While it’s no secret that I am not a huge fan of Apple, I promise I have the ability to be unbiased. I go where the technology fits ME best. If the features it has fits you best, then more power to you. My goal has always been to get the right information out to people so they can make an informed decision on what is best for them.
Both iOS and Android have free built-in parental controls that can be set, but there are significant differences between the two. While I could go on and on about why I think one is better than the other, in the interest of fairness I am limiting myself to 3 pros and 2 cons for each operating system. Obviously, the “pros” for each could just be the “cons” but I tried to highlight different things for the cons. Just know that each of the pros could also be listed as a con for the opposite device and vice versa.
iPhone Parental Controls – What it does better
While Apple was a little behind the curve when it came to built-in parental controls, what it has released is pretty good. There are 3 features specifically that I wish were available on Android.
1 – Communication Limits
One feature that I gotta give Apple credit for is Communication Limits. This allows the parent to limit calls and texts to only people in the child’s contact list. With all the spam messages and calls these days, it’s a great feature to include to help make a kid’s device a lot safer.
2 – Remove the app store
Another great feature in iOS is the ability to completely remove the app store from the child’s device. This will ensure that apps do not get installed without the parent’s consent. The only problem with this is that apps that are already installed will not be able to be updated unless you allow the app store again temporarily. I would love this ability since my son is CONSTANTLY browsing the Play store for new apps to install.
3 – Disable passcode changes
The last benefit to an iOS device over an Android is the ability to disable the device’s passcode from being changed. If you have a deal with your child that you know the passcode to their device, setting this will make sure that the passcode is not changed without your knowledge.
Android Parental Controls – What it does better
1 – Take back app approvals
If your child uses an Android device, and you approve an app to be installed on it, you can take back that approval. You cannot do this on an iOS device. Once it’s approved, it’s approved forever. In Google Family Link you can “unapprove” that application and then the child won’t be able to re-install the app.
2 – Lock at will
Android devices will completely lock during “bedtime” if you set one. You can also control the device at any time by pressing the Lock Now in the parent’s control app. This will block out the entire device with a “time’s up” screen and will render the device unusable.
3 – Google product integration
Using Google Family Link, you can set up filters and parental controls for YouTube and Chrome because they are all Google products. Since the majority of kids use both of these products, it is great to have that tight integration with parental controls on these particular services.
iOS Parental Controls – Where it’s lacking
1 – Need an iOS device to control
There is no Android app for Apple’s built-in parental controls. This is a HUGE con for children to have an iOS device if the parents use Android. If you want to manage a child’s iPhone, you have to have an Apple device.
2 – 3rd party limitations
Due to the privacy settings built into iOS, 3rd party parental control applications are severely limited in what it can monitor on an iOS device. Most 3rd party apps will require you to back up the phone to a computer in order to monitor the content from the device since it can’t do anything on the iPhone itself.
Android Parental Controls – Where it’s lacking
1 – Sideload capability
Because Android is a more “open” operating system, it offers the ability to side-load apps. This means you can install apps outside of the device’s application store. You can limit this capability inside Google Family Link, but the ability is still there and could open the device up to bypass the controls you have set.
2 – Google Family Link needs to be installed
Unlike “Screen Time” in iOS which is just located in the settings of every iOS device by default, Google Family link needs to be installed in order to use it. You have to install Google Family Link on both the child’s device and the parent’s device. Some people do not like having to install an additional app.
What parental controls on an iPhone or Android device can do
All of the above-mentioned features are either available on an iPhone or an Android, but none are available on both. However, there are some features that both devices have the capability to do.
1 – Limit time spent on apps
Both devices give parents the ability to control how much time is spent on individual apps. You can set a time limit for Instagram or YouTube or whatever app your child uses most frequently to make sure they aren’t wasting too much time on one individual application.
2 – Time spent on the device
You can also limit the time spent on the entire device. You can set it to turn off at a specific time every day, or just how long the device is able to be used each day.
3 – Content filters
Based on the child’s age, you can limit content from the app stores, and even filter the internet including blocking individual websites from being accessed. The one limitation here on both platforms is that they only filter content for the built-in browser on the device. For Android devices, it will filter Chrome, and for iOS devices, it will filter Safari.
4 – Location
Both devices allow you to track the location of the child’s device based on GPS. You do have to enable this for the child’s device to track correctly. Any time your child puts their device in Airplane mode, or if they go into a special power-saving mode that disables the GPS functionality, the tracking will not be accurate.
5 – Approve app downloads/installs
Android and iOS give parents the ability to control what apps go on their child’s devices. You can set it to send you a request to approve the app download or install. I recommend all parents utilize this function so you know which apps your kids are installing.
I do love that tech companies are seeing more value in offering these kinds of options to parents. I definitely wish they would do even more to help parents, but I’ll take what I can get for now! Hopefully, this list helps you make the right decision for your family. Good luck!