Our co-founder’s emails to Tim Cook RE: iOS parental controls

I’m sharing three (and counting) email communications I’ve sent to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook in an effort to gain attention on a real challenge parents face after purchasing these amazing devices for their kids. Mr. Cook even shared his opinion that he doesn’t want his nephew on social media platforms. So I know he cares about doing good in this space.

Parents require app management, screen time limits and some idea (via reports and notifications) on what’s going on inside these black mirrors we consume so much time on. I hope we get some traction in 2018 with this subject matter. Thanks in advance for sharing.

Cheers,
Justin Payeur, COO/Product Evangelist
(I kept my email in the thread, email me!)


Email #3 (#1 and #2 are below…)

From: Justin Payeur <justin@nationaledtech.com>
Subject: iOS Parental Controls — another follow up from Justin
Date:
March 8, 2018 at 9:48:39 AM PST
To: Tim Cook @apple.com

Hi again Tim,

I enjoyed reading about your point of view RE: your nephew’s lack of use of social media earlier this year. This pumps me up that Apple as an organization can do some great things in this space but it could be at a cost since many of these social media apps are built to hook its users, on purpose.

I’m also glad to hear that Apple will take improving its parental controls inside iOS after one of your big shareholders wrote their open letter asking for improvements. Leading kids in a balanced and safe way with technology is a space I’ve been passionate for many years now and also why I’m sending another email on this subject matter. My goal? To help Apple build the best parental control update to its offering and share my experience in dealing with thousands of parents challenged with how they cannot control as much on an iPhone vs. an Android.

Here are the areas that continue to truly frustrate users today when it comes to third party parents controls on iOS:

1. Apps come back in alphabetical order when we use the age restrictions to limit apps by their age groups (because it’s not possible to block individual apps without some serious user hacking — refer to a competitor of ours, OurPact).

2. There’s no way to block all web browsers and allow a specific web browser as default. This means that links opened from Mail, Notes and other apps cannot open today when we block Safari. The built-in Adult Filtering built into iOS restrictions are fairly solid but do not handle the nuances that a dedicated safe browser handles. Our SPIN Safe Browser blocks sites like Twitter, Tumblr and even Pinterest due to the easily available pornographic content. Kids don’t need to see this. 
3. Providing parents with detailed reporting on app usage — currently buried under the Battery settings and not really designed for this. Is this the idea behind leveraging the Health app to show reports? That’s a start but parents really want controls on time. Here are a few recent reviews (most are using child devices in Android but can control them from their iPhones!)

4. Lastly, I still feel strongly that iOS could have an onboarding that is catered to the user. First time you unbox an iOS device, it asks “who” the user is… then the onboarding is dynamic based on being a child or an adult. We’ve nailed this in our app on Android and continue to iterate within the limitations on iOS, we set great expectations.

To summarize, today parents expect that parental controls have the following: app management (per app blocking, time limits, etc), location tracking, good screen time (allow educational apps unlimited), notification for new app installs and educate parents if the app is good/bad/ugly, smartphone safety = keyword detection in text for cyberbullying/self harm.

If there are opportunities to work with the team that’s behind improving the parental controls in iOS12 and beyond, my hand is up. All the best in 2018.

Cheers,
JP

Justin Payeur
Cyber Safety Influencer

Helping Parents start a 📲 technology conversation with their family
with Boomerang Parental Control and SPIN Safe Browser
Learn more at useboomerang.com

