, you simply need to create a parent account on the website or with the help of the control application on your phone or tablet.

Once you have created an account, you create a profile for your child with basic information: their name (or nickname), age, and gender. You can select an avatar for your child, but you can not upload a photo like some other profile systems.

Basic profile in place, it’s time to get on their devices. On computers, all you need to do is visit the website and download the software and supported mobile operating systems, go to the app store and download the application .

After launching the app, you sign in with the parent account and assign the device to the child profile it belongs to. In addition to assigning the profile, on mobile devices such as phones and tablets, you will be prompted to allow some additional changes to the device to allow Qustodio to control it more closely. On iOS, for example, you authorize the installation of an administrator profile that will help the company to manage and protect this device, in the same way as when you run an iPhone, this device is often managed remotely and locked by your IT department. department.

Finally, although they never mention it during the application setup process, if you re-read the company’s blog and documentation, they mention an additional tool that is not explicitly part of the package, but provided by the company. society: the Qustodio family contract (PDF).

It’s a printable “contract” that you can spend with your kids discussing Internet security, good device usage habits, and getting their endorsement, so to speak, of a safety action plan Internet and devices. If you’re struggling to find a way to talk to your children about using a filtering / monitoring tool, or just about Internet security in general, it’s a really useful tool for starting the discussion. While you’re there, you can also check out their resources for parents.

Daily use: Qustodio in action

The way you use Qustodio on a daily basis depends largely on the needs of your family, the age of your child and what you are trying to gain from this experience. If your sole purpose is to clearly filter the content in an unpleasant way so that your child can not accidentally (or deliberately) access pornography or other inappropriate content, using Qustodio is more or less a quick operation that locks access.

But if you want to use Qustodio as a behavior management tool to help your child better manage the time spent on their screen and the use of their applications, it’s also a great tool for that. Let’s describe how the different features work.

Application monitoring and restrictions

Qustodio will monitor the application usage and report on it. Here is what the dashboard looks like (showing all the activities of all devices):

In addition to telling you which apps your child uses on their phone, tablet, and computer, you can also set application-based restrictions that range from “they can never use this app” to “they can use this app these days at these events. times. “You can easily set these restrictions from the family’s web portal and application.

While the web portal is a bit dated (but perfectly functional) and looks somehow like a business hour clock, the mobile application, seen below, has a much more refined modern look.

For the most part, we found this feature simple and useful (it was easy to see which applications had been used and the interface for defining rules and restrictions is simple), but we would like to see some elements of the application. increase the usefulness of reports.

It would be nice if you could choose to ignore and / or combine some apps. For example, reporting on applications for desktops is extremely thorough (it is even so complete that it even saves information such as the use of calculator.exe and the calculator. Nvidia player update application). If this kind of thing did not interest you, it would be nice to filter it. In addition, it would be nice to combine elements (for example, combining the time spent downloading a game launcher or choosing a game with the game itself).

Aside from a few minor suggestions, however, the monitoring and rule / restriction settings have worked exactly as expected and we have no complaints about the basic features.

Web monitoring and restrictions

Web activity and restrictions work almost in the same way as the application system. You see which sites they visited, if they tried to visit restricted sites, and you can easily block, allow or restrict the content.

In addition to this on the main dashboard, there is a word cloud of search terms and you can access individual search queries by viewing the detailed view of the search engines (like google.com and bing.com, for example). You will see exactly what your child has been looking for, for example “how long has been President of FDR?

As we discovered earlier, you may discover that your child has learned that typing an entire homework question into Google is a great way to get targeted answers (in case you’re wondering why your child is was looking for exactly what he was looking for: the impacts of the Dust Bowl on Kanas’ economy in the 1930s? “between” how to build a Minecraft cactus farm “and” cute puppy videos “).

Monitoring social media, messages and location

Although the application and web content are quite simple, it is here that things get a bit more complicated and, therefore, more difficult to consistently implement on all devices.

Qustodio can, for example, monitor SMS applications on Android devices, but it can not, due to security restrictions and the implementation of the messaging application, monitor SMS messages on iOS. The same goes for monitoring phone calls. On Android, a call log will be reported, on iOS, this will not be the case. Location tracking works on both platforms, but it works better (again because of the underlying operating system differences) on Android. There is a panic button function, but it only works on Android too.

Although he can track the use of Facebook (including posts on the wall and the people your child is talking to, but not what he says to himself), he does not monitor any other media social. However, it will report the use of social media applications, as it would with any other application, and will allow the restriction and blocking of these applications. For example, you can not see what your child has said on Snapchat, but you can see how long they have used it and block the app.

Daily reports

As noted above, each family will find different aspects of the service more useful in meeting their needs. In our tests, conducted with a real child, we found that daily reports were the most useful because our main goal was not to lock apps or web content, but to help kids learn to manage. their own use.

To this end, daily reports have been extremely useful. In addition to being able to appear at any time in the parent dashboard with the help of the mobile application or website, the parent account receives a daily e-mail summary indicating the applications used and their duration, websites visited, Facebook posts and others. aspects of the user experience of the child monitored by the service.

These daily reports have been extremely helpful in discussing the use of the app, time spent on homework, and good sleep habits, such as avoiding falling asleep on YouTube. . We are convinced that the daily report will also be very useful for you, regardless of your motivation to use Qustodio.

The verdict

After testing the service with children of different ages and families, we only have positive things to say about the service. It worked well with primary school children and with older children as well.

All the complaints we have (like wishing to combine applications into categories for a more useful report) are very minor and Qustodio has kept exactly what was promised: easy application and web monitoring with additional practical features, such as location monitoring. , thrown on it.

The range of features (and the flexibility of use) ensure that the service does not address only to small children or older children, but that it can be used – by adapting the way that you apply it and the way you talk about using it with your child. – when the child grows up.

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