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!

View all posts by Chris McKenna →

66 thoughts on “Better iPhone Accountability? There’s an App for That!

  1. There is a loophole I have noticed with Apple restrictions in general, and my question is if the covenant eyes app will cover this.

    The loophole is that even with restrictions enabled, all internet browsing capability turned off, websites restricted to no websites allowed, I can still jump on the public wifi at Anytime Fitness for example, which brings me to their home page (after accepting terms and conditions) in some sort of “hidden browser”, and it allows me to navigate from there all over the internet. This is kind of a huge loophole for Apple restrictions, but if I install the new CovenantEyes app, will this also be monitored/restricted/blocked?

    I would very much like this to be the case, as I do not want any internet browsing capability on my phone at all. This is my first smart phone, and my company requires that I have it for travel. For good reason, I have never owned a smart phone before this.

    • Hi, Bob – I’m not sure I completely understand the “loophole” you’re referring to. There must be some browser on your phone you’re not aware of. I’d call customer service 877-479-1119 so that they can help you identify where it might be, if this is your first smartphone. Regardless, the CE app will force a safe search in both Google and Bing through whatever browser you might be using.

      Chris

    • Chris,

      I have spoken extensively with Apple about this. Apparently iphones have a “hidden browser” which allows you to accept unsecured public wifi terms and conditions even when Safari is disabled under restrictions, and there are no other browsers installed. After accepting terms and conditions, this “hidden browser” then usually redirects to the webpage of whoever is providing the public wifi.

      I was hoping that the CE app would monitor this “hidden browser” as well, since all iphones have it, and it cannot be uninstalled or restricted.

      Thanks

    • Hi, Bob – if you are accessing this hidden browser through your iPhone, then our VPN should be monitoring the activity in that browser in the same way it monitors Safari or Opera or any other browser on the phone. The CE app should force a safe search in both Google and Bing and rate anything that is clicked on. You can test what I’m saying by accessing the webpage of whoever is providing the public wifi, and then go check your detailed browsing log in My Account. Let me know (because I’m curious) if you see the URL of the site listed. Thanks.

      Best, Chris

    • Hi, Jeff – it’s not device specific…it’s OS specific, so whatever Apple devices support at least iOS 9 we should be fine on.

      Chris

  2. This sounds promising, but I want to clarify something. I would want to use Safari, since the browsing experience is superior to the Covenant eyes browser. You mentioned that things would be filtered only at the domain level. Does that mean something like Reddit would only be flagged as me visiting reddit.com, rather than seeing the exact page/subreddit I’m going to? Because reddit had tons of content, some fine, some terrible. I guess, can you clarify what you mean by domain level filtering?

    • Hi, Alex – if you visit Reddit.com through Safari, I believe Reddit is a HM site and would therefore be rated and shown in the iOS section of the report. This would just have to be something to discuss with your accountability partner if you spending time in Reddit is a good idea because at this time, we don’t rate everything within each Reddit URL.

      Chris

  3. Can’t tell if the new app is downloaded or not. Got latest update on App Store (no “Update” option exists, only “Open”), but I have version 3.3.3.4, and it looks like the new version is 4.0.0?

    How can I tell if I have the new version?

    • Hi, Sam – you can tell it’s working because it activates the VPN and you’ll see the capital letters VPN at the top with a box around it. Without that, the new CE app isn’t working properly or wasn’t installed properly. Please call customer service at 877-479-1119 for additional help.

      Chris

  4. Is there a way to have youtube left off restricted mode? I have tried using Youtube’s Restricted Mode before, but it blocks so many videos that it shouldn’t that I’ve always left it off. For instance, often blocks videos from Christian youtube channels such as Blimey Cow or channels discussing Tolkien’s works such as Signum University. Having the ability to leave youtube unrestricted would make it much more useable. A potential solution (though obviously I don’t know how feasible) would be to have videos be approved by having the administrator put in the password, like is done with websites that covenant eyes blocks. I do appreciate your service and have used it for several years now.

    Thanks,

    • Hi, Paul – we only force YouTube restricted mode if you’re also using our filter. Is that the case for you? If you’re a filter user, then as far as I know, there’s no way to keep YouTube out of Restricted Mode. Please contact customer service at 877-479-1119 if you would like to confirm this understanding with them.

      Chris

  5. Just got an iPhone 8 yesterday. New Covenant Eyes app loaded, and started VPN. Now, videos won’t start in Netflix. Is there something work this new VPN that blocks Netflix?

    • Hi, Dwayne – not that we’re aware of. Is there anything in the iOS Restrictions that might be set and causing problems? Our customer service team might be able to trouble shoot a little more if you want to call them at 877-479-1119.

      Chris

  6. I’m so glad that this update is finally out! It will provide a much better picture of accountability overall, and that is better for all of us!

    • Wow… I’m assuming that this will add accountability to other apps with in app browsing. If so, that’s nothing short of phenomenal!

