4 minute read

How Covenant Eyes Helps Protect Your Kids on Mobile

Last Updated: July 10, 2018

Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

“Excuse me. The pastor mentioned pornography in today’s message. Do you have any resources on that?”

From my position behind the info booth at my church, I hid a little bit of a laugh from the middle-aged woman standing in front of me. Offering her the resources the church had on hand, I added, “I also work at Covenant Eyes, and can get you more specific help, if you want. What sort of information do you need?”

It turned out her young daughter had been on her school’s playground at school when a classmate pulled out a tablet and showed her porn. In one moment, her daughter’s innocence was shattered…and her own life gained a whole host of worries.

what-covenant-eyes-is-doing-to-protect-mobile

Porn to Go

This is not a unique situation, and it’s only going to get worse. As mobile apps and tech improve and become less expensive, more kids and teens are going to be given smartphones and tablets—by schools, to improve the educational experience, and by parents, to ensure they can always get ahold of their kids.

One study earlier this year found that nearly 75% of teens own or have access to a smartphone—a percentage that’s likely to go up over the next few years. And, of course, this stat focuses on smartphones, not tablets or stripped-down mobile wireless devices like the iPod touch®.

If online safety on mobile were as simple as doing, say, a nightly check of the history on the phone’s browser, a parent’s job wouldn’t be too difficult. But as it is, 71% of teens hide their online behavior from their parents. That means clearing their browsing history or using Incognito Mode (aka “Porn Mode”). And then there are a plethora of apps that parents may not even consider as risks: any app that allows private communication (WhatsApp), access to the phone’s camera (Snapchat), or lets the user access even a small corner of the internet (Tumblr) is theoretically subject to abuse.

The point is not to be alarmist. Teens using Pinterest most likely aren’t installing it in order to search for porn, for example. But accidental exposure to porn can lead to intentional searches, so it’s best for parents to be aware of the risks involved with specific apps.

What Covenant Eyes Is Doing to Protect Smartphones

If you already use Covenant Eyes in your home, there’s some good news: we’re constantly working to make our services even better and make your job as a parent easier.

Over the years, we heard a lot of requests for better monitoring; if Facebook has been a problem for a Covenant Eyes member in the past, it’s painful to force that person to access it through the monitored browser app instead of through the unmonitored Facebook app, for example. And while we are intentionally cautious about monitoring secure (https) websites because we, say, don’t want to read your e-mail, we also knew we were failing our members by not monitoring incognito mode and apps that require a login to use (like Facebook or Pinterest).

That’s why we completely rebuilt our Android™ app.

July 2018 Update: We have released a new version of our app for Android. Learn more here.

We now monitor regular browsing and Incognito mode on several major browsers, and also monitor pages visited on a growing number of apps, including:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Hulu
  • Netflix
  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest

We offer app locking as well, so if you don’t want your kids using or installing apps we don’t specifically monitor, you can simply block them completely.

(By the way, we’re looking into solutions for similar coverage on iPhone®, but due to Apple’s policies, we’re not quite there yet.)

What Parents Can Do

Of course, even with these major improvements, parents still need to take action for their kids’ safety. Covenant Eyes is an excellent start, but we should be just that: the starting point for your child’s online safety, not the only tool.

Here are just a few additional steps:

1. Conduct regular app reviews.

Hundreds of new apps are released every day, and it’s hard to know what one will take off and become incredibly popular, or which ones pose hidden threats, or which ones are completely harmless.

For younger kids especially, you may want to block their ability to install apps completely. If you have the Covenant Eyes Android app, you can use App Locking to lock down Google Play. On iPhone, the setting is built into the operating system.

Then, any time your kids want to install an app, investigate it first. Do a bit of Googling to become aware of its capabilities, and decide based on the age and maturity of your child whether you want them to use it or not.

I personally counsel you to allow apps as often as you feel comfortable; middle and high school are stressful for teens socially, and you want to be your child’s ally, not the enemy. But if necessary, don’t be afraid to say no to specific apps because they make you feel uncomfortable. You’re the parent, after all, and their safety is your job.

2. Tell us what apps to monitor next.

As you review the apps your kids use (or want to use), you may notice some apps that only make you uncomfortable because they aren’t monitored. Take Facebook or YouTube as examples; both are very open to inappropriate content, but hundreds of thousands of people use them every day for innocent purposes as well. Before we added monitoring for them, we encouraged members to access these sites only through monitored browsers; now you can install and use them, knowing that Covenant Eyes will report on what was visited.

We’re constantly adding popular apps to the list of what we monitor…but we can use your help. Tell us what apps you want us to include, and we’ll use that information to prioritize which ones we work on next.

3. Help educate the parents you know.

One of the best things you can do to protect your kids is to create an entire community of safe homes. After all, installing Covenant Eyes on your child’s phone protects your child’s phone. It doesn’t protect the phone of the kid on the playground, or your next-door neighbor’s tablet, or your child’s best friend’s family computer.

Your children’s friends should be protected as well. Tell the parents you know why you protect your family with Covenant Eyes, and share our ebooks so they know the dangers. By taking a stand on internet safety, you can help them take a stand as well.

