If you thought that disabling incognito mode was enough to protect your children, you're probably mistaken. Let me explain.
Dear readers: Disabling incognito mode may be completely insufficient.
Please remember that, even if you disable Google Chrome's incognito mode, there are other ways for device users to browse the Web without leaving any tracks. Even technologically-illiterate kids can ask Google or their friends what to do. So it's wise to also install a good filter.
I haven't researched the set of available filters very recently.
As of a few years ago:
Free options include Qustodio and Google Family Link. The free version of Norton Family is perhaps not as good. If you're willing to pay, I've read that Netspark or GenTech are better than the free products.
In general, Android filtering software is not as good as desktop filtering software.
You may also want to collect up your spouse's and kids' new and old Android devices, and to lock them all in your bedroom every night.
Dear readers: Some thoughts about night time.
"When kids have their own devices, they are tempted to be in touch constantly — and maybe even feel obligated to be in touch when they don't want to." If your kid gets a Facebook message at 1 a.m., it might be rude for her to ignore it until the morning, and so she might reluctantly end up in a long conversation. (Based on this source.)
The solution to the late-night messaging problem is this: Late at night, there are ways to prevent your kid from using her phone, tablet, and laptop. You can keep them locked in your own bedroom to charge. Or, for Android devices, you can use Google Family Link to set a bedtime: please see here or here. This will also make it harder for your kid to secretly spend hours on addictive pursuits: YouTube, Facebook, pornography, and games.
Dear readers: Please test your filter immediately after installation, and again at least yearly.
Once you install a filter, I suggest: Immediately test to make sure that it works well. Go to a few adult websites and make sure they're blocked. If you have monitoring enabled, check to see that it does what it's supposed to. If you've set a bedtime, then check yearly to make sure that the phone actually locks itself at bedtime.
Even if a filter's control panel claims that it's working, the filter might not actually be working at all. It's wise to test it yourself.
Test your filter again periodically. At least once a year; preferably more often.
Retest after major operating-system or browser upgrades, and again whenever a supplemental browser (e.g. Firefox) is installed.
Filters are not foolproof. Many kids can bypass the filters without the parents knowing. But a filter may still be better than no filter.
Background to my question
Google Chrome for Android includes a feature called incognito mode. This feature, when I activate it, is designed to help prevent Chrome from automatically remembering and storing information about which websites I've visited in the past.
To help protect myself, I've installed the free version of Qustodio (a Web filtering/monitoring app) on my Android device. Unfortunately, as soon as the user enters incognito mode, Qustodio for Android stops working.
What are my options? Well:
I could try upgrading to Android 6 or higher, or to CyanogenMod 13 or higher, or could buy a device that ships with one of these OSes preinstalled. A support knowledge base article on the Qustodio website claims that, on these operating systems, Qustodio works fine even when incognito mode is active. But I suspect that this claim may be inaccurate. I don't know for sure. Please leave a comment below.
I could do the following procedure:
- Install the free version of NetAddictSoft plus the Brehm browser. Mr. Brehm's claims aren't all correct; in truth, there's an easy way to clear the Brehm browser's history. But the free version of NetAddictSoft claims to be able to monitor all use of the Brehm browser and email out weekly usage reports. (Note that, on most devices, NetAddictSoft can only monitor usage of the Brehm browser, and cannot monitor usage of Chrome or Firefox or any other browser.)
- Configure Smart App Lock or similar to prevent the use of other browsers. (Note: Smart App Lock isn't perfect, and it's possible to defeat it.)
I might do the above procedure, but: My device has an old Android version installed. For me to upgrade to a newer Android version, I'd have to switch to a third-party ROM, and this would be a hassle.
I could spend money on a more-powerful filter, such as NetSpark or GenTech. But I'd rather not spend any money.
I could contact Qustodio's support team and send in a bug report. But I hear they can't really help. The feature is experimental. (Source.) And it's been experimental for years now. It's not really fully supported.
I could uninstall Qustodio, could install Norton Family, and could try Norton Family's incognito-detection feature. But I don't want to bother doing that either.
I could look into why Qustodio doesn't work when incognito mode is active, then file a feature request with Google to ask them to fix the problem.
I could sell my phone and buy an iPhone or iPad. They include built-in Web filtering. I don't know whether or not it's any good.
I could sell my phone and switch to a phone without built-in Wi-Fi. Perhaps a Palm Treo or Centro or an old BlackBerry.
But I don't want to choose any of the above options.
On desktop OSes, I already know that it's possible to disable Google Chrome's incognito mode. But I also use Android. How can I disable Google Chrome's incognito mode on my Android device?
Please assume the following:
I always run the latest version of Android.
My device is owned and controlled by me. It is not administered by a Google Apps domain administrator at my workplace or my school. And so I cannot use the Google Apps admin console to disable incognito mode. (I also don't want to pay a fee in order to sign up for Google Apps for Work.)
I am willing to root my device.
I thank Android.SE user Lucky for inspiring this question.