FamiSafe Overview February 2023
FamiSafe claims to be the most reliable parental control app on the market. That’s a pretty big claim, and I had to see for myself if they could back it up. I installed FamiSafe on my teenage son’s Android phone and challenged him to try and get around the time restrictions, web filters, and other monitoring tools included in the app.
Overall, I’m not convinced that FamiSafe is “the most reliable parental control app.” I rank Qustodio slightly ahead of them due to a more comprehensive web filter, screen time schedule, and dashboard. That being said, you can’t go wrong with FamiSafe, it has many powerful features, and with a free three-day trial, you can test it for yourself before committing to a subscription.
In a Rush? Here’s a 1 Minute Summary
- Detailed activity report shows you what apps the kids use, how long they use them, and when. Get more information here.
- Comprehensive screen time limits, with a daily time limit, smart schedule, instant block, and time limits for specific apps. See how to set up screen time restrictions here.
- Custom web filter with 21 categories to prevent inappropriate websites from opening. See the one weakness I found and how to fix it here.
- Accurate real time location tracking with unlimited geofences and a radius up to 1,000 meters. Check out the results from my tests here.
- Social media monitoring allows you to set the filter to notify you when certain keywords are used. Learn more about social media and chat monitoring here.
FamiSafe has more than a dozen premium features that are designed to help you protect and monitor your child. I was able to configure each of the features through the parent dashboard, which I used on my computer and phone. The dashboard is the nerve center of the app. Not only could I see all the updates, which apps my son is using, websites he’s visiting, and how much time he’s on the phone, but I could also set the restrictions I wanted to enforce.
Compared to other dashboards I’ve seen, like Qustodio, which uses graphs and charts to give a great overview of all relevant activity, I found the FamiSafe dashboard to be a little disappointing.
The only information I get with a quick glance is the live location and overall usage time. There is also a daily activity alert that I can scroll through, but it’s tedious and doesn’t give any real information without clicking through each item.
Activity Report – See Exactly What Your Child Does on the Phone
If you’ve ever wondered what your child does on their phones all day, the Activity Report should interest you. It provides a real-time breakdown of each app used and how long the app was active.
For the first two days after installing the app on my son’s phone, I didn’t set any restrictions. Instead, I looked over the activity to see how he was using his phone on a daily basis. It showed me all the apps and what time he was using them.
Then, I took that information and knew if I needed to block or restrict apps or set strict screen time limits.
Multiple Screen Time Restriction Tools
It seems like FamiSafe took almost every possible scenario into account coming up with their screen time tools. There are a total of five different ways to limit screen time:
1. General Time Limit: Choose how long your child can use the phone. I like that it gives me the flexibility to set a one-time limit that goes into effect for every day of the week, or I can set different time limits for every day.
2. Smart Schedule: This is one of the main features I would improve on the app. While they named it a “Smart Schedule,” it only gives me the option of when to lock and unlock the phone once a day. This is good for setting a bedtime and making sure my son isn’t on the phone all night.
However, I’ve used other parental control apps like Qustodio that allow me to create an actual schedule for when the phone will be locked or unlocked throughout the day. To create a schedule like that with FamiSafe, I have to create multiple Smart Schedules for each day, which is a bit of a hassle.
One unique feature of the Smart Schedule is a location-based schedule. This allows me to set a time limit that goes into effect based on where my son is. This means that I can block the phone while he’s at school, or if I don’t want him sitting on his phone with his friends, I can create a special schedule for the friends’ house.
3. Instant Block: I can instantly block all apps at any time. Perfect for when I need my son to do chores, homework, dinner, or I just want to see him look up from the phone.
4. App Limit: Set time restrictions based on app categories or specific apps. In other words, I can set time limits on all games or social media apps. I can also create a time limit that only restricts how long my son can watch YouTube videos.
5. Allowed Apps: This feature takes the opposite approach. I can remove restrictions from specific apps.
Web Filter with 21 categories
The FamiSafe web filter has 21 categories, 13 of which are turned on by default. These include:
|Violence||Adult||Deceptive and Phishing||Crime and Death|
I gave my son permission to try and bypass these filters to see if there is a weakness. We tried Incognito Mode, using the Mi Browser that came preinstalled on his phone, and using a VPN. Each time, the filter caught him and wouldn’t load the page.
The one weak spot he found was viewing adult content through apps instead of a web browser. He opened the Reddit app and found some NSFW content, and the filter didn’t stop it. Thankfully, this was an easy fix since FamiSafe can block apps from opening.
The web filter has an “Exceptions” section where I can enter specific URLs that can be viewed even if the category is blocked. I did this so my son can access his Fantasy Sports pages, even though these sites are blocked by the Gambling category.
Real-Time Location Tracking and Geo-Fence
In addition to peace of mind from inappropriate websites and screen time addiction, with FamiSafe, I also don’t have to wonder where my son is. The app can access the phone’s GPS, give me real-time updates, and show me his location history to see where he was.
There is also the option to create a geo-fence or a radius of a specific address of up to 1,000 meters. It then sends alerts when your child comes or leaves from the area. This is helpful for making sure your child is going to school or isn’t going to a specific area that you don’t want him visiting.
The one weakness in the location tracking (other than the child just leaving their phone at home) is the child can simply turn off the GPS tracking on their phone. While FamiSafe can’t prevent kids from disabling the location services, it will alert the parent dashboard when location tracking is disabled.
