I’ve been hearing a lot about OurPact and thought I’d give it a try to see how it compared with other parental control tools. OurPact is a free (yay!) service for setting time based restrictions on iOS and Android devices. Parents can install it on a child’s device, and control the settings from their device or from a web site to set device bedtimes, schedules, and block or grant access to apps at a moment’s notice.
Setting up Our Pact
Setting up OurPact was fairly simple. Just sign up for an account on their website, log in, and they will guide you through the process.
Once you’ve created the account and added a child, grab your child’s device and go to pair.ourpact.com. From here, you’ll be provided with the download link depending on whether your child’s device is iOS or Android.
I tested this on Chloe’s iPad mini, which runs the current version of iOS. The download for iOS is not an app, but a device profile. I’ve found that most parental control tools built for managing restrictions in iOS use this method.
Once the child’s device is set up, return to the web site (which you can view on a mobile device including phones) or the parent app for iPhone. From here, you create schedules for each child.
What can OurPact do?
OurPact can be used to turn off apps at a scheduled time each day.
I tested this out on the iPad, where I was able to adjust the device Bedtime and add other schedules. For example, I added a schedule called Dinner, so from 6:00-6:45pm the apps go away. I can see how this would be helpful, as it often takes a few “hey kids put away your screens, time for dinner” before they come a running.
OurPact can also be used to turn off apps “on the fly”.
So, even if the schedule in place has access granted, you can turn off that access from your own phone at a moment’s notice (Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!) When you do this you can choose to leave it off indefinitely, or choose an interval and the apps will magically come back at that time.
What is blocked?
When access is blocked, any apps that were downloaded from the app store are inaccessible. The camera and the ability to take a screenshot are also blocked. During a block, no new apps can be installed or deleted as the app store is not available. Also, web browsers like Safari are blocked.
What is available during a block?
For iOS, some of the native apps, or those that come standard on the device, will still be available. So, you’ll see Calendar, Messages, Mail, Settings, Podcasts, iBooks, News, Contacts and a few others. On iPhones, the phone is not blocked.
If I could make one change to the service, it would be the ability to only block certain apps and allow others. Right now, it is an “all or nothing” approach.
Watch apps disappear and then come back in the right place
[NOTE – PRESTIGE IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE AS OF THIS ARTICLE UPDATE 10/2016]
In iOS, Apple’s development terms restrict what developers can do, which is why device profiles are used for things like time management. When apps are blocked this way, they disappear from view. Usually, when the time limit is up and the apps reappear, they return in alphabetical order rather than in their original locations. This is very frustrating especially for kids who have probably taken some time to rearrange their apps into folders, and are used to finding things in the same place.
OurPact’s Prestige solution for iOS solved this. Prestige was an additional install when setting up an iOS child device. I tested this out and….VOILA! Apps were blocked and disappeared. When they reappeared, they were in the correct location. Since my original write-up, OurPact has removed Prestige from the app store and it is not mentioned on their website. Hopefully OurPact will be able to find another solution or revive the Prestige app.
Overall, I found OurPact to be easy to use and the blocking worked as expected. I think OurPact would be a good tool to put in place for younger kids up to the tween years for helping parents manage overall screen time. OurPact is not a monitoring or filtering tool, so if you also want to know what your kids are looking at on the Internet, or you want to limit them from viewing adult/inappropriate content, you may want to look at some other options or use OurPact in conjunction with other tools. I always mention that any parental control solution is a tool in the “digital parenting” toolbox – and no tool will replace parents setting limits, when appropriate, to help maintain a healthy balance. Technology may play a part in our kids’ lives but it doesn’t have to take over!
- Available for: Parent app runs on iOS, can monitor iOS or Android. Can also use website to access settings if you don’t use the parent app.
- Cost: Free
- Website: http://ourpact.com/