Sky is pushing ahead with its mission to make its services more family-friendly. Following the recent addition of a dedicated Kids Mode to Sky Q, the broadcaster is today rolling-out a new broadband plan that allows parents deep control over the amount of time spent online, the devices allowed online, and the sites and apps that can be accessed by each individual family member.
The new features are included in the new Sky Boost package (opens in new tab), which costs new and existing Sky Broadband customers an extra £2.50 a month for the first 18 months, before rising to £5 a month thereafter. It's currently being advertised with a Secret Life Of Pets 2 advertising tie-in, hence the cheery hamster in the above image.
- Sky TV and Sky Q updates will revolutionise your TV viewing this year
- Sky Q review: Netflix on Sky Q delivers a truly supreme viewing experience
Parents and legal guardians are able to impose limits and controls on any devices connected to the home Wi-Fi network using a new app dubbed Sky Broadband Buddy. The app, which is available as a free download on iOS and Android, lets you impose restrictions and limits from inside the home or outside, the latter while you're connected to a 3G or 4G mobile network.
Similarly, restrictions you impose on devices also hold true inside and outside the house – so enterprising children cannot simply switch over to 4G on their phone to circumvent the filters and start trawling the rhythm section of the world wide web.
The Sky Buddy app lets you impose restrictions on a range of devices, including game consoles, streaming dongles, tablets and smartphones. Installing the Sky Buddy app on the latter and setting up a younger family member with a "child" account also lets legal guardians and parents track their location, restrict which apps and websites can be accessed, and review their usage history.
Good behaviour can also be rewarded by "gifting" more time online or briefly allowing access to previously blocked websites – after all, what better way to give your offspring a pat on the back for finishing their homework than gifting them brief access to Netflix?
Sky Buddy also lets you create off-time for the entire household, so you can remove temptation for every member of the family at the dinner table each night, or you could temporarily enable the feature to recreate cinematic conditions while sitting down to watch a movie as a family.
Although iOS lets parents restrict children from deleting certain apps from their phone, Android doesn't currently offer the same controls... so if you have a particularly rebellious child with a Samsung Galaxy S10, there's nothing stopping them from deleting the Sky Buddy app from their handset. If they do, you will at least get a notification telling you the app has been ditched. According to Sky, this will spark a conversation about restrictions within the family.
This isn't anything that can't be achieved already with other solutions, but the Sky Buddy app makes it all very simple and saves you from having to delve deep into router settings and the like. Sky Buddy is supported by Internet Matters – a prominent nonprofit designed to help parents keep their children safe online.
Speaking at the launch, Sky UK Chief Executive Officer Stephen van Rooyen said: "At Sky, we connect families to content they love, so it is our responsibility to make sure they can do this safely. Sky Broadband Buddy is an easy way to manage and monitor children’s internet usage, and pausing the internet is a great way to ensure you can enjoy family time free from screen time – for both children and adults!"
As well as the Sky Buddy app, Sky Broadband Boost gives customers a range of extra features, including proactive monitoring of broadband line speeds and faults through daily tests handled in the background by Sky engineers. It also bundles complimentary engineer visits, including evenings and weekends.
Sky Broadband Boost customers who are also signed-up for Sky Mobile will get an additional perk. If there is an issue with your home broadband and your service is disrupted, the company will give you 2GB of extra data in your Sky Mobile Piggybank.