Connect FamiSafe to Social Media and Chat Apps
FamiSafe is compatible with several popular social media and chat apps (Facebook, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Gmail, YouTube, and more). There are individual sections for YouTube and TikTok that will show you the videos that you watch. You can block videos, add keywords to a blacklist, and block specific videos.
I gave permission for FamiSafe to monitor my son’s WhatsApp for any dangerous or harmful keywords. It monitors all types of messages connected to bullying, sexual discussions, drugs, and illegal activities. However, what I found was that there’s no context to what creates an alert, and it seems really sensitive.
I received alerts for words such as love, hate, finger, blood, annoying, weird, and heavy, just to name a few. While these can connect to bullying, they were perfectly harmless. I ended up getting constant alerts about Explicit Content, and in the end, I had to turn it off because nearly every message had a potentially troublesome word.
Promotes Safe Driving
This is a pretty cool feature that I haven’t seen on other parental control apps. It allows me to set a speed limit, so I know that when my son is driving, or in a car with friends, that they aren’t driving too fast. I couldn’t really test it on my son, since he’s just 13 and doesn’t have a driver’s license. However, I took his phone and went for a drive, and sure enough, as soon as I went over the speed limit, I got an update on the dashboard. The one downside is that I can only set one speed limit, so it doesn’t tell me if he’s speeding on city streets, just the highway. Hopefully, an updated version will sync with a GPS app, and monitor the speed limit based on the roads or streets the child is driving on.
While I couldn’t test this on my son, since he’s just 13, I took his phone and went for a drive. This is a feature that I couldn’t really test because my son is only 13 and doesn’t drive. That being said, I think it’s pretty cool and extremely important for anyone with kids that have a license. You can set a max speed limit, and anytime the phone GPS tracks the speed as going above the limit it will send you an alert.
The installation process for FamiSafe is pretty straightforward. After I registered my account on the official FamiSafe website, I received a link to the app download. There are two apps, one for parent’s phone and one for kids. I did need physical access to my sons’ phone to download and install the app.
The setup wizard takes you through the entire process, as you have to change the permissions on the phone to give it access to display over other apps, access the contacts, photos, GPS, and battery saver options. Once the permissions were granted, I logged into the account I created before downloading the app to connect it with the parent account. It was all very clear, and within five minutes, the setup was complete and it started recording the data.
The installation of the parent app was similar to installing any app from the Play or App Store. I didn’t have to give it any special permissions since it’s not tracking my phone.
After logging on to my account, I had to create a 4-digit PIN that must be entered each time the app is opened. It’s important to keep this a secret from the child, otherwise, they can log in to your phone and change the monitoring settings.
Ease of Use8.0
The mark of an easy to use parental control app is the dashboard. The top parental control apps have dashboards with quick access buttons and show important data on the homepage. I was disappointed to see that the FamiSafe dashboard was so plain. The only information that it shows without needing to click any buttons is the child’s live location and a list of everything that took place on the phone.
Click on the Features tab (on the left-hand side of the desktop dashboard and the bottom of your screen on the mobile dashboard) to open the monitoring menu.
Here is where you can set the web filter, time restrictions, geo-fence, and all the other monitoring tools. It took me a little over a half-hour to familiarize myself with all the different features and how to configure them all.
Once everything is ready, there is very little maintenance needed unless you want to adjust any of the rules or restrictions.
FamiSafe has a solid FAQ section that is well designed, making it easy to find answers to basic questions. These include questions about the app and its features, installation, pricing, compatible devices, and more.
If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, the next step is to ask the ChatBot. I’m not usually a fan of these, and this is no exception. The Bot tries to guess what your question is, but most of the time it came back with answers to questions I didn’t ask.
If you still can’t find the answers you’re looking for; there is a live chat option. Representatives are available from 06:00 – 18:00, although it doesn’t specify a time zone.
Is FamiSafe free?
FamiSafe has a free three-day trial offer. I found that I was able to decide within the first three days if the monitoring features are what I needed for my son and if I wanted to continue with the subscription. I did have to enter in my payment information to start the trial, which means that if the account isn’t canceled before completing the trial, you will be charged for an annual subscription.
What devices can FamiSafe monitor?
FamiSafe can monitor most Android devices running 4.4 – 10, iPhones that are iOS 9 – iOS 13, and Kindle Fire. The FamiSafe apps can be downloaded from the appropriate stores without rooting or jailbreaking the device. FamiSafe is also compatible with Windows and Mac computers.
Does FamiSafe have a keylogger?
No. FamiSafe is a parental control app that allows you to set restrictions and monitor your kid’s online activities, but it isn’t a spy app. If you’re looking for an app with a keylogger, I recommend you check out mSpy.
That being said, FamiSafe does have tools that monitor chats, such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. This feature will send an alert when an offensive or potentially harmful message is sent and can be used to prevent cyberbullying and conversations about sex, drugs, alcohol, and more.
Does the FamiSafe web filter prevent porn sites from opening?
I was very impressed with the strength of the web filter, although I do wish it had more flexibility. It does block porn sites, and my son was unable to get around the restrictions even with a VPN and using a no-name browser.
While FamiSafe isn’t the cheapest parental control app I’ve tested, it is not the most expensive either. I do think that the price is really good for the value. There are three subscription options. Each of them can protect up to 10 devices and access all the premium features. They only differ in the length of the subscription. You can choose a single month, three months, or a year. Obviously, the yearly subscription plan has the cheapest per month price, with a nice 50% discount.
If you’re not sure if FamiSafe is for you, start with the three-day trial, install it on your children’s phones, tablets, and computers, and see if it’s the right parental control software for your family.