  • Comments on: How Covenant Eyes Helps Protect Your Kids on Mobile
    1. Kenneth on

      My Android phone is rooted. Can your app “go deeper” on a rooted phone and filter/monitor more apps? If not, I may have to make a feature request.

      Reply
      • Jake Shotrosky on

        Hey Kenneth,
        The short answer is no. As it stands, we have the ability to monitor most any application on Android. The catch is that we have to specify what apps we are monitoring, how we are monitoring, and how to present that information. Installing Covenant Eyes on a rooted device really only opens up the ability to install Covenant Eyes as a system app, which did not work well at all on previous versions. Regardless, even if it had worked, there really isn’t any benefit to this.

        Out of curiosity, what sort of features are you looking for?

    2. Kenneth on

      @Jake, awhile ago I discussed Android filters with another Internet filtering company (Emypeople.net) and they suggested modifying the iptables on a rooted phone to implement a system-wide proxy. (This could also be implemented on Linux systems as I think of it) Of course, a standard proxy probably wouldn’t filter HTTPS data. It would still need a trusted certificate to decrypt HTTPS man-in-the-middle style, which starts to sound fishy. Probably a system administrator app (which I suspect CE is) would function just as well.
      Thanks for answering so promptly. I’m feeling out the software before I sign up. God bless.

      Reply
      • Jake Shotrosky on

        Thanks for your reply Kenneth. It is definitely something to chew on for a bit. I will admit, I am a little out of my depth on the specifics (mostly on the iptables suggestion) but I’m happy to pass on your comment to our developers.

    3. Samantha on

      This is good but where I live middle school kids are having sex in the bathrooms and sending out nude pictures of themselves. In high school, it is even worse. Have people seen what girls wear to high school proms now? Those girls don’t look like children. They look like full grown women and strippers. If you doubt it, go Google prom pictures on the net. Times have changed. I think America has a very unhealthy attitude towards sex. We made it evil and taboo for generations. Then all that repression made pornography grow. Anything you ban will become popular. From music to drugs — you see this. We made sex that icky topic and are now paying the price. We are also in denial about our teenagers. They are huge now. Girls look like full grown women. This is going to sound weird but I also think our obesity epidemic is a huge problem. I went to the store today. There was a beautiful young girl with her mom. The mom was morbidly obese and the daughter was fit as can be. I can see why men go for younger women. To find someone in shape nowadays you have to date young. I am a people watcher and every male in the store was checking out the daughter. People might laugh at that but you have to parallel the rise of porn with what else is happening in society. Social media, obesity, porn, divorce rates … all have risen at the same time.

      Reply
      • Katherine on

        First of all, Stephanie, sex hasn’t become “taboo”. Quite the opposite. All sorts of media promote inappropriate relationships (premarital relations, homosexuality, transgender, etc). By using a service like Covenant Eyes, parents can help prevent their children from accessing porn (either on purpose or accident). Girls looking older has so much to do with parents simply not parenting. It’s a tough job and you have to show up every.single.day. Society is paying a price because society has cheapened the marital bond to whomever wants it, whenever. It has become an entitlement, even a “civil right”!! You are 100% correct, the increase of porn is is paralleled with what is happening in society: Godlessness, fornication, sexual deviency.

    4. Alessandra on

      I’ve been a Christian my whole life and have witnessed the dangers of pornography. I work with children on a daily basis and understand that there will always be risks involved with raising and caring for them. But this is ridiculous. This is just a way for controlling and manipulative parents to enact further control over their children. Studies have proven that repressed and under-educated children will find new ways of rebelling. From the moment we are born, we crave freedom and independence, and that can’t be snuffed out simply by tightening the noose around them, so to speak. If we treat our children like birds bred to live in cages, the day they’re meant to break out will be devastating. This is why children raised in Christian households go off into the real world and begin to act on the newfound freedom they were never allowed when they were supposed to be learning and growing. This is why they make such drastic decisions on the wrong side. This app is not just for pornography. It screenshots messages and pictures and sends them back to parents. There is a complete lack of trust and privacy, and sadly that is much more detrimental to the mind of a child than porn could ever be. Parenting is a job, yes. Smothering is not. You prove to your children that you distrust them, their friends, their relationships, their ability to grow. If you teach them right and instruct them in how to decide for their own what is right and wrong, there shouldn’t be a problem with allowing them to freedom to be human. We are all human. Humanity is a messy and beautiful thing. We all need to make our mistakes to learn. I can personally guarantee that the only way to keep a child from all the evils of the world is to raise them in a box, but that isn’t exactly practical. I would never have the audacity to completely invade a teen’s personal relationships unless I knew for a fact, or was told, that they were getting into some sticky situations. Kids see things. My advice for the people on here, let your kids grow! You’ll have much worse problems than porn in your children’s future if you go down this road. If you don’t believe that, research child psychology and development and what they need to become functioning adults for yourselves. This is atrocious.

      Reply
      • Concerned Dad on

        OMG… You hit the nail on the head! I am all for parental control, blocking websites, GPS locations etc. If you have a problem child, maybe this would be an option. But if your child has gotten to the point of having to use this app, maybe you should look at your own parenting first, seek professional counseling… Something. If you keep sheltering your children with nonsense like this what happens when they get out to the real world and then they don’t have anybody to control them. More times than done they’re going to go crazy and get into things they really shouldn’t be into.

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