    • Hi, Jusayn – you’re correct. The new CE app will monitor browsers accessed within other apps, and for any site rated highly mature that is clicked on, it will show up in a new report section at the bottom that is just for iOS activity. It’s pretty great!

      Chris

    • I am excited about this as well! Thank you for all the work put into this. One question: does this mean we can now safely install apps with built in browsers and still be accountable?

    • Hi, Tim – the new CE App will monitor some activity in those built-in browsers. It will force a safe search in both Google and Bing, which is great. My suggestion then for a really safe iPhone experience is to “block list” the other popular browsers/engines in the iOS Restrictions (like Chrome, Yahoo, Aol, etc.), and have someone else control the 4-digit restrictions code. That will narrow the searching to just Google and Bing, and then the CE app will force a safer browsing experience. I hope that helps!

      Chris

  7. Just installed! Thank you for working diligently, as I know many have been waiting for this. One question, any idea what this will do to the battery life of my iPhone?

    • Hi, Steven – so far (and I’d love to know your experience so far) I have not noticed a significant battery difference.
      Chris

    • The new app will for safe search within the Google app and it will report all highly mature domains that are clicked on if you use the Google search app.

      Chris

    • Hi, Markian – I’ll use Tumblr as an example. CE rates http://www.tumblr.com as highly mature. If someone goes to a tumblr micro blog, maybe something like (I’m making this up), http://www.tumblr.com/swimsuitgirls, then the top-level domain “www.tumblr.com” would show up on the report at the bottom because the new app identified that someone used Tumblr. We don’t identify the full URL through the Tumblr app because there is a lot of secured communication that no one has access to, but our new technology can identify the initial “call” to the Internet with tumblr.com. That’s what we mean by “top level domain.” We would love to be able to see the entire URL, but we just can’t. But, what we’re now able to see if amazing, and the best iOS accountability on the market.

      Chris

  8. Thank you for all of your work on this. My patience was extremely tested during this wait, but now that it is here, I am happy to say it was worth the wait. I have been using this new VPN for 24 hours now, and can say that there have been no bugs or glitches… it is really exceptional. I love that I can finally use Safari safely, and all other apps are also monitored. Thank you CE!!

  9. My company phone has a MobileIron VPN which must remain. If I download new iPhine version and there is a conflict with getting the CovenantEyes VPN installed, is the an option to turn it off and use your I currently do with just the CovenantEyes browser?

    • Yes, you should be able to still use the CE browser without the app fully monitoring the phone through the VPN. If you have trouble with that, please call one of our customer service representatives at 877-479-1119 and they will be happy to help.

      Chris

  10. I am really pleased with the progress this update has made for device wide monitoring, it’s a huge step in the right direction. I hope the level of monitoring will be enhanced to the same level that we see with the CE browser across all the apps (Safari, etc). Having less monitoring available with the restrictions off is where you guys need to be. I assume that is still being worked on?

    • Hi, Adam – we are constantly trying to dig deeper into iOS. I know it was a long time coming, but this most recent release is a deeper dive into iOS than anyone on the market today. I’m glad you’re pleased! I am, too.

      Chris

    • Hi, Tim – that seems unusual to me. Can you please call customer service at 877-479-1119 and see if they can help? Without the VPN step, you won’t obtain the additional monitoring that you seem to be now achieving on the iPad.

      Chris

  11. One thing that isn’t clear, is if the VPN must be active to provide protection for safari and other apps. If the VPN is turned off, am I still being protected? I access a different, secure VPN for work email and applications, and they have indicated it may conflict with my work IT permissions. I will have to turn off the CE VPN while working, so want to know if it still provides any protection.

    Please advise, thanks.

    • Hi, Kyle it is necessary to have the VPN engaged in order to obtain the expended accountability protection. The VPN is the key. Otherwise, the best iOS protection comes through using our browser and if you have iOS restrictions enabled and Safari turned off.

      Chris

    • Hi, Hans – on an iPhone, are you referring to searching for apps on the device? It sounds more like the Spotlight search on a Mac, and this update is just for iOS (iPad, iPhone). If I haven’t answered your question correctly, please contact customer service at 1.877.479.1119 and someone can provide additional help!

      Chris

    • Hi, Mig – that’s more of a YouTube question. There’s something in the way the video has been tagged that is being flagged by YouTube’s restricted mode filtering. You’ll have to send them a note and ask :)

      Chris

    • I should’ve been more clear, I am looking at this video through Covenant Eyes. I am not using the YouTube app. This didn’t start happening until the new update.

    • Oh, I bet you are also a filter user, which is why it’s forcing a YouTube “restricted mode.” As of right now, there’s no way to toggle that off, but I’ve had a couple of people comment in a similar fashion, so I’m going to pass this along to our Dev. team for consideration.

      Chris

  12. I downloaded the app and it destroyed my battery life. Is there a way to fix this with an update? I have a month old iPhone 8. The battery is new and when I removed the app it went back to normal battery use.

