About the author, Chris McKenna

Chris is the Covenant Eyes Educational Resource Manager. Chris has a BA in Accountancy and Spanish from Western Michigan University. After 12 years in business advising with Ernst & Young, God led Chris to a full-time student ministry role. He started protectyoungeyes.com in 2015  as a ministry to equip and educate parents and teens on the latest gadgets, apps, and how to use the Internet well, which led him to Covenant Eyes. God works in unexpected ways!

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30 thoughts on “Apps and Internet Doorways: What Parents Need to Know

  1. Hi Chris, I appreciate all your work and dedication to protecting families from inappropriate content. I find your post very helpful and informative. If I can contact you on a personal email I would like to share with you another way of unrestricted access to inappropriate content that I have found only one solution for and I am not sure whether I should share this with others to help protect them or not due to the difficulty of the solution. I would really appreciate a quick conversation with you in how maybe you can help by writing a post or finding another solution for the problem. Thank you Chris. God Bless.

    • Hi Alex – I’m sending you an email right now so that we can continue the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you!

    • I disagree that there is not outright poem in the app store. You can download additional browser’s that are unmonitored and then delete the app to cover the trail. App store definitely needs to be blocked

    • Insread of just monitoring android phone. Or monitoring a google browser on a windows based system..how do you block all nude content completly so a kid doesnt see it all all…also..there is so much stuff on tv..called rated g or even pg that talk about details of sexually explicite things..seems to me the only real way to do it 100 percent is to shut off all electronics..unfortunately..life as we know it now is 100 percent dependent on it..like a bad addiction…kids can access that crap anywhere..and soon..we will be moving to 5g. (5th generation) speeds..which is scary..talk about total instant access..no more buffering..my son is 16..how do u block 100% nudity?

    • You can’t. We do our best with text-based ratings and we’re working on image-based recognition, but nothing is 100% safe. That’s why we have to teach our kids about what to do when they’re exposed and give them tools to make wise digital choices.

      Chris

  2. These are great suggestions! What’s the best way to monitor Instagram and Facebook? Other than either shutting the app off entirely or checking regularly?

    • For Instagram, there’s not much. Here’s a video we recently did with more information on that app: https://youtu.be/yd0wOd4qQ6o

      As for Facebook, there are paid services that can monitor the app. If there are Facebook usage concerns, my suggestion is to delete the app, and force use through an accountable browser (like Covenant Eyes) by going to Facebook.com so that you can monitor the Facebook activity. The app obeys no parental control rules. It’s only through a browser that we can see what’s going on.

      Hope that helps!
      Chris

  3. This doesn’t really help parents of teenagers over 13 who demand independence and these apps and are unwilling to be treated like children. Schools now a days are giving them their own iTunes accounts to do their work and because of this can not be in “family sharing” so that doesn’t help either. It would be nice if you focused a bit more on a generation who is in the middle of development.

    • Hello! Here’s my take. And, it might be a bit direct, because I’m passionate about helping parents see that kids just can’t dictate the terms with technology. For their own protection and safety! In the eyes of the law, the one paying for the service is the owner of the device. Teen can handle what the unmonitored and unfiltered internet throws at them! My daughter knows that as long as she’s under my roof, and I’m paying for the service, there’s no such thing as internet privacy on my wifi or on devices that I’ve paid for. It’s a family culture. Your child might have his/her own Apple ID but that should not preclude them from Family Sharing.

      However else I might be able to help, please let me know.
      Chris
      Covenant Eyes

  4. I would also add that Disney’s Circle device (https://meetcircle.com/mycircle/) has been a huge compliment to our connected home. I work in IT and have a barrage of devices at home, and Covenant Eyes gives me a great tool to filter and granularly control access on even our shared use computer, while the Circle device offers me a home network, app-specific enable/disable settings for a large number of apps, as well as custom blocklists, time limits and bed times. Now they’ve added a feature for kids on the go – using a Circle VPN connection on the mobile device to enforce the home circle restrictions while out on the cell network.
    It’s worth a look, as it takes a one time charge for the device and gives you very tight control over your home network. Every new device notifies you through the notification options on your smartphone, and you can immediately assign new devices to a person or zone through the mobile app. I believe the Circle Go feature is a monthly fee…

    I’d also add that for adults on mobile devices, Evernote, 1Password, and many many other apps provide a browsing function that cannot be locked down by an external app like Covenant Eyes. Accountability is the key to success, and using a combination of app install & content restrictions and local network filtering (like Circle) can help to give a person the time and technical harassment they need to think through their impulses.
    Of course, these tools only help parents and those who know they need to shield themselves against their own impulses – anyone who is dead set on getting around the system will find a way, and should probably be banned from the home network.

    • Hi Jared! Thanks for your response. We are very familiar with Circle and it’s a slick device for maintaining parental control over the home network. I think your thoughts are spot on!

      Chris
      Covenant Eyes

  5. This is the big issue that unfortunately Covenant Eyes really whiffs on. I am sure there are tech reasons why CE cannot monitor everything on a phone, but it is so disappointing that it cannot. Nearly every app has a way to access the internet and so what CE offers for iphones is not much help. You can’t even allow usage of something as simple as Google Maps app! Someone has got to figure out how you can allow all apps to be used with accountability/filtering on all of them. Smart phones will continue to increasingly dominate all internet usage and I am afraid CE will quickly become more and more obsolete as less people use computers where there programs work well. Don’t get me wrong – I am so grateful for CE, but also wish there was more they could do.

    • Hi Dawn – we have longed for more “reach” into iOS, and we are on the brink. Please stay tuned for something we hope to launch this summer that should give us much more insight into non-browser activity on an iPhone.

      Peace, Chris
      Covenant Eyes

  6. Thank you for providing consciencous families with this information. Someone once showed me that you could go through an Iphone or just Google….and click any letter of the alphabet and turn it onto to images. there isn’t one letter that doesn’t produce sexually suggestive pictures.

  7. I was once told there is yet another entry? Enter an app or Simply Google any letter of the alphabet and open on Images…scroll down. there is not one letter that doesn’t promote a sexually suggestive or explicit image.

    • This is so true. I just googled the letter A using the CE browser on my daughter’s phone and sure enough explicit images come up. My daughter loves to look up dog breeds and see images of things she would like to purchase on Amazon, yet images are everywhere. This is so frustrating that the porn industry is infiltrating everything. Is there a way to block these images?

    • Hello, Leah – are you using our filter in the browser? That should allow for Google Safe Search, eliminating much of what you are seeing. For additional assistance, please contact customer service and they can help: 1-877-479-1119
      Chris

  8. Thank you so much for this. It needs to be out there. I knew this stuff BECAUSE I research BUT most don’t. Thank you for caring enough to send this out!!

  9. Thank you so much Chris. I had no idea that these content monitoring and filtering things come in factory settings. So, if you are in for posting more blogs on parental control, can you write a review on Parental Control Software/Apps? That would be a great help. Thanks.

    • Hi Kristen – I think you will see more parental control postings in the future. It’s one of my passions! I use a lot of parental control content from my own website (www.protectyoungeyes.com) to help at Covenant Eyes whenever possible. Be well!

      Chris

    • Hello Linnette,

      You are correct. We are able to monitor the activity inside of the Facebook app with our latest version. CLICK HERE for a full list of the apps that Covenant Eyes monitors on the Android. If you have any further questions feel free to contact our Customer Service at 877.479.1119.

      Best regards,
      Annelise

    • Hi, Heather – no, we don’t block content with apps. That is a secured connection. We’re working on technology to begin blocking at the screen level that will break through that limitation. Stay tuned

      Chris

  10. Do you have a list of apps to especially watch out for? I see that you say that you monitor Facebook, and yet if I send a website link to myself using Facebook Messenger I can freely access the web via Facebook Messenger and it seems to be unmonitored and unfiltered (your covenanteyesfilter.com address isn’t blocked).

    The contacts app (on a Samsung S7 – but maybe on all Android devices) is also a way to view the Internet freely. Just add the website address for a site you want to view to a contact and then click on that link. It opens in its own internal browser and doesn’t seem to be filtered or monitored.

    I am fairly technically minded, and yet I didn’t for a minute think about these two doorways – and yet I’m sure a tech savvy teen would work this out pretty quickly if they wanted to get around covenant eyes.

    Would appreciate any information you have on other apps that someone might not consider as a doorway.

    • Hi, Paul – the list of apps that provide secret doorways to Google is endless! It’s for this reasons that our new CE app is so awesome for forcing Google and Bing safe search no matter where you go.

      For a great list of apps and explanations – a very thorough analysis, please visit this site, which works very hard at stay up-to-date on each app, their features, and ways that they can be exploited: https://protectyoungeyes.com/apps/

      Warmly,
      Chris

  11. Is this the right app for my husband to get he is a sex offender and his probation officer needs the app downloaded to his phone so that they can monitor his Facebook and messenger is this the right app to use before I use my card here is what the app says covenant eyes app please get back to me thanks

    • Hi, Bridget – for what you’re describing, we are not the right solution. We won’t monitor the activity within the apps, instead, only that he used Facebook.com or Messenger. Depending on the type of device he has (Apple or Android), there are very limited means why which you can monitor that level of activity without “breaking” into the device’s operating system. BUT, if he has an iPhone, and his probation officer removes social media apps, sets restrictions, and forces all activity through the Covenant Eyes browser, then, we will have much greater insight into where he’s going.

      If you call a customer service rep at 877-479-1119, they can help clarify anything that doesn’t make sense.
      Regards, Chris

  12. Hi Chris! I just turned 18. I wanted to say I really really hope one day you can get to where covenant eyes can also monitor social-media apps.

    No kids these days use their Safari to use Instagram or snapchat. My generation uses apps instead of the internet browsers.

    I really wish you guys could add a setting where you could monitor apps like Instagram, snapchat, and Facebook. If you can please show me how! Thanks!

    • Hi, Hannah – I do have some ideas! But, overall, the app companies have secured almost all of their content, and unless they open up the APIs to their software to awesome parental control companies like Bark (which monitors Snapchat and Instagram better than most). Honestly, so many of the social media issues that we deal with today are an issue because too many parents allow too many kids to have access to these apps before they’re ready. These platforms are built by adults with adults in mind and are not kid-friendly. Parents need to wait longer, teach better, and monitor more effectively. Covenant Eyes is a start, but we’re not a replacement for good parenting :) There, I’ll get off my soapbox! But, obviously, it’s a topic I’m passionate about, and I share your hope for greater digital transparency in the future.

      Be well!
      Chris

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