How to Set Up BrightCanary and Keep Your Child Safe Online

By Rebecca Paredes
October 26, 2023
Parents with child using tablet

Giving your kid their first phone can feel overwhelming. Will they talk to predators? Will they end up in a dangerous situation? That’s why it’s so important to stay engaged with what your kids do online — exactly what the BrightCanary iPhone parental monitoring app is designed to do. But how does BrightCanary work?

If you’re here, you want to keep your kids safe. BrightCanary provides better monitoring where most kids are facing risks, like text messages and Instagram. And a growing number of experts recommend monitoring your child’s online accounts, from the American Psychological Association to the U.S. Surgeon General

In this guide, we’ll share how to set up BrightCanary. Good news: it’s easy and just takes a few steps. Let’s dive in.

How does BrightCanary work?

BrightCanary monitors your kid’s accounts on Google, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to help you keep up with what they watch, send, and share. 

The BrightCanary app runs on your phone, not your kid’s phone. That means your child can’t easily delete it, and you don’t have to install anything extra on their device. 

Once you download BrightCanary from the App Store, you connect the online accounts you want to monitor. (We’ll walk you through how to do that later.) Our app takes care of the rest. 

We use advanced AI filters to track what your child is watching, posting, and searching. If your child runs into concerning content like violence, hate speech, or self-ham, we’ll alert you that you need to get involved — so you don’t have to review every message or post yourself. 

And unlike other monitoring solutions, you don’t have to plug your child’s phone into your computer or sync with your home WiFi network. BrightCanary simply runs in the background on your iPhone.

How to set up BrightCanary

We’ve covered how BrightCanary works, but how do you set it up? BrightCanary is designed to monitor your child’s Google, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram accounts, plus text messages on Apple devices.

First, you’ll need to create your child’s online accounts if you haven’t already done so. Setting up with their own account is helpful for a few reasons:

  • You can save their logins: Creating your child’s username and password makes it easier for you to make sure their logins are secure — and you can save them in a password manager for easy access.
  • You can set their correct birthdate: Platforms such as TikTok and YouTube offer added protections for young users. Sometimes, kids try to get around these restrictions by fibbing about their age. You can make sure they’re set up with a kid-friendly account by inputting their correct birthday. 
  • They’re easier to monitor: If your child has a separate account, you can link a parent monitoring tool (like BrightCanary) and supervise the content they engage with.

Here’s how to create your child’s profile and add their online accounts.

Create your child’s profile

Example of adding a child to brightcanary

From the home screen, select “Set up BrightCanary for your family.” Then, follow these steps:

  1. Add your child’s name and birth month and year.
  2. Connect your child’s Google account. This step enables Google search and YouTube monitoring. You’ll need your child’s email address and password. If they don’t have a Google account, you can create one with BrightCanary.
  3. Connect your child’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, if they have them. Enter their username and password.
  4. Connect your child’s iCloud account to set up text message monitoring. You’ll need their Apple ID (which you can find under Settings) and their iCloud password.

That’s it! If you want to monitor multiple children, you can create multiple profiles by clicking the + button at the top of the screen. And if you don’t know your child’s logins, here’s how to ask your children for their passwords.

Add their accounts

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how to add your child’s accounts to BrightCanary, divided by platform:

How to set up text message monitoring

With BrightCanary, you can monitor your child’s texts and iMessages on their iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices.

What you’ll need to begin set up:

  1. Your child’s Apple ID (the account info they use for iTunes and iCloud).
  2. The iPhone or Apple device where their ID is logged in as the primary account.
  3. Your phone with the BrightCanary app installed.

To connect your child’s account in BrightCanary:

  1. Enter your child’s Apple ID email and password in the BrightCanary app.
  2. A sign-in attempt will prompt on your child’s device. Click to allow access. (You might be asked to enter a code or the device passcode as well.)
  3. The BrightCanary app will show you that the device is connected.

New text messages may take some time to appear. BrightCanary updates with any new text messages every few hours.

How to set up Google and YouTube monitoring

Google and youtube monitoring on brightcanary

First, see if your child has a Google account or if they need to create one. (If your child has their own YouTube account, use those same credentials to sign into their Google account.)

It’s easier to monitor your child’s activity when they have their own Google account. For example, if they use your account to watch YouTube and you sync it with BrightCanary, our app might flag your activity.

Once you connect your child’s Google account, you’ll be able to monitor what they’re watching and searching on Google and YouTube. 

If they already have a Google account:

  1. Tap “Connect.” Sign into your child’s Google account with their email address and password.
  2. Google may ask you to enter a security code. Enter the code when prompted.