Email #2

Begin forwarded message:
From: Justin Payeur <justin@nationaledtech.com>
Subject: Re: Helping kids grow up with good tech habits
Date:
November 30, 2017 at 4:22:42 PM PST
To: Tim Cook@apple.com
Hi Tim,
It’s me again — been a while — congrats on all of the new launches this Fall. We continue to be challenged with iOS when it comes to providing parents additional parental controls. To keep the conversation going, I’m sharing additional user scenarios important to raising kids with technology that my support team has dealt with since my June 18th, 2017 email (way below for reference).
Screen Time: evidence shows kids are now getting their first smartphone at 10 years of age. Reality is, these are not phones anymore, they are mobile computers. Apps are design to have high user engagement thus hooking us all to our devices. We’ve introduced scheduled screen time controls for iOS devices this past summer, it’s been a welcomed feature for parents. We cannot offer an allocated timer (like on Android) where normal kids and those with mental health challenges that need a device break cannot experience this on iOS. So they continue to spend too much time on mindless content (ie YouTube, social media, etc).
App controls: Parents want to be able to control individual apps elegantly. Block them, allow them, time them and exempt good ones from bedtime schedules (ie: educational apps). Kids greatly benefit from no technology in their bedrooms but that’s not the typical scenario. Devices not working at night thanks to screen time app controls would benefit greatly from powerful app controls like we offer on Android but with iOS it’s impossible. The biggest challenge we have today is blocking apps on iOS leveraging the Device Profile approach leaves apps in a scramble. This is a bad user experience for Apple users (kids hate it and parents get frustrated but need such controls for self-regulation of their kids). Here are a couple reviews that share this pain:
Disclaimer: we have tested the competition who leverage the Device Profile and they are all challenged by the same “flakiness” of hiding apps at bedtime or when parents want to take control of their kids iOS devices. So we know it’s not just us… 😉
One more thing.. for the iOS team, I would love to offer an additional idea around iOS onboarding with kids in mind. MacOS has some solid parental controls — screen time, schedules, kiosk mode, web filtering, etc. Why not bring this to iOS and allow Parents to manage this via the Family Sharing umbrella. And when a parent buys an iOS device, have a similar onboarding that asks who the user is — kid or adult then adapt the onboarding based on the user (ie: recommendation for time limits, app usage based on age).
In conclusion, we are able to do an amazing job on helping parents parent their kids’ Android devices and want to do the same on iOS. We think of ourselves as a “conversation starter” for parents with their kids technology use…
Thanks again for your consideration.
Cheers,
JP
Justin Payeur, COO/Product Evangelist | National EdTech
Helping Parents parent their family’s technology use
with Boomerang Parental Control and SPIN Safe Browser
Learn more at useboomerang.com

Email #1

Begin forwarded message:
From: Justin Payeur <justin@nationaledtech.com>
Subject: Helping kids grow up with good tech habits
Date:
June 18, 2017 at 11:19:02 AM PDT
To: Tim Cook @apple.com
Hi Tim,
I’m reaching out as an entrepreneur, a dad and someone who’s looking to do good with kids growing up with ubiquitous access to technology all around them.
My current business that’s doing a lot of good for families in managing their families mobile technology. We can do a great deal of good on Android thanks to things being more open as a third party developer but my company struggles with being able to do similar features with Apple iOS. Our mobile parental app has 2 apps: parental controls and a safe browser that work together. More info here: https://useboomerang.com/
The areas of concern are (the challenge):
Screen time — being able to give parents control on how much time kids can spend doing anything (like games, social media etc) on a daily basis. Both in allocated and schedules approached. Today we have to leverage MDM Device Profile which is not consumer friendly. On MacOS, I know parents can set such limits for time which is great.
Safe browsing — Safari has an adult filter as part of iOS retractions but it doesn’t enforce safe searches for kids which is when many kids can come across searches for results and images that are not always good for young eyes.
Common Scenario — Bedtime: busy parents do not always have time to take devices away at bedtime so kids can continue to iMessage, Social Media, etc after their parents are in bed! We need a way to “brick” iOS device for bedtime — huge value for Parents and good night sleeps for kids!
My vision (the potential)…
For Apple, iOS onboarding requests the type of user that will be primarily using the device: adult, teen or preteen. Based on this selection, iOS would be adapt to show the right next steps for a seamless onboarding experience.
For third party developers to access a bit more via the Device Profile feature (I know this is a stretch) so timers, individual app blocking (dangerous apps or distracting apps like games, social media, etc) are able to be blocked individually vs. by group of age rating
Outcome for Apple (the good)
More “hand-me down” devices from parents and loyal young users that are self aware on not being addicted over their tech. As AI grows, our tech behind aware we are on it too often could be a huge potential (Apple Watch does remind you to get up right?)
Sell more devices to kids on family plans. Many parents using our app with their families would love it if iOS did this — we see many parents with iPhones but kids are on Android thanks for the flexibility and features we can offer there. This would also allow additional stickiness to Apple’s ecosystem.
Become a leader in educating parents on good technology habits with their families (Google has released a BETA of Family Link which attempts to do this on Android devices but it’s limited and the onboarding is lengthy!)
Since it’s Father’s Day, this is my hope today as an entrepreneur father of 2 kids, this email reaches you and there’s an opportunity to discuss this huge worldwide opportunity with the right team at Apple.
I look forward to your reply, thanks for your time.
Cheers,
JP
Justin Payeur, COO/Product Evangelist | National EdTech
Helping Parents parent their family’s technology use
with Boomerang Parental Control and SPIN Safe Browser
Learn more at useboomerang.com