Monitoring your kids’ devices is difficult, time consuming, and frustrating. A new parental control app, Zift, wants to make putting limits on smartphones and other devices just a little easier for parents—but how well does it actually work?
Zift uses two different apps: one you install on your phone and another you install on the device you want to monitor. The dashboard on your phone’s app will show what your kid is doing and how much time they’re spending on each activity. There is a free version, but when you sign up for a Premium monthly plan, you’ll be able to see not only what’s happening on their device but also geotags of all the places that device has been.
When you need your child to stop using their device, whether it be at a regular time (like bedtime or school hours) or for a particular circumstance (like when they’re grounded from it), you can use Zift to block other apps and pause internet connectivity. That way your child can focus on their homework or chores but still be able to take pictures or use the calculator and alarm functions.
Comprehensive Services The Premium plan offers a lot of services—including Net Nanny filtering and time tracking—all bundled into one app.
Coverage for Unlimited Devices While other parental control apps will cover only two or three devices, Zift lets you monitor an unlimited number.
Faulty Free Version We did not have a great experience with Zift, and the free version didn’t work for us at all. It installed easily on both parent and child’s devices, but it didn’t monitor anything and it wouldn’t pause the internet or enforce curfew. Almost everything we clicked on in the app lead to an ad for the Premium service.
High Annual Cost The monthly cost of $4.99 doesn’t sound like much, but Zift (like a lot of parental controls) is billed annually. Most other apps are closer to $2 or $3 a month when you break down the annual cost.
Features and Usability
Easy Installation To install Zift, all you have to do is download it from the Google Play store or the iTunes App store. Its prompts are clear and easy to follow on both your phone and your child’s device.
Great App Interface The Zift app has a clean design and is fairly intuitive to use. You’ll be able to navigate through it in a matter of minutes.
Net Nanny Filtering Zift uses Net Nanny technology—which is one of the top names in parental control filtering. It blocks undesired websites, profanity, and pornography.
Ability to Pause Internet We love that Zift lets you make the internet unavailable to different devices at different times without messing with your router. We also like that your child can’t work around the app by turning off the Wi-Fi and using up data.
Glitchy Tech Issues In addition to the issues we had when trying to use the free version, many user reviews report various problems with the app. We worry this product is a little too new and still needs some refining to work smoothly.
Difficult Uninstall Process If Zift isn’t the right fit, a lot of customers report that it can be difficult to uninstall. This is especially true for the app you’ll install on your child’s device. In a perfect world, the app on your kid’s device would be difficult for them to tamper with but easy for you to manage.
Extra Content Zift is trying to build community among parents and educate families about online safety issues—which is great—but it pushes that content pretty hard, especially in the free version.
Will Zift work on a Kindle or other tablet?
Zift is compatible with all Android and iOS devices, but it will not work on Amazon devices or other alternative mobile devices. Judging from the interface, it really seems geared towards smartphones and will work best on those devices.
Can Zift block in-app purchases?
Not exactly. While Zift will block entire apps and monitor individual parts of apps, you would need to disable in-app purchases through a different method to keep your child from unintentionally buying things.
Why haven’t I heard of Zift?
Zift is a new company that was only recently started by a group of entrepreneurial dads. The company does community outreach and offers community-building content online, which makes it seem like a great brand to support. But if you’re looking for something with a proven track record, you’ll have to wait until Zift’s been around longer and worked out any kinks in its technology.
The Bottom Line
When it works, Zift is a great option for helping control your kids’ screen time and keeping them safe online. But the price is higher than many alternatives, and numerous technical issues make this parental control app hard to recommend right now. To find out more about parental controls we do recommend, check out our Best Parental Control Apps.
To evaluate Zift, we installed and used the free version of the app. We scoured discussion boards, user reviews, and the company website to get a sense of the real ins and outs of the product. We also compared it to other leading parental control services. For more information, see our methodology.
Written by Laura E. Hilton
Laura is a writer, teacher, and mother based out of Utah. She is passionate about making and maintaining strong, safe, healthy communities. To learn more, visit her website at lauraehilton.com. Learn more