Grace launches privacy-focused parental controls for iOS devices built with Apple’s Screen Time API – TechCrunch

A new startup called beauty It is launched to make it easier for parents to monitor and manage their kids’ screen time and apps usage on iOS devices. Although Apple offers built-in parental controls, many parents prefer an app-based solution rather than having to dig into the settings of Apple tools. Additionally, Grace provides more customization on kids’ screen time schedules. With Apple controls, parents can only configure the start and stop times for Downtime, for example, rather than being able to set other times when app use should be restricted, such as school hours, family dinner time, homework time and more.

Grace also has the distinction of being one of the first entrants to be built using Apple’s Screen Time API, inserted At Apple’s Worldwide Developers 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 and their children’s iPhone or iPad. They can then configure a variety of screen time controls remotely in an easy-to-use interface, including things like daily screen time limits, app time limits, restrictions on in-app purchases, and they can block time-wasting apps, among other things. other. Helpfully, they can also create screen schedules that better reflect the family’s own rules about how and when kids should use their devices.

Image credits: beauty

For example, if you want to block TikTok and Snapchat at bedtime as well as during school hours, there is no way to do that today using only Apple’s own tools. Instead, Apple’s screen time controls allow parents to set app time limits, or “downtime” — the time when kids can only use parent-approved apps and communicate with those you’ve allowed, such as mom or dad, via phone calls and text messages. In practice, this translates to parents setting up downtime to start bedtime and extend through the night to limit kids staying up late on their devices, or they may choose to enable it only during the school day. In both cases, this solution does not fully meet the needs of the family.

Meanwhile, Grace lets parents create all kinds of different schedules for their kids, not just one downtime schedule. This means that parents can limit screen time for different types of apps at different times. At school, kids can be allowed to access educational apps and a web browser but not entertainment apps, social media, or games, perhaps. During a family dinner, all sources of distraction can be turned off. Parents may also want to configure other screen schedules related to their family rules, such as bedtime routines, screen-free weekends, vacations, or whatever else they choose.

Image credits: beauty

Another benefit of Grace is that it offers improved website blocking with built-in filters rather than blocking more than 50,000 adult, gambling, weapons, alcohol and drug websites, and this list is updated regularly. Apple’s screen time tools focus only on blocking adult sites.

Grace also adds quick action buttons that allow parents to pause restrictions (“Pause”) or block all apps (“Lock Phone”), without having to completely disable Screen Time settings. Any parent who uses Apple’s Screen Time feature will understand the benefit here. Oftentimes, families are in a situation where the usual rules are broken – such as when a child is up late at a sleepover party, when it’s school vacation, when they’re home or when they’ve gained extra time in front of screens through some kind of From the allowances system, among other things. But other times, parents may want to convince a child to restrict access to their devices — but they don’t really want to take the phone away, because it’s also a way for them to communicate in the event of an emergency. However, banning them from all apps would be a punishment.

Image credits: beauty

The Grace app was created by the co-founders, Liana Khanova (Product and Design) and Salafat Khanov (Software Development), both bring relevant experience to their new project. Khanova previously worked for her startup that focuses on reducing children’s addiction to phones by having them interact with interactive children’s books that use augmented reality. Khanov worked on the ad blocker and privacy tool 1Blocker. They have noticed that their new app is completely paved and standalone.

The team hopes that Apple will update the API to allow them to be more competitive with the built-in screen time tools. They said that today’s API lacks the ability to show users how much time is left and how long it took. They would also like to see an improved app picker available – like the one offered by Apple that has a search field. And they want the API to include the ability to set connection limits as well, as Apple’s own tools do.

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

Image credits: beauty

Screen time management tools for iOS have a complex history.

Shortly after iOS 12 was released in 2018, Apple rolled out Built-in tools and controls for tracking screen time. But the tech giant then started a file widespread suppression on third-party apps that have implemented their own screen time regimes, Saying that these apps did that in a way that jeopardizes user privacy. Previous apps had come up with creative solutions to solve users’ needs for parental control — such as using VPNs or mobile device management (MDM) technologies — the latter designed for enterprise use, not consumer-facing applications. MDM-based tools can access device location, control app usage, and set different permissions – all of which make sense in terms of locking employees’ devices. But Apple has argued that the tools themselves pose a risk to children’s privacy. While true, he also acted unfairly to immediately prevent these companies from continuing to operate the moment their first-party solution becomes available, rather than allowing them to move to a more secure solution, such as an API.

Not to mention, Apple has been green-lighting screen time apps themselves and their subsequent updates for years, allowing developers to build businesses that were then decimated by Apple policy changes. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been questioned about this decision During a congressional antitrust hearing held in July 2020, the CEO once again defended the decision regarding consumer privacy.

It was Apple’s solution Screen Time API final release in 2021 It would allow developers to build on existing Apple features in a secure and MDM-free manner. It could be said that it was the kind of technology that should have been introduced side by side Policy implementation, rather than years later.

Now that it’s available, apps like Grace can appear without much threat of removal.

Additionally, at the recent Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, the company introduced some new Screen Time API features, including the ability to display app and device usage data in a more private manner, which Grace says it will use to chart and display activity similar to the Screen system. Apple’s Time. It’s also now possible to manage screen time and restrictions not just within the parent-child relationship but also yourself — another feature Grace aims to adopt later this fall.

Grace will also later roll out Lock Screen widgets for how much time kids spend in front of the screen, new app shortcuts for quick actions, and Mac support.

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