If you need to set up a Google account:

  1. Tap “Need to create a Google account.” They’ll use this account for both Google search and YouTube.
  2. Tap “Create a Google Account” and hit “Continue.”
  3. Enter your child’s name and birthdate.
  4. Create your child’s email address. Google will recommend a few available addresses, or you can create a custom address.
  5. Choose a strong password. 
  6. Enter your phone number so Google can send a verification code.
  7. Log into your email account to verify that you are the parent managing your child’s Google account. Google may request to verify your account with a push notification or security code.

That’s it! Once you’ve created their Google account, make sure your child uses this information to log into Google and YouTube on their devices. 

If you haven’t already, this is a great opportunity to talk to them about how and why you’re using BrightCanary to keep them safe online. A digital device contract can help lay out rules and expectations for both of you.

How to set up TikTok

setting up tiktok monitoring on brightcanary

TikTok is wildly popular among tweens and teens: according to Pew Research Center, 67% of kids are on this social platform. Kids use TikTok for entertainment, messaging friends, and as creative inspiration. You can monitor their videos, posts, and direct messages with BrightCanary.

  1. Sign into your child’s TikTok account. You’ll need to confirm how your child created their account. For example, kids can log in with anything from their phone number to their Apple account.
  2. Enter their logins when prompted.

Pro tip: Set up TikTok Family Pairing to add extra parental controls on your child’s TikTok account, like content filters and time limits.

How to set up Instagram

how to set up instagram on brightcanary

Sixty-two percent of kids use Instagram for everything from messaging their friends to following their favorite influencers. BrightCanary will show you their Instagram feed, posts, comments, and direct messages. 

  1. Sign into your child’s Instagram account with their phone number, username, or email address.
  2. Enter their password.

If your child used their Facebook account to create their Instagram (confusing, we know), tap “Continue with Facebook” instead. Enter their login information when prompted.

How to use the BrightCanary dashboard

Once you’ve added your child’s accounts, BrightCanary’s dashboard will populate with an overview of their online activity. From your dashboard, you’ll be able to view information like how many videos they’ve recently watched and top keywords searched.

Review activity reports

Activity reports give you a detailed overview of activity in individual accounts, like Google or Instagram. Tap an account in your dashboard to view.

For example, if you tap into YouTube, you’ll see an overview of what your child has recently watched and searched. 

Check out any concerning content

If you specifically want to review concerning content, just tap the “Concerning” tab. BrightCanary will flag content with tags. For instance, “viewed image” means your child opened an image with inappropriate material.

Personalize your alerts

You can customize what alerts you receive and how often BrightCanary alerts you. Here’s how: 

  1. On the bottom navigation bar, tap “More.” 
  2. Tap “Settings,” then “Manage Family.”
  3. Tap “Adjust” next to your child’s content settings.
  4. Adjust the sliders based on your preferences.

Other helpful features in the BrightCanary app

Once you’ve tracked down your child’s passwords, keep them somewhere safe. Our Password Vault is designed to store your child’s login information in one secure location. To access the Password Vault, tap “More” and then tap “Password Vault.”

And if you’re looking for answers to your toughest questions about parenting in the digital age, we’ve got you covered. Our Ask the Canary AI chatbot is designed to give you helpful conversation-starters, advice, and resources, directly from your phone. It’s an anonymous service that you can use any time — just tap “More” and then “Ask the Canary.” 

Frequently asked questions

How does BrightCanary work on iPhone?

Unlike other parental monitoring apps, BrightCanary was designed for iOS devices. That means we show features that other apps don’t, like full text message conversations and online activity on social media. Here’s how BrightCanary compares on Apple devices.

Does my child know if I’m using BrightCanary?

You don’t have to download anything on your child’s phone, so they won’t notice any interruptions on their accounts. However, we recommend that parents use BrightCanary in collaboration with their kids. Explain why you’re using BrightCanary, how you’ll use it, and why it’s important to help keep them safe. Some of our parents make BrightCanary monitoring a requirement if a child wants their own phone and add it to their family’s digital device contract.

Is BrightCanary legit?

Yup. We’re real people with families behind this app! BrightCanary was founded in 2022. Based in Seattle, we’re a small team of parents who want to help parents guide, protect, and connect with their kids as they learn how to navigate the digital world. Learn more about our story.

The bottom line

Parenting in the digital age can feel like an uphill battle. Fortunately, parental monitoring apps like BrightCanary are tools you can add to your parenting toolbox. Remember, parental monitoring is just one piece of the puzzle — it’s just as important to have regular conversations with your child about their online activity and how to handle what they see online. 

For more parenting tips, here’s how to help your child use social media responsibly. Subscribe to our parenting newsletter for weekly advice, news, and resources.

Be the most informed parent in the room.
Sign up for bimonthly digital parenting updates.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
@2024 Tacita, Inc. All Rights Reserved.