Sky's new app gives parents eyes and ears inside and outside the home. It's the best parental control service of any broadband provider by some distance. But comes at a price.
Sky’s new Broadband Buddy app equips parents with the tools they need to monitor and control their family’s internet usage wherever they are.
Available now, it gives parents complete oversight of their children’s screen time and allows them to block sites or apps. Or even turn off the internet altogether at dinner time or when it’s time for bed.
So far, so familiar. if you've ever used any sort of parental controls offered as part of your broadband package.
But the big difference with Sky's Broadband Buddy is that allows you to monitor and control your kids' internet usage while they're out and about. Not just when they're in the home.
So how exactly does Sky Broadband Buddy work? How can you get it? And will it cost you anything extra? Read on for the answers.
What does Sky Broadband Buddy allow you to do?
Sky’s Broadband Buddy is simple to use, but offers wide-reaching functionality.
In a nutshell, here's what you'll be able to do:
- Designate age-range content filters for each family member, such as PG, 13 or 18. Or no filter at all.
- Set a total amount of usage per day, after which point access is turned off.
- Set times of day for homework or bedtime, when you can impose a blanket ban on internet access.
- Monitor kids’ usage at home and when they’re using mobile internet on their phones.
- View all sites visited and see other online activity via the History section of the app.
- Give out rewards for good behaviour. Homework done on time, for instance?. You can give them extra time on their favourite sites or to play games.
- Track your kids’ location. As long as their phone is on and location services are on, you’ll be able to see where they are at all times.
How do you set up Sky Broadband Buddy?
At the heart of Sky’s service is the Broadband Buddy smartphone app, which is available for iPhone, iPads and Android phones and tablets.
For the former, you’ll need to be running iOS 10 or later. For the latter, your device will have to be powered by Android 5.0 or later.
To get started, parents need to download the app and sign in with their Sky log-in. It’s then just a case of setting up user profiles for all the family members whose usage they want to monitor.
iPhone or iPad owner? Head here to download Sky Broadband Buddy for iOS.
Got an Android phone or tablet? Get Sky Broadband Buddy for Android.
Once that’s done, tap on a profile and you’ll be able to determine individual time-limits and downtime, as well as set up filters for each person. You can set up as many profiles as you like.
At the point you set up the profile, the app will bring up a full list of internet-enabled devices that have ever been connected by your broadband router.
Your job is to pick them out and assign them to the correct profile. There’s no limit on the amount you can add.
Next up, you’ll need to set filters, such as’ PG’ or ‘13’, and the app will block content deemed unsuitable for the age filter you’ve chosen.
But by way of example, the sort of content blocked when you apply the ‘PG’ filter includes adult sites, forums, gambling, online games and online shopping.
Pre-teens in the ‘13’ category are allowed more freedom, but will still be barred from explicit content and dating sites.
After that you can set up time limits, which lets you impose a total internet shutdown for a pre-determined time, or just limit total time spent online, or even limit time spent on particular types of online entertainment.
Finally, you can finish up by setting an off-time or bedtime. At which point you can turn off all internet connectivity for devices registered to a particular profile.
The usage restrictions you select will be enforced within the home when your kids are using their home broadband connection. But are also enforced if they’re out and about.
How much does it cost?
Broadband Buddy isn’t a standalone service. To get it you’ll need to add Sky’s Broadband Boost, which costs £2.50 per month when you sign up to an 18-month Sky Essential or Superfast broadband contract.
The price of Broadband Boost rises to £5 per month once the contract term is up.
For that outlay, you’ll get everything Broadband Buddy offers. But Sky will also monitor your broadband connection speed every day and allow you to book engineer visits free of charge if there’s a problem.
Sky Mobile customers who’re signed up to Broadband Boost also get 2GB of mobile internet data free of charge when there’s an outage.
This can be used for tethering. That means you can use it to connect any internet-enabled devices in your home, so your mobile internet connection effectively serves as a replacement for your fixed line service while it’s down.
Can kids get around Sky Broadband Buddy’s controls?
No parental controls are completely watertight. In the case of Sky Broadband Buddy, kids can get rid of parental controls by deleting the Android app from their phone. While it’s deleted all restrictions on their usage will be lifted.
However, when they do so parents will be sent a notification so they know that the app has been deleted and can take appropriate action.
What kids won’t be able to do is get around the controls by using a VPN. This is blocked when you activate the PG and 13 age filters.
How does it compare with other parental controls?
Critically, the competition’s parental controls don’t let you set restrictions and monitor usage while your kids are using the internet over 3G or 4G when they’re on the move.
Rather you can only keep tabs on them when they’re connected to your home broadband.
It's important to note, however, that rival providers’ parental controls come free when you subscribe to their broadband.
Sky does offer comparable, free-of-charge broadband controls with all its broadband packages.
But if you want Broadband Buddy you’ll have to sign up for a new Sky broadband contract and then add Broadband Boost to your package at a cost of £2.50 per month.