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Melanie asked: “I’m a concerned parent of a teenager who doesn’t quite understand that his actions lead to some serious consequences. As a last resort, I need some advice in monitoring his location. Not only currently, but if there’s a way, to monitor a history of where he’s been. Also a keylogger, where you can see what they’re typing and what other people are sending them, whether it’s e-mail or text, Instagram, whatever they’re doing on their iPhone. Anything you can think of. He has an iPhone 6 Plus but we also have an HP laptop. Mostly it’s the iPhone that I need some advice on apps or services that you can subscribe to.”
You have a few different options, but before you begin you have to ask yourself whether you are willing to “jailbreak” the iPhone. Apple has safeguards in place that prevent one app on the phone from seeing what another app is doing, or accessing its data. When you jailbreak an iPhone, you remove those safeguards.
Jailbreaking the iPhone lets the monitoring software do its job more effectively. A service like PhoneSheriff charges $89 per year and will track virtually everything that goes on with your iPhone. Messages, photos, calls, location, browser history, and popular apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Kik. But the phone must be jailbroken for PhoneSheriff to work.
If you don’t want to jailbreak the phone, you can look at TeenSafe and TeenShield. These hybrid software and service companies offer you very similar monitoring for $14.95 and $13.95 per month, respectively. They cost a little more than PhoneSheriff does, but they have to work a little harder because the iPhone does not have to be jailbroken.
The issue with monitoring a non-jailbroken iPhone is that the only way this can work is for the software on the phone to monitor all incoming and outgoing data, given that it can’t directly access the apps and their app-specific information, as PhoneSheriff can on an iPhone that has been jailbroken. Trying to monitor all that incoming and outgoing data is difficult. The phone can exhibit odd behaviors. Email attachments might not load, pictures might not come through on messages, or the phone itself might run slowly or crash.
Your decision comes down to whether or not you want to risk jailbreaking the iPhone. We say risk because once an iPhone is jailbroken, malicious apps can hijack data from other installed apps on that phone. The cases we’ve heard of where sensitive information was stolen from an iPhone almost always begin with the sentence “So, I jailbroke my iPhone…”
But there are definitely parental monitoring app and service combinations that will give you all the information you were asking about. Good luck and let us know what you decide!