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I finally found it! An answer to the question I’ve received so many times: “Is there a way to monitor my child’s iMessages on her iPod touch/iPad/iPhone?” Up until now I did not know of a way, other than checking the device. And while some phone plans will let you monitor regular “SMS” text messages (sent through cellular service), iMessages are different; they are sent using a WiFi connection, not with a cellular connection.
Apple development guidelines restrict how apps can extract information, apparently, and this has made it a challenge for app developers to provide this type of solution.
But looks like TeenSafe has found a way. And you don’t have to install anything on your child’s Apple device to make it work. Here’s a review of TeenSafe monitoring service.
TeenSafe Lets you monitor:
- Multiple children with one subscription
- Text messages including sent, received and deleted SMS and iMessages
- Phone location
- Phone call logs
- Web history, search history & bookmarks
- Contact address book
- Instagram images, posts, comments and followers.
- Kik and WhatsApp messages (iPhone only, and I don’t know of any other service that monitors these)
- List of apps installed on the device (Android only)
I took advantage of the free trial and set this up for my daughter’s iPod touch. This review doesn’t cover Android; there are differences between the two in terms of what is offered. I used the service to take a look at iMessages and Instagram.
You are required to enter your credit card information when starting the free trial. You will automatically be billed the monthly charge for the service (currently $14.95/month) unless you cancel at least 24 hours before the end of the free trial period. If you like the service you can add additional devices to monitor included in the monthly rate. Fifteen dollars seems steep to me but if I had 3 kids, I might think it’s a bargain.
Bonus: When I clicked on the link to cancel after 6 days, they automatically gave me a few more days.
TIP: When I sign up for free trials like this for anything I set a reminder on my phone so I remember to call and cancel if I don’t wish to continue the service.
Set up is fairly easy. Enter your child’s name, date of birth and state where your child lives. Then start mobile monitoring or social monitoring. As you can see, for iPhone users you’ll need the child’s iCloud information (apple ID and password). And you’ll also need your child’s Instagram username and password. (screenshot shows the Facebook logo, but Facebook monitoring is no longer part of the TeenSafe service, a chance since my initial review).
If you don’t know your child’s Apple ID and social media account information, go ask them for it and write it down. You may even want to use a media agreement and have rules in place. For example, any account ID’s and passwords are shared with parents. These could be critical to know if something happens to your child
Once setup is complete, you’ll arrive at a page kinda like this:
Instagram monitoring with TeenSafe
Instagram Monitoring showed me the feed of photos shared with my daughter. I could also see the photos she has shared. This is the same information that I could see if I logged into her Instagram account at Instagram.com. So if you are only looking for Instagram monitoring, you could do that for free. But bundled with the Phone monitoring, it adds the convenience of accessing the information from a dashboard. Also, with TeenSafe I could also view lists of her followers and “followees”, which is not readily available on Instagram.com.
iMessage monitoring with TeenSafe
Setting up mobile monitoring for the iPod took a few tries. Before you can monitor the device, you’ll have to make sure iCloud backups are activated. Without doing this you cannot monitor the iPhone/iPod/iPad. They provide instructions on how to set this up.
I had to reconfigure my daughter’s iPod for iCloud backups. I followed the instructions provided. The backup didn’t work the first time, but did work the second time. I was then able to access her texts, deleted texts, calls, contacts, web (Safari) history, and web search history, Safari bookmarks, and Current Location.
During the trial period, you’ll only see the last three texts (in this case, iMessages) within a conversation. It was hard to follow Group iMessages. Emoticons (“emojis”) didn’t display so there were a lot of weird looking icons. You will also not be able to view any photos or videos sent in iMessages. Instead you’ll see “Possible MMS data/attachment”.
Deleted texts are a new feature. Right at the top of the list of deleted texts, TeenSafe explained:
- Recovered Texts might show duplicates
- Some non-deleted Texts might be displayed
- Occasionally certain Texts are not-recoverable
This looked to be the case, as many texts shown here were missing the date. Many had really old dates like April, 2001. I don’t think iPhones even existed back then! So it was hard to know if this was a recent text or one from a while back. Many deleted texts were missing the name/number so there was no way to know who had sent it. I think there is more work needed here to make deleted texts a reliable feature.
Current location has to be updated each time you want the location; when I did the update, the exact location of her iPod was shown (our house). But other times I tried, I was told no new information was available. An app like “Find my iPhone” would provide the same information.
Web history did show me bookmarks that I know exist in my kiddo’s Safari browser, and I got some good insight into a few of the recent web sites she has visited. So this feature seems to work as expected.
So to summarize, TeenSafe, while not perfect is one of only a few services that allow you to monitor iMessages on an Apple device without “jail breaking” the device. You can always, of course, do spot checks of your child’s phone or device to view their messages. Yes, they may delete them before you see them. Deleted texts in TeenSafe are not reliable just yet, in my opinion, so if that is the main reason you want to use the service, then you may want to wait for them to work out the kinks. If you have more than one device you need to monitor, if your teen uses Kik or WhatsApp, and if you are want to view iMessages, web history and Instagram posts all in one place, then TeenSafe might be a good solution for you.
Learn more about TeenSafe: http://www.teensafe.com (and try it free for 7 days).