Grace Debuts Privacy-Focused Parental Controls for iOS Devices Built with Apple’s Screen Time API – TechCrunch

Call a new startup Grace launched to make it easier for parents to monitor and manage their children’s screen time and use iOS apps. Although Apple offers built-in parental controls, many parents would prefer an application-based solution instead of having to delve into Apple’s tool settings. In addition, Grace offers more customization compared to children’s on-screen time schedules. With Apple controls, parents can only configure start and stop times for Stay, for example, instead of setting other times when the app needs to be restricted, such as school hours, family dinner time, homework time and others.

Grace is also notable for being one of the first to arrive with Apple’s on-screen time API. introduced at Apple’s World Developer Conference last year. The new API allows developers to create an interface that works with Apple’s built-in tools to extend their functionality.

To use Grace, parents install the app on their own devices, as well as on their children’s iPhone or iPad. They can then configure various screen time controls remotely in an intuitive interface, including things like daily screen time limits, app time limits, in-app purchase limits, and can block apps that waste time, along with other stuff. It is useful that they can also create on-screen time schedules that better reflect the family’s own rules about how and when children should use their devices.

Image credits: Grace

For example, if you want to block TikTok and Snapchat at bedtime and during school hours, there’s no way to do that today using only Apple’s own tools. Instead, Apple Time’s on-screen controls allow parents to set time-based limits on apps or “Stay” – a time when kids can only use parent-approved apps and interact with those you’ve allowed, such as a mother or dad, through phone calls and text messages. In practice, this means that parents configure downtime to start at bedtime and extend it at night to limit children from staying up late on their devices or they can choose to activate it only during the school day. In any case, this decision does not fully meet the needs of the family.

Meanwhile, Grace allows parents to create all sorts of schedules for their children, not just one stay schedule. This means that parents can limit the screen time for different types of applications at different times. At school, children may be allowed access to educational applications and a web browser, but not to entertainment, social media, or gaming applications, perhaps. During the family dinner, all distractions can be excluded. Parents may also want to configure other on-screen time schedules related to their own family rules, such as bedtime routines, off-screen weekends, vacations, or whatever else they choose.

Image credits: Grace

Another advantage for Grace is that it offers better blocking of websites with built-in filters than automatic blocking of over 50,000 websites for adults, gambling, guns, alcohol and drugs, and this list is updated regularly. Apple’s own on-screen tools focus only on blocking adult sites.

Grace also adds quick action buttons that allow parents to pause restrictions (“Pause”) or block all apps (“Phone Lock”) without having to completely disable on-screen time settings. Any parent who uses Apple’s screen time will understand the benefits here. Families are often in a situation where the usual rules are paused – for example, when the child stays up late for a sleep party, when he is on school vacation, when he is sick at home or when he has earned extra time on screen through some kind of bonus system, among other things. But in other cases, parents may want to ground a child by restricting access to their device – but they don’t really want to take the phone away, as this is a way to communicate in an emergency. However, locking them out of all applications would serve as a punishment.

Image credits: Grace

Grace’s app was created by co-founders Liana Hanova (Product and design) and Salavat Khanov (Software development), both of whom bring relevant experience to their new project. Hanova has previously worked on her startup, focused on reducing children’s addiction to the phone, forcing them to engage in interactive children’s books that use AR. Hanov worked on the ad blocker and privacy tool 1Blocker. They note that their new application has been launched and is completely independent.

The team hopes that Apple will update the API to allow them to be even more competitive with built-in on-screen tools. They said the API today lacks the ability to show users how much time they have left and how much time they have used. They would also like to see an improved tool selection tool – such as the one Apple offers, which has a search box. And they would like the API to include the ability to set communication restrictions, as well as Apple’s own tools.

“Despite all these limitations, I still think this solution is better for parental control than MDM-based applications,” said Hanova, saying Grace was a better option than existing applications that use MDM solutions, an early solution. lack of API access used by third-party screen time tools. “[MDM apps’] Servers can be hacked and sensitive data can be leaked – such as your child’s phone number, websites visited, search queries, installed applications, etc. The attacker can also remotely delete the device, “she said. In addition, “these companies can collect a lot of data and sell it to advertisers,” Hanova warned.

Image credits: Grace

IOS screen time management tools have a complicated history.

Shortly after the release of iOS 12 in 2018, Apple unfolded his own built-in tools and controls for tracking screen time. But the tech giant then started a widespread repression third-party applications that have implemented their own on-screen systems, saying these apps did it in a way that risks user privacy. Earlier applications devised creative solutions to address users’ parental control needs – such as the use of VPNs or mobile device management (MDM) technologies – the latter designed for enterprise use rather than user-centric applications. MDM-based tools can access device location, control application usage, and set different permissions – all of which make sense in terms of locking employees’ devices. But Apple says the same tools pose a risk to children’s privacy. While it was right, it also acted unfairly by immediately blocking these companies from continuing to operate when they had their own first-party solution, instead of allowing them to move to a more secure solution, such as the API.

Not to mention that Apple illuminated the same on-screen applications and their subsequent updates for years, allowing developers to build businesses that were then destroyed by changes in Apple’s policies. CEO of Apple Tim Cook was even questioned about this decision during an antitrust hearing in Congress in July 2020, where the CEO again defended the consumer privacy decision.

Apple’s decision was the possible launch of an API for screen time in 2021 this would allow developers to upgrade Apple’s existing features in a secure way without MDM. It could be said that this was the technology that had to be introduced ok policy implementation instead of years later.

Now that it’s available, however, apps like Grace can appear without such a big threat of removal.

In addition, at Apple’s recent World Developer Conference, the company unveiled several new features of the Screen Time API, including the ability to display app usage data in a privacy-friendly way that Grace says she will use to drawing charts and showing activity similar to Apple’s own time screen system. It is also now possible to manage screen time and limitations not only in the parent-child relationship, but also for yourself – another feature that Grace intends to adopt later this fall.

Later, Grace will release lock screen widgets to see how much time kids have been using on the screen, new shortcuts for quick action apps and Mac support.

Grace is currently a free download, with advanced features available through a subscription for $ 19.99 / year.

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