Expert tips for using the Verizon Smart Family app

By: Sarah Kimmel Werle

Kids can sometimes become experts at evading parental controls. Here's how to stay one step ahead with Verizon Smart Family.

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Parent Using Verizon Smart Family App For Daughter’s Online Access

Part of my job as a parent is keeping my kids safe. But as soon as I get something in place, my kids will find a way around it. Like it’s their job. This is never truer than when trying to put parental controls on a kid’s phone.

I’m an IT professional and digital parenting coach, and I still get notifications that my kid has removed a content filter that I applied using Verizon Smart Family. While the app does a great job of helping parents set data limits, block contacts and track their kids’ location, some kids will always try to bypass restrictions. Fortunately, Verizon knows about smart kids. Here’s a few ways the app can help you keep those parental controls—in your control.

What is the Verizon Smart Family app?

Verizon Smart Family is a service that gives you controls to help you manage your kids’ smartphones, as long as they’re all on the same Verizon account as yours. Using its app, you can filter content, limit and monitor calls and texts, monitor web and app activity, and even track locations.

Alerts keep you notified if kids remove the Smart Family app.

Verizon Smart Family enables a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, on the child’s device. This forces the device to connect to a special protected network which allows the app to manage screen time and filter Web sites.

As with all apps, kids can uninstall the Verizon Smart Family Companion app from their phone, which will remove all of its controls as well as its VPN. But if they do that, you’ll get a text message notification, and you’ll see a big banner display in your app dashboard saying that the filters, activity tracking and location services aren’t working.

See what apps they’re using.

Smart Family will show you a list of apps your child is using and how much time they’re spending on them. Kids may try to use a separate VPN app to bypass a parental control app. Make it a habit to check this list of active apps to see if they’re using a VPN app. The letters VPN may be in the title, but maybe not. If you’re unsure about an app, just do a quick search online to confirm. As an added layer of prevention, you can set up content filters in Smart Family to automatically block apps, or manually block websites where kids could access a separate VPN.

An in-app dashboard lets you easily see if their location settings are turned on.

Want to see if they’ve turned off GPS and Location Services? Simply tap “refresh location” and Verizon Smart Family will let you know where the device is in near real time. Check the timeframe for the latest update: If it’s more than 5 or 10 minutes, they may have turned it off on their device. Also, look at the app’s permission settings on their device and make sure Smart Family has permission for the app to access their location.

What if your child resets the phone?

A factory reset restores a phone’s original settings—just like when you pulled it out of the box. This can wipe any parental control app from their phone. Periodically check the Smart Family dashboard to see what apps they’re using and confirm that the Companion App is still installed. If they did a reset, simply install the Smart Family Companion App again.

‘If Kids Remove The App From Their Phone, You’ll Get A Text Message.’  | Verizon Smart Family App

How to know if your kid is attempting to bypass the controls.

As mentioned above, the dashboard on the Verizon Smart Family parental control app displays a big banner if the VPN on your child’s device is disabled or otherwise not functioning properly. You’ll also get a text message telling you the same thing.

If you see that message, check the VPN settings on your child’s phone (they’ll need to hand it over to you), where you can see what VPNs are installed and which one is currently active. If it’s not the Verizon Smart Family app, you’ll need to actually go into their phone and remove the VPN app from their device.

‘And You’ll See This Notification In Your Smart Family App.’ | Verizon Smart Family App

Monitor the app’s dashboard from time to time to see if there’s a big drop in activity on a favorite, or restricted app.

Smart Family will also show you how much time your child is spending on apps. So if you notice a big drop in the amount of time they’re spending on a restricted app, or a favorite app, ask them why. They may be using a workaround.

Other things to consider: Use the device’s built-in controls.

Your phones have built-in parental controls you can apply to stop your kids from installing apps, like a VPN app, without your permission. Or you can change the device settings so they can’t remove some apps, like Verizon Smart Family. You can also block their ability to disable the VPN or turn off their location settings. To do so:

iOS: Apple Screen Time

Android: Google Family Link

Kids will find ways around the rules. So keep the conversation going. Let kids know why these controls are in place and how they help protect them and use an agreement. Maybe they won’t feel so antsy about them. If that doesn’t work, communicate that this may mean taking the phone away. Most kids will choose a device with controls rather than no device at all.

Screenshot this for later

Using Smart Family to detect dodging of parental controls.

  1. Periodically check the list of apps they’re using on their phone to see if they still have the Smart Family Companion App installed.
  2. Check the dashboard app on your phone to see if your child has installed a VPN app. If so, you can block it or disable it from the app’s dashboard.
  3. Periodically tap “update location” in the Smart Family app to see if they’ve turned off location tracking.
  4. Look for a sudden change in your child’s device activity. If there’s a big drop in the use of a favorite app, ask them why.

verizon.com/parenting

Put a little more control in parental controls with Verizon Smart Family.

About the author(s):

Sarah Kimmel Werle is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their homes. She also gives quick tech tips daily on her Instagram account @FamilyTech.

 

The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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