Now that Apple has admitted to deliberately crippling third-party parental-control apps in favor of its own Screen Time iOS feature, what's left as an alternative?
We think Zift is currently the best choice for iOS among the best parental-control apps, as most of its functions seem to have been left unmolested by Cupertino. But if you really want to see and control what your kids do on their smartphones, give them Android phones — and consider getting one yourself.
Parental Controls on the iPhone
To catch you up, The New York Times reported this past weekend that Apple had "removed or restricted" at least 11 parental-control and screen-time-management apps from its mobile app store in the past year.
Apple told the app developers that they were violating its developer guidelines, and says that it's doing this to protect the security and privacy of its users. It's true that some parental-control apps can be abused to monitor and track adults as well, but many parental-control apps avoid this by making the monitoring obvious to those being monitored.
One app, OurPact, which our reviewer considered among the best iOS parental-control apps on iOS 11, seems to have been kicked out of the App Store entirely in February. That's even though it had already been severely hobbled with the release of iOS 12 in September 2018.
That iOS update included a new way to manage kids' screen time. Soon after it was announced, Apple began to crack down on usage of phone-management features that it had tolerated for years in parental-control and screen-time-management apps.
"They are systematically killing the industry," OurPact CEO Amir Moussavian told the Times.
To give you an example, OurPact once let parents locate their children's iPhones, block objectionable website and create a screen-time "allowance." But with iOS 12, those features disappeared.
Why we like Zift
Zift has managed to keep all those features in iOS, though we're not sure exactly why. It also gives you your child's location history and a log of the websites he or she has visited.
That's a lot more than Apple does with its own Screen Time features, which let you manage only how long your kid can use certain apps or an iPhone in general, and block objectionable content only in Safari. Both parent and child need to be using iPhones for those features to work. (Apple's Screen Time is not to be confused with the Screen Time third-party parental-control app, which is still in the App Store.)
However, if you want to see who your child has texted or called, to be able to block certain numbers from texting or calling your child, or to read your child's texts, you'd better get him or her an Android phone. Apple forbids any such activity on iOS devices. Norton Family Premier is our top pick for monitoring a child's Android device.