Parental control software exists for good reason. Kids might accidentally or deliberately visit inappropriate websites. They might stay on their devices for too long or at the wrong time. Maybe your child is texting sketchy individuals. Tokyo-based FamilyTime recognizes the perils that modern smartphones pose to your kids. Its dedicated parental control app for Android and iOS offers ways to prevent and monitor most of these behaviors, but its high price and inconsistent features hold it back. Note, too, that it’s a mobile-only solution: If your kids use Macs or PCs, you need to find a separate solution for those systems.
FamilyTime pricing plans are based on the number of devices covered. One license goes for $27 per year, while $35 per year is good for two licenses. Or you could go all out and spend $69 per year for five. You can apply your licenses to any combination of Android and iOS devices, but there’s no install limit on the parental app. Note that the free trial only lasts three days.
Compared with some of its competitors, FamilyTime is a bit pricey. Qustodio Parental Control has a similar five-license limit, but its yearly subscription is just $44.95. A $49.99 subscription to Norton Family doesn’t impose any limits on child profiles or the number of devices. Kaspersky Safe Kids only costs $14.99 per year and also doesn’t impose license limits. All three of those services also feature at least desktop monitoring components, which FamilyTime does not. The argument could be made that US kids these days mostly use smartphones (and that’s even more true in Japan, where this software is made) but it’s still a significant hole in FamilyTime’s offering. Note, too, that FamilyTime assumes each child has exactly one device. Most of the competing products let you define a child profile and associate it with multiple devices or user accounts.
Getting Started With FamilyTime
There are two FamilyTime Apps on the Google Play Store, one for parents and one for children. For this review, we installed FamilyTime on a Google Pixel (parent) and Nexus 5X (child) both running Android 8.0. We also set up monitoring on an iPhone 8 running iOS 11. Other services, such as Boomerang and Qustodio only have one app, and you switch between child and parent profiles. We prefer the more streamlined approach of these services. Unless otherwise noted, this review focuses on our experience with FamilyTime on Android, but there’s a section later on that details our experience with the iPhone app.
The setup process varies for the child and parent app. It’s simple to configure the parent app; just log in to your FamilyTime account. To set up a child device, you need to enter basic information such as name, date of birth, and relation (son or daughter). Next, click the Activate Device button and enable the various permissions. On an iPhone, the process is mostly the same, but you need to install a mobile device management, or MDM,
More concerning, however, is that a child can easily uninstall the software at will. We advise parents to discuss the importance of using their phone or tablet safely, so your child doesn’t immediately uninstall the app. Make sure to also remove any guest accounts on your child’s smartphone, since FamilyTime’s settings do not apply to these profiles. If your child or anyone else disables FamilyTime, the company sends you a warning email.
Design and Web Interface
FamilyTime uses Material Design sliders pretty much everywhere in its apps and on the web. Although it looks sleek and consistent, the one downside is that there’s lots of whitespace and long lists of options that you need to scroll through. Occasionally, it is also difficult to determine what is actually clickable. That said, we do appreciate the colorful accents.
The web console’s default page (My Family) shows all the hardware linked to your account along with their associated Reports, Settings, and Lock options. The FamilyMap icon lives in the upper right corner; this shows the location of all of your monitored children on a map. From the side menu, you can change your account settings and access billing options.
You need to select one of the devices from the My Family tab before you can start diving into specific restrictions. The left-hand menu gives you the option to view any number of reports, including location history, text messaging, and app usage. In the center of the console, options are broken down into two main sections, Family Watch and Family Care, distinctions that seem arbitrary.
FamilyTime is mobile-centric, so it only makes sense that the parent app offers the same capabilities as the web interface, along with a few extras. For instance, the Bookmarks, Internet, and Daily Limit toggle only exist on mobile for some reason. Some of the same functions and headers on mobile have different names than the desktop counterparts as well, which makes the product feel unpolished. For example, instead of the Lock Device option, there is a Pause button. Also, the default page is called MyKids instead of My Family.
To manage restrictions, you need to click on the Settings option for a particular child; there’s no way to specify policies broadly across multiple children. FamilyTime organizes options into the same two categories,
From the hidden left-hand menu, you can access more notification options, change basic account settings, and submit a ticket to the FamilyTime helpdesk team. In the bottom right-hand corner, the star icon lets you jump into a live chat support or add another phone or tablet for monitoring. The FamilyMap feature also appears on the mobile app. Our biggest annoyance with the app is that the back button does not work consistently; sometimes it sends you back to the main page, other times you only go back one screen. The app performance also lags from time to time.
The child app deviates from the material design of the parental app and uses a dashboard interface instead. There are four options for the child: PickMeUp, Profile, SOS
Did you forget to pick up your child from band practice? Maybe you accidentally stranded them at a mall. Whatever the situation, FamilyTime can help your child get in touch with you by tapping the PickMeUp button. Parents receive an alert in the parental dashboard, including the child’s location. You can tap one of two buttons, “OK, Coming!” or “Sorry, I Can’t!” to send a quick response. The notification itself doesn’t include the precise location, but when you open it in the parental app you can see it on a map. You can also see when the request was sent and send the child a follow-up message.
Tapping SOS sends the parent a similar notification. On the child’s app, it advises staying calm and staying put. The only preset response on the parental app is “Got it, on my way!” It shows you the same location, time, and messaging options as with the PickMeUp option. This is similar to Qustodio’s Panic button, which emails a notification to as many as four trusted contacts.
There’s one more option, TimeBank, which shows a child how much allotted time they have left to use in FunTime (more on that later). This feature requires initial setup by a parent.
FamilyTime lets you control screen time in two main ways, using either the Daily Limit or Limit Screen Time
Limit Screen Time lets you schedule times when device use is forbidden. Before you access the Limit Screen Time settings, FamilyTime requires you to set up a PIN. By default, it organizes rules by Bedtime, Dinnertime, and Homework categories, though you can set up your own custom time rule set as well. You can adjust the start and end times for each section, as well as what days of the week it applies.
On a more ad hoc basis, you can go back to the parental app’s main page and simply click Pause for any associated device. When Pause is enabled, FamilyTime’s lock screen takes over, advising the child to do something else for a while. SOS and Pick Me Up are still available, never fear. But unlocking requires that PIN you created. You can also unlock the phone remotely through the dashboard from the parent app.
FunTime is a unique feature in that it lets kids use apps and games without restrictions for a specified period of time, which is presumably useful for weekends. Children can earn FunTime by saving up allotted time from during the week. We like this
App Blocker and Communication
Like most competing products, FamilyTime can block your kids from any apps you consider inappropriate. To get started, you tap App Blocker in settings, and then use a toggle to select the apps you want to block. All the apps appear in a list on the screen in alphabetical order, but there isn’t a way to search for a specific app. When we did manage to blacklist some apps, the feature worked as promised. It notifies the child that the app was blocked and sends a notification to the parental app.
It can also log all your child’s phone calls and messages on Android. It doesn’t just grab incoming communications; it shows the entire history going back as far as the phone does. This is disconcerting, but it is an effective way for parents to do get a total picture of their child’s communications. However, you cannot block contacts directly from this list, nor can you view any MMS content or group messages. Boomerang provides similar functionality, but it is limited to those messages that come in after it is installed.
FamilyTime doesn’t attempt to block contacts; the contact list is a watchlist, not a blacklist. If your child texts or receives a text from a contact on the watchlist, the app sends you a notification. Oddly, it did not send a notification when we called the same blocked contact that we texted. Other parental control systems take more control over your children’s communications. wITH Norton Family Premier, for example, you can specify for which contacts it monitors and logs conversations. Keep in mind that, if there aren’t any stored contacts, this option will obviously be unavailable.
Places and Geofencing
FamilyTime can track everywhere your child goes. If you wish, you can define any number of geofences and enable notifications when the child enters or leaves one of these areas. Boomerang lets you define a place for geofencing by drawing a virtual boundary of any shape around an area. FamilyTime’s method is a bit different; you move the map until the stationary pointer is in the right place. And rather than freely defining the boundary size, you choose between 150M, 300M, 500M, or 1KM circles.
After we set up a geofence around our office, FamilyTime reliably sent out a notification when Ben arrived and left each day. Alternatively, you can check your child’s current location history from time to time by just checking the Reports section (explained below). Locategy also offers geofencing, but reports even more incremental positioning data.
Tapping Reports on a child’s profile takes you to a confusing plethora of choices. Initially, it just shows your child’s location history for the past day. Places History is a separate list of geofencing events—times when your child entered or left a defined geofence area. The App Usage section shows you how much time your child spent in total on a device for any given day and the amount of time spend on each app. However, it doesn’t include detailed app launch details like Locategy does.
Additionally, this is where you can access Text and Call History. Other items on the menu
FamilyTime for iOS
FamilyTime offers separate child and parent apps
Some features are missing on iOS, however. Most notably absent are call and text message monitoring. You also cannot block apps in the same way, either. FamilyTime does let you disable Safari, the camera app, and Siri, but those are the only apps you can block on an individual basis. Apart from that, you can restrict access to the iTunes store, prevent a child from installing apps, disable in-app purchases, or block all App Store apps. Other missing capabilities include the Daily Time Limit section, the Fun Time capability, and the ability to remotely lock the device.
However, the iOS version does have a few features that don’t appear on Android. The Content Filters section, for example, lets you set age restrictions for Movies, TV programs, and apps. You can also block explicit content in iTunes or erotica in iBooks. There’s also a unique Speed Limit feature, which notifies you if your child breaches a certain speed limit that you define (in KPH). The reports section lacks Android’s text, call, and app usage sections. While these omissions don’t ruin it, they certainly hinder its utility.
FamilyTime’s biggest shortcoming is its inability to filter web content. Web tracking is also extremely limited, and this is only supported on Android 5.0 and below, so we could not even test it. Both of these are major shortcomings and are disappointing limitations for a modern parental control app. Still, it is worth noting that FamilyTime plans to add content filtering in the future and that this feature worked in previous versions of the software.
FamilyTime also lacks any sort of social media monitoring or video tracking capabilities. Many kids use their devices for those purposes, and both are potential portals to
An Inconsistent Approach
In the mobile era, parental monitoring includes keeping track of your kids’ location, in addition to what apps they use and who they contact. FamilyTime is strong in that regard, but it is expensive and does not currently filter web content. In testing, we also found that some capabilities don’t work as expected. When FamilyTime works out the kinks and adds web browsing protections (not to mention PC and Mac apps), it could become a more viable option. For now, though, Qustodio remains our Editors’ Choice for the parental control category.