    • Hi, Jon – ok, I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve so far had pretty minimal battery impact on my iPhone 6 (which I know isn’t the 8 that you have). I’ll pass this along to our Dev. team to see if they’re receiving similar feedback.

      Chris

  13. Definitely needs a way to turn YouTube restricted mode off as YouTube is almost unusable now, blocks way too many normal things for people who aren’t kids. Going to have to look elsewhere if you can’t fix this.

    • Hi, Joshua – I’ve received this same comment from a few people. I’m passing this along to our Dev. team for consideration. Please hang with us! It’s our first try at some pretty great improvements.

      Chris

  14. App and vpn filter was working flawlessly, but after several hours, the VPN only tracked the sites I visited on safari and other apps, not filtered like it’s supposed to. Have any ideas?

    • Hi, Michael – I’m trying to understand what you mean by “filtering” in regards to Safari and other apps. Right now, the new app doesn’t filter on Safari and other apps, and simply rates whatever is clicked and forces a safe search for Google and Bing. When you say “tracked the sites I visited,” that’s actually what I would be expecting it to do. Can you describe in more detail what it was doing initially that gave you the impression that the app was “filtering?” Thank you.

      Chris

  15. I’ve bedn using the CE browser for a few years, no problem. With the new VPN version, though, pages don’t load unless I refresh them a second time after they try to load without anything loading. Can you help?

    • Hi, Joaquin, that’s an unusual problem that I haven’t run into yet. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, it’s just the first time that it’s been mentioned through the blog. The best I can recommend is to call customer service at 877-479-1119 and see if they’ve run into this issue and have a solution for you.

      Chris

  16. I have the VPN on my phone now which is great, but it blocks my church app. I attend CCV in Arizona but their app will not update now because of the VPN , at least I assume it is this. This is the only thing that has changed. And now the app won’t update.

    • Hi, Nate – that’s unusual. The fact that the issue seems to be only isolated to the church app might indicate an issue with the church app, unless you notice a similar update problem with other apps. Can you please email me a link to your church app at: chris.mckenna@covenanteyes.com? Also, any print screens that show what you see that makes you think “it blocks my church app.” Those would also be helpful. Thank you.

      Best, Chris

  17. Hey Chris, great work on this and I really appreciate you take the time to answer everybody’s questions! Is there any way to twist Apple’s arm and have them give us the option to turn VPN configuration off in Restrictions, like you’d turn off Safari? I’m sure you see the issue having VPN configuration unrestricted, but won’t go into specifics in case other readers don’t.

    • Hi, Jonny, thank you, and wouldn’t that be great?! I’d love that feature and the toggle to disallow deleting iMessages so that kids can’t cover up inappropriate messaging activity, but for now, we don’t have either! It’s a great idea and we agree that having less access to VPN configuration would be helpful. Here’s the thing – if I’m in an accountability relationship, and I don’t notice anything showing up in the new iOS section of the Accountability Report over a relatively short period of time, then I should be suspicious that the VPN has been tampered with in some way. I’ve found that the new app is sensitive enough that it ends up flagging things quite regularly.

      Best, Chris

  18. In Zimababwe we have “WhatsApp Data bundles” and basically you can only access the internet through WhatsApps domain. Do you think this vpn will work, even though I can only connect to WhatsApp?

    • Hello, Chayce – that’s a unique question. Have you actually tried what you’re wondering about? I just read an article about these “data bundles,” since I didn’t know what they were, and it seems like it’s just a way to use data through a social media platform (WhatsApp, Facebook) on a prepaid phone. Our CE App should still monitor and report any highly mature domain that is clicked on while using that data. My question – are you using an iPhone? I wasn’t aware of pre-paid and other such plans on iPhones. If you’re using Android, then the features we describe in this blog post won’t apply. I hope that helps!

      Best, Chris

  19. I think this is a good idea. However, ever since mine updated on my iphone, i have been unable to synchronize my phone with my work Microsoft Outlook. Thus i’m not able to get to my work emails and synchronize my contacts and calendar. Any ideas?

    • Hi, James – I don’t have a good response for the issue you’ve raised. Can you please call customer service at 877-479-1119? Maybe they’ve dealt with this issue.

      Chris

  20. Chris,

    Are there intentions in the future to expand VPN monitoring more than the Highly Mature level? Also, would it be possible to notify the accountability partner if the VPN is disabled by the user?

    • Hi, Justin – those are both things that have been mentioned internally (e.g., expanding to also include Mature ratings). Great suggestions. They are both on a list with our development team. No promises, but they are definitely on the list and I appreciate that you’ve mentioned them here.

      Best,
      Chris

    • Hi, Neil – yes, any time that the VPN is disabled, it will send a notification to the accountability report saying that the accountability service was uninstalled. At some point in the not-so-distant future, this notification would be sent directly to an accountability partner akin to a text message.

      Best, Chris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *