The State of Parental Controls going into 2019

Kids are now growing up in a digital age. Screens are part of their lives from day one. As they grow, they want to use devices and play games and do whatever everyone else is doing. I am not going to debate if this is a good or bad thing – but it is a reality. 

Major tech companies have taken notice and they have been (and still are in progress) releasing ways for parents to keep tabs on their kids’ device and screen time usage. 

Of course, the big three – Apple, Google, Microsoft – have their solutions. Also other players like Facebook, Nintendo, Sony have solutions for their products as well.

Apple

Let’s start with Apple. There are few different things Apple has had and now just recently came out with to help parents. Up until iOS 12 they had “Family” groups you could create – not so much for managing screen time, but for creating a group where family members can share purchases, location, etc.

As a parent you can set up an Apple/iCloud account for a minor and then incorporate them into your “Family”. A parent also had to set up “restrictions” in iOS settings for each device for a kid. Kids can ask permission to install apps, and parents devices get an alert to allow or deny. 

What NOT to do: I have seen too many parents just sign in as themselves and give their kids a device. Please DON’T do this! Kids can really mess up your accounts. Another thing would be just giving kid unmanaged device with no account. You lose a lot of shared benefits of having an account for your kid under your family.

With the latest release Apple came out with “Screen Time” – for users to manage their own digital wellbeing on their own devices, but this also lets parents manage screen time on kids devices under the family group. 

Screen Time - Kid Device Management

You then get a weekly report of Screen Time for your kid and can change settings etc through Screen Time on what apps are allowed, etc. 

So, what’s missing? Well – for one – some devices have TouchId or FaceId – how does a parent set that up and still get into a device physically? Up to you. For now on my family devices, no passcodes or 2 factor auth – it is just too much overhead and messy to manage with kids. 

Google

Google has something similar for managing kids devices – it is called “Family Link” – but you need to install and configure it. Similarly to Apple screen time you can manage what apps and time spent and other settings on devices. It works on Android devices so if you are running a Google Android device but your kid has an old iPad or iPhone you are out of luck. 

Google Family Link App

Recently they announced you can run Family Link on Chromebooks (ChromeOS) as well – but I have yet to get this working. It is supposed to work similarly to Android where you can manage the apps and see usage, set screen time etc.

I have found that Google support around Family Link is more responsive than other Google support I have tried to reach out to, but I still cannot get it working on my daughters Chromebook.

One thing to note as well, and maybe I can follow up on this one after I get it working – but you need to create a google account for your kid (just like Apple). If you manage it, it should be okay. But – your kid might already have a Google Account through their school district. It starts getting tricky here. You as a parent cannot “manage” that account. I think there is a way to link them. So the kid would login to your Chromebook with their kid google account, and then still be able to get to google classroom or login to chrome (google docs, etc) with the school account. Time will tell. It is messy right now.

YouTube (owned by Google) is another story. YouTube is really a cesspool of crap if you get down the rabbit hole. There have been many articles and cries for help to Google/YouTube to let parents better regulate what their kids see. YouTube STILL doesn’t let you block entire channels. This is a big miss.

Also, if you have shared devices (like an Apple TV, etc) with YouTube and you login as the adult – the kids sees your recommendations. What kids watch screw up your recommendations. Switching between accounts is not easy (Netflix does this pretty well).

YouTube Kids is an app that is made for “kids” – and is supposed to filter out junk – but it isn’t foolproof. Parents are usually going to take the easy route, and YouTube website/main app etc are going to be the go to. In my opinion – the filtering on YouTube and parental control is one of the big problems Google needs to tackle, and soon.

Google also has a bunch of features, not so much parental controls, that they are coming out for around Google Home around reading books with your kids, stories, etc. Try them out sometime if you can, they are pretty cool. With four kids in the house, reading to one of them, while one reads themselves, while the other says “Hey google, tell me a story” is a lifesaver, especially when one parent is away for an evening.

Microsoft

Microsoft has very similar setups to Apple and Google – but of course a little different. With Microsoft, you can setup an account for your child and tie it to your “family” – but you can use an existing email (so if you have a gmail or icloud from Apple or Google you can use that).

Microsoft Family Home Page

The only real devices you can manage from Microsoft are Windows devices and Xbox.

You can allow a child to login to a Windows device and restrict time and apps. One big miss here though is that you can only manage web browsing with Edge, and not other browsers. My kid uses Chrome – because they are used to it with Google Chromebooks at school, but I cannot manage their browser usage, etc. Big bummer

Managing Screen Time for Microsoft Devices

With Xbox you can manage screen time and game limits and ratings, etc. Works pretty well

Nintendo

Nintendo has an app you can download and tie it to your Nintendo switch. You can use it as parental control and set time limits and game limits etc. I don’t use it for that as I manage that pretty close directly with my kids but a nice feature of the app is it tracks play time, and that is good even to see for myself!

Nintendo Parental Control App
Nintendo Switch – Play Time

Facebook

Facebook. Not sure on this one as I deactivated my account recently and I am about to jump ship due to their creepiness, scandals, privacy issues, etc.

I did try out Facebook Messenger for Kids this summer. It lets your kid sign up just for Messenger for Kids, not Facebook. They can add their friends, but both kids parents have to allow it. Also, parents can limit usage time and also install the app on their device and see all messages, etc.

This app works well if your kid wants to message their friend from their old iPhone using iMessage – but their friend has their parents old Android device and it won’t work.

Netflix & Hulu

I mentioned it earlier, but Netflix does have a way to create a “profile” that is deemed “kids” and is pre-filtered to kids specific shows. You can set it for “little kids” or “older kids and younger”. This works fairly well in practice.

It is easy enough for kids to just change profiles though. Maybe having non kid profiles pin controlled would be a good addition? Also, we have one for “Family” that has things we might all watch together vs just Paw Patrol episodes 🙂

Profile for Kids in Netflix
Edit Profile – Kids – Netflix

Hulu has a very similar setup. Profile for kids, can see kids shows.

Choose Profile Screen on Hulu – Web
Set Programming to “Kid Friendly” – Hulu

Sony

Sony has a way to set up parental controls on Playstation. You can set up a profile for your kid – but you need an email address. You can restrict games and screen time, etc.

I have a Playstation but haven’t set these up myself as my kids don’t play on it. Yet.

Amazon

Amazon has a way to set parental controls, I really can’t speak to them as I have no real Amazon devices where you set this up – but here is a link to assist if you’ve read this far.

Summary

Okay, so there is a lot going on here. Your mileage may vary. Your family is going to be different than mine. More or less kids, different ages. Also, your tech profile won’t be the same. Different devices, platforms and operating systems.

As you can see, for the big companies, you need to set up an email address for your children and manage their profiles, and connect them to your family. Then they offer you ways to restrict time on devices and also different types of content, etc.

There are also ways some of the smaller or ancillary players let you manage children use time and parental controls. I hope you found this useful, hit me up in the comments with any questions!

OData is the New Hotness

Not sure why I didn’t look into this sooner. OData. Open Data Protocol.

Not many providers, but this has huge potential. First off, PowerPivot can consume OData feeds! See the “From Data Feeds” button 🙂

I used it to download Netflix’s whole library. I tried to download StackOverflow’s data (http://odata.stackexchange.com/) but had no luck. Either got errors or it was taking forEVER!

But, you can see how easy it is to create an OData API for your data? Scott Hanselman did it for StackOverlfow in 30 minutes. This opens up HUGE oppourtunities for apps and ISV’s to expose their data out for end user and other developer consumption.

You can see all the “producers” here: http://www.odata.org/producers .. I am sure there are more, just not on the list.

What a cool easy way to expose your data as an “API” out there.. Excited to see how it is used (Pivot Viewer, Power Pivot, etc) and what people do with it.

Random Things around the Net Week of 02/14/2009

Yammer iPhone app goes Open Source – Yammer is a kind of Twitter clone, but for your company. I believe it is made by the same people that created Geni.com. Pretty cool that it is open source, just another way to get a good idea on how to build iPhone apps. WordPress has their app open source as well.

iusethis.com – stumbled upon this site, good way to find nice apps for mac, iPhone, windows, see what people are using.

Best Website Monitoring/Performance Tool – from Mahalo.com – if you manage web servers or are a server admin, read it.

wwwsqldesigner – if you want to make SQL ERD diagrams through your browser, check it out.

Feed Flix – if you use Netflix, check out this site. You link it to your account, then it gathers metrics on everything you do with Netflix, really eye opening. Things like tell you your average cost per dvd rental, an dhow long you keep titles rented out, etc.

Pismo File Mount – ever wanted to mount a zip file as a drive? Check this app out.


How 20$ Saved Me 100$ + A Month – HDTV Antenna

I really hate TV. I don’t even watch it. It is something that you should be able to pay for what you use, not pay for everything and use a little bit of it, so here is what I did.

I went to Best Buy and picked up and HDTV Antenna.

It rocks. I just plug it in to the coax, do a search and it finds the local channels. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WB, PBS, and Weather Plus. Picks up the regular versions and HD versions. Since that is all that Emily wants, to see weather alerts and crap, it’s good enough for me.

I have PlayOn setup on my Vista box so I can get Hulu, YouTube and Netflix streaming to my PS3. I can rent movies, buy movies and TV shows on the PS3, Xbox 360, and AppleTV, and I can get podcasts and YoutTube on the AppleTV. What else do I need? And if I really want something, I can get it using rapidshare or whatever, or stream it on my laptop.

So, yeah, “Hello, Charter? Cancel my cable, I don’t need you anymore, kthxbye”

It’s liberating, and adds more $$ to my bottom line every month.

The Apple Fandom.. Continues

Woah, well it has been a while since I talked about my “Media Center” experience I am trying go for, but I will get into that later.

First, yes, I have the iPhone 3G. I was off Friday for other stuff and decided to “camp out” since I had the time, hoping I would get out early. I went to AT&T on the East Side at 4:30 AM with a chair and my laptop and waited until 8:00. I was 6th in line. It was a good time, Einstein Bagels opened at 5:30 so we had coffee and bagels, and just had fun talking with fellow iPhone geeks. I already had the 2.0 Firmware beta loaded because I am in the dev program, and I was running iTunes 7.7 Confidential Beta as well.

Anyways, getting the iPhone, they let the first 9 in, and out of the 9, 2 people got activated and went home. Mine wasn’t working so they just let me go, and since they upgraded my SIM, I left with 2 bricked iPhones. Ugh. Once home I connected it and let it sit and it finally went through. Cool! I like the GPS and the 3G, Exchange Sync, MobileMe sync, the apps, it is all good. Battery life could be better, and there are always ways to improve, but my biggest gripe with the iPhone (no SDK, etc) is now gone. I find myself using my computer less and less, since I can do most “personal computing” stuff on the iPhone (read feeds, facebook, etc)

In between getting my Mac Book Pro, and the new iPhone, I picked up two other things on my Apple wishlist. First, the Time Capsule. 1 TB and AirPort Express N – this thing is sweet. The best part is my MBP is backed up every hour on the hour to the Time Capsule. I feel way more “secure”

The other item is AppleTV. I used to be a HUGE fan of Netflix and would watch 10-12 movies a month. But once you get through all the ones you want to watch, it gets stale. Also, not being able to get all of them in Blu-Ray, it is kind of a downer. I still have Netflix, but I reduced my plan down to like 1 at a time, I might re-look at Netflix now that Xbox has native streaming, and also the plugins for using MCE as an extender, but for now I am good there. The PS3 announcing downloadable movies TONIGHT!!! and with the Xbox 360 streaming, and Netflix discs and streaming, PLUS the AppleTV, I am pretty much set.

What does AppleTV bring? Well first, the HD movies , downloaded direct, and other movies, which is nice. TV shows, Music, Photos and YouTube. I have found myself watching YouTube on the couch now for like an hour straight, crazy. I really like being able to get Flickr pix or MobileMe pix as a slideshow, and also syncing with my MBP iTunes, and even better, the iPhone 2.0 firmware has the iTunes Remote which rocks, and controls iTunes on your laptop or Apple TV.

My guess is I will be cutting back my Charter lineup (I wish I could just get the HD channels, that is all I watch anyways!)

So, finally , some iPhone apps that rock.

Midomi – I use this to tag songs and buy on iTunes

GuitarToolkit – must have for any guitarist

iTunes Remote – I already talked about this, it rocks

Tuner, VisuaRadio, AOL Radio, Pandora, Last.FM – all your music needs, taken care of (check out Tuner… they have a Beatles Radio station – lovely!!!)

Loopt, Whrrl, iFob – pretty cool LBS based social networking

Others? Pownce (ok), Twitterifc (I am not impressed)

Facebook, Myspace – meh iphone.facebook.com is better than the Facebook app!

MonkeyBall – hard, but fun

I am sure there will be more, but right now I am surrounded by Apple, never would have thought (although I am writing this post on Vista on my Dell Laptop, which I fixed the Hard Drive on :))

Netflix Cracked Disc and Movie Review: Death of a President

Well, I have no cable, so I look for ways to get some digital entertainment. Lately I have been watching the first two seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, so I can catch up and actually have a coherent conversation with Emily about the show (pretty sure it is her fave). I have been getting the DVD’s from Netflix. Thing is, disc 2 of season 2 was cracked like big time. First time I have encountered that, so I went to Netflix site, returned it, but now I have disc 3, which does me no good, so I need to wait. In the meantime, I went and checked out the Xbox Live Marketplace on my 360 to see if there were any new releases. Found one – “Death of a President” (IMDB and Wikipedia).

This movie is set in the near future (2008) and goes through the fictional assassination of President George W. Bush. It shows characters such as his speechwriter, secret service agents, etc talking about that day, and the investigation through the eyes of the FBI.

Throughout the movie you see how they go about figuring it out. First it is the environmentalist they target, who is organizing the protest that day. He doesn’t pan out, so they look at foreigners, they find one that was in the vicinity, from Syria, traveled to Afghanistan, This is great because they can use words like Al Queda, Terrorist, even though the guy really isn’t. Basically he gets convicted on these things alone.

During the protest there as a black veteran that got arrested on suspicion of the assassination, they eventually let go. You come to find out that he has a brother who dies in Iraq, and his parents are distraught. He comes to find that his father committed suicide the day after the assignation, and left a note saying he did it. Also the vet finds evidence in his house that his dad left that really shows he was planning it out, etc.

The vet tries to bring this evidence to the FBI, but they ignore it, they have their terrorist. Now President Cheney passes the USA Patriot Act III which gives even more power to the executive branch and law enforcement to take away civil liberties of the US citizens.

At the end of the movie, I was left with this. Right now in this country, if you are

1) Protesting against any policy of this administration
2) Someone who has lost a loved one because of the unjustified war (that now people are finally realizing was unjustified)
3) A foreigner

that you are in serious trouble. Really the administration is out to get anyone who doesn’t agree with the crazy foreign and domestic policy. They try to use the term “Patriot” to describe someone who is in total agreement with them, even though common sense shows that the policies they are pushing really aren’t the best for anyone, well, maybe their pocketbooks.

People should really watch this movie, it is really cool how they actually have footage of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, I am assuming they took from current speeches, etc, or it is computer aided video, but it is pretty cool, convincing. I always wonder if maybe aliens get transmissions from Earth, and if they did, they might think this is real if they miss the beginning and ending 🙂

Netflix Watch It Now, Windows Media Center Edition

I have Vista Ultimate, with Media Center Edition. I also have an Xbox 360, which I use as an extender for MCE. I also subscribe to Netflix. They have a “Watch It Now!” feature, which allows you to watch some of their collection online. Well, It just makes sense that you would be able to watch within MCE, but that would just be too easy right? Netflix needs to come out with plugin!!

Anyways, I tried to get it to work. You can actually get it to work in straight MCE, but not using an extender.

First, I did a little Googling and found this, which has some good info on the Watch It Now feature. In the past, I have used MCE Browser, which is a cool little plugin written by Anthony Park. If you install this, then on your MCE box, hit Netflix, login and do the Watch It Now feature, it will first ask you to install a plugin for the Watch It Now (even if you already have it installed). Do that, and then go back to the site. It should work! You can open it full screen, etc.

Next stop, Xbox 360 as the extender. Got to Netflix, Logged in, Got to Watch it Now, hit Play. Starts up, the Netflix banner shows in the media player. MCE Browser locks up. Doh. My guess is it can’t save the stream or something, or something wacky with the plugin (Netflix player).

Maybe Netflix can make a plugin of their own, or maybe MCE Browser can be tweaked, either way, this functionally would be really sweet.

Update: Anthony Park has created the plugin called MyNetflix for MCE that we all want – check it out here – http://www.anpark.com/Software.aspx

Update 2: another plugin lets you watch netflix on your xbox 360 – prayers have been answered! vmcNetflix