[UPDATE: We can no longer recommend Lock2Learn, as it may have gone out of business. The Lock2Learn website has been offline since at least November 2017. The site's domain has been taken over by another company, our emails to the Lock2Learn contact address bounce and the app will not install on newer versions of Android software.]
Lock2Learn doesn't bill itself as a monitoring app. Rather, it's a way for parents to limit which apps kids can use on an Android smartphone or tablet, and it takes a fairly unique approach: to keep using their device, kids have to correctly answer a select number of math or English questions.
After using Lock2Learn, I found the app works best when it's installed on a shared device, in which parents want each child to have access to only specific apps, depending on their age. Parents who want more full-featured monitoring tools and multiplatform support will want to look at other options like PhoneSheriff or Qustodio, but as a way of limiting app access and screen time, Lock2Learn offers an attractively priced option.
When installing Lock2Learn, parents choose which apps the child may use, such as Kindle, Chrome, Netflix, Facebook and others. There's a catch: The child can't unlock the device and access these specific apps until they've answered questions in either math or English — or both.
The parent decides which apps can be available, and how many questions (up to 10) the child has to answer to unlock the device. Questions are based on the grade level of the child, which the parent also selects. The parent can decide how long the child can use the device before the next set of questions pop up. At only $2 for a set of 1,000 questions ─ the first 50 come free with the app ─ it's also affordable. The questions themselves struck me as well-constructed and appropriate for the designated age group, if a little on the tough side.
Those complaints aside, Lock2Learn makes it easy to choose which apps to make available on an Android device simply by clicking. I was also impressed with how tightly controlled the app restrictions were. For example, a profile that allowed access to Twitter but not a Web browser wouldn't let the user click on links within the Twitter app. Even if the phone is locked, calls can still get through, and your child can make emergency calls as well.
Lock2Learn probably stands out best on an Android device that's used by multiple kids, since you can set up multiple profiles that are appropriate for different age groups (though adding multiple profiles takes some effort). The older child can have more apps made available, for example, and be required to answer more questions. Profiles also come in handy if you want to let your child fiddle around with your Android phone, without giving them access to every installed app.
Clever as Lock2Learn's approach is, as I tested it, the various multiple choice and true/false questions sometimes felt like a punishment or, worse, a way for parents to justify any time their child spends using their smartphone as learning time. There's an opportunity for deeper learning here that I think the app misses. I also would have expected that Lock2Learn include some sort of time usage limit or curfew feature, but its only timer just sets when the next quiz appears.
But the biggest flaw to Lock2Learn's approach is a leader board that ranks your child against other anonymous children both by how many questions they've answered and the ones they've answered correctly. It would be more helpful to see which question a child got wrong, say, if they're consistently missing grammar questions, but Lock2Learn's online parent portal doesn't show that.
The portal will show you how much time a child spent using the device as well as time spent on the apps you've granted access to. You can get a daily report via email, but it contains little data on the questions themselves. You also can't see the content your kids are accessing or who they're interacting with from the parent portal.
Then again, Lock2Learn's focus remains on restricting access, not monitoring. That's fine, if managing app access is what you want, but there are still some limitations. Grant access to the browser, and your kid has access to the entire Web — there are no content filters. Lock2Learn also lacks location-tracking features found in many other parental control offerings for Android.
The service proved somewhat buggy. When switching between available apps — say, moving from Kindle to Twitter — all apps on the device would become available for a few seconds. In one instance, I was able to use these until the next time a quiz popped up. Other times, selecting a non-approved app bounced me back to a screen with apps I had approved for use with Lock2Learn.
I'm also uncomfortable with how much access to personal data Lock2Learn claims it needs. Download the app, and Lock2Learn requests access to your phone's camera and phone number. Throw in the data from your child's profile, including age and name and grade level, and that's a lot of information to hand over. For its part, Lock2Learn says its servers are encrypted, and it doesn't share data with third parties without user permission.
Lock2Learn is a clever idea, not fully realized. It doesn't provide critical features parents likely demand in a traditional monitoring app, such as location tracking, call blocking and monitoring of Web activity. But it's a very affordable tool for limiting which apps your child may use on their Android phone, while potentially giving them a chance to flex their brain power through quizzes.