OurPact Parental-Control App Review: Gets Kids Involved

OurPact is one of the best parental-control apps for iOS users

Our Verdict

OurPact is one of the best parental-control apps for both iOS and Android users.

For

  • Excellent user experience and interface
  • Powerful app blocking
  • Gets child actively involved in process

Against

  • Rather expensive
  • Limited web filtering
  • No call or text monitoring

UPDATED Aug. 16, 2019 to reflect addition of App Details feature. This review was originally published Feb. 14, 2019.

OurPact is a relatively recent entrant into the parental-control-app market. It launched in 2015 and had a significant focus on the iPad.

When I originally tested the app in the late summer of 2018, it notably offered virtual feature parity between the iOS and Android versions of the app, which was remarkable. 

Unfortunately, on Oct. 6, Apple removed the OurPact child app from the App Store, due to changes in policy enforcement that coincided with the release of iOS 12 and Apple's rival Screen Time functions.

On Feb. 19, 2019, soon after this review was first published, Apple removed the OurPact parent app from the App Store as well. OurPact posted a statement detailing its side of the story on Medium.

In June 2019, Apple seemed to walk back some of its restrictions on parental-control apps, and in July, OurPact was reinstated in the App Store.

OurPact never offered call or text monitoring on either Android or iOS, although it does still let you block messaging apps entirely on Android. It offers Android users a solid feature set and better overall design than you'd typically get on that platform.

The fully featured version of OurPact, which is the one most people will want, is definitely pricey at $6.99 per month. But that covers up to 20 devices, so it's not the most expensive option by device; that honor would go to Qustodio.

MORE: Best Parental Control Apps

Costs and What's Covered

Unlike most other parental-control apps, OurPact breaks its features into three pricing tiers. Free users can control a single child device with up to five manual blocks per month and a single automated block schedule. Upgrading to OurPact Plus for $1.99 a month bumps you up to 10 child devices, unlimited manual blocks and unlimited automated block schedules.

Finally, OurPact Premium, at $6.99 a month, delivers everything the service has to offer for up to 20 child devices, including unlimited manual blocks, unlimited automated block schedules and the rest of the features that will be covered later in the article.

Unless you want to only limit the window of time during which your child can use his or her device, the Premium tier is the only option that really matters. There's no discount for paying for an entire year; you'll be paying the full $23.88 or $83.88 regardless.

Apple Fall 2018 App Store Policy Enforcement

In the fall of 2018, Apple began to enforce previously neglected policies surrounding the usage of Mobile Device Management (MDM) by consumer-facing apps. A number of parental-control apps, including OurPact, used MDM to grant parents a lot of control over their children's iPhones.

(MDM is a level of software control, often provided by third-party apps or utilities, that's supposed to be used only by enterprise IT departments when managing company-owned iPhones.)  

Apple's change in policy enforcement disabled several features found in the OurPact Premium tier, including location tracking, geofencing, app organizing and usage allowance. The OurPact Jr. app intended for children's iPhones was removed from the App Store.

Parents still had control of a child's iPhone using the parental OurPact app, but the child was no longer able to view anything related to the restrictions the parent imposed, including remaining usage-allowance time.

Existing or previous OurPact users could still install the OurPact Jr. app via their OurPact parent apps, but new subscribers are unable to do so. 

Installation

We installed OurPact on a Google Pixel 2XL running Android 9.0 (Pie), an iPhone 7 Plus and an iPad Air 2. We used a 15-inch 2017 Macbook Pro running MacOS 10.13.6 to access the OurPact web portal.

As with most parental-control apps, the first step toward using OurPact is to create an account on the website, in this case OurPact.com. You next add your child(ren) to the account, and OurPact immediately asked which type of device (Android or iOS) your child uses and guides you through the installation of the software on that device. With other services, this is typically the final step.

It's a fairly minor complaint about OurPact, but the other method of setting up the account and rules first, and then installing the apps on the child's device as the final step, simply feels like a better interaction.

OurPact was also unique in that the process for setting up the child's iOS device, for those interested in the Premium tier, was considerably more involved than it is for setting up a child's Android device.

In Android, you just download the app from Google Play and agree to its requests for permissions. On the child's device, you install OurPact Jr.  and you put OurPact on the parent device. Parents and children can use different platforms.

But on iOS, the OurPact Premium tier required you to download a separate installer utility to a Mac or Windows computer. You then plugged the child's iOS device into your computer, turned off "Find My iPhone," backed up the device and finally restored the device.

With the iPhone 7 Plus that I used for testing, the restore process alone took approximately 45 minutes, making the initial setup about an hour in total. Then you sign into your OurPact account from Safari on the child's iOS device.

At that point you are finally done and can create the profile for your child, a quick and easy process that identifies the child's name, date of birth and, optionally, gender.

App Management

The app-management screen in OurPact is simple to understand and operate. By default, every app is set to adhere to the schedule or manual blocks that you input elsewhere in the app.

However, you can go through on an app-by-app basis and set each  to "Always Blocked" or "Always Allowed." Toggling "Always Blocked" will make the app seem to disappear from the child's device; "Always Allowed" will leave the app available even during scheduled or manual blocks.

At the time of this review, OurPact was the only service among those we tested that offered full app-management functionality on iOS as well as Android — even after the MDM policy change.

In August 2019, after this review was first published, OurPact added "App Details," which ports information such as age rating, functionality and average user rating about each installed app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. It will also let parents know when new apps are installed on the child's phone.

Filtering

Web filtering is pretty rudimentary in OurPact. If you tap on the icon in the lower left corner of the child's avatar in the parental app, you get the option to "Block Adult Content" on your child's device. This is simply an on/off toggle with no other options.

The feature works across the major browsers. Thanks to the App Management features referenced above, you have control over whether the child can use an unsupported browser.

Time Management

Although it isn't the most robust time-management system we tested, OurPact does a solid job of giving you what you need without being overwhelming. Two separate sections pertain to time management in OurPact: Schedule and Allowance.

Schedule lets you set up as many blocks of time as you like during which your child will not able to use his or her device. By default, a "Bedtime" schedule from Sunday to Thursday is set up, but you can tweak that and also add as many other schedules as you like.

These scheduled blocks are easy to toggle on and off, which is great as you may have a recurring schedule that isn't always relevant, and you won't have to re-create a block each time you re-enable it.

The other piece to this section is the Allowance, which is simply the total amount of time each day that your child is allowed to use the device. There's a simple drop-down menu for each day, with options to set zero minutes to 3 hours in 30-minute increments, 4 hours to 8 hours in hourly increments, and finally one for all day.

The only problem with how OurPact handles timing is that it requires your child to go into the OurPact Jr. app to toggle the allowance clock off and on. Other apps stop the clock when a device is put in standby mode. (OurPact representatives said their tests indicated manual allowance toggling was more accurate.)

It would be easy to see how older children who may just check an app quickly and then jump back out might forget to turn the allowance clock off and lose all their time for the day. This happened to my own kids several times. However, a child can't just leave the countdown clock turned off, as all apps would be blocked except the OurPact Jr. app.

I did discover one loophole in the time management system: Content, such as a movie or a music service, playing in a picture-in-picture window on the child's device when the time allowance runs out can keep playing indefinitely.

Texting Management

OurPact doesn't offer any specific SMS text-message management, so if you want to monitor the content of your child's text messages or block specific contacts, then OurPact isn't for you.

But OurPact can block messaging apps, whether or not they handle SMS, completely. It claimed to be the only parental-control app that can block iMessage on iOS, and sure enough, it was the only app I tested that could.

So while OurPact lacks granular control over or monitoring of text messages, you can at least limit the windows of time or the apps that your child can use for messaging.

MORE: The One Google App Every Parent Needs

Location Tracking

OurPact ticks almost all the desirable boxes with its location tracking on Android. The location pane allows you to quickly view a child's current location, but the geofencing available through the Places functionality is a more interesting aspect.

Places lets you specify a location (school, home, park, etc.) and then opt to receive a notification whenever the child's device either enters or leaves that location. You simply enter an address for the location, then click-and-drag or pinch-and-zoom on the map to create the boundary that will trigger your notification.

Obviously, this feature is most useful for devices with cellular-data connections, but it also works with Wi-Fi-only tablets when they connect to a Wi-Fi network.

Grant/Block

There's nothing complicated about this feature, but front and center on the primary management page are two tabs marked "Grant" and "Block." In two clicks, you can either grant your child additional time for the day or block the device for a specified amount of time. It's a quick solution that doesn't mess with any of the rest of your settings.

Bottom Line

OurPact is not without its problems. The lack of texting management and the quirks regarding the timer might both be significant issues, depending on your needs.

However, OurPact is one of the easiest apps to navigate and control that I tested, and is also one of the best-looking. It should be on the short list for Android users, and, once again now, for iOS users as well, although the latter should also take a look at Net Nanny.

Credit: Tom's Guide