Written by Michael Steiner
Fact checked by Mike Druttman
Updated Jul, 2024

mSpy is one of the most powerful parental control apps available, offering a comprehensive set of tools for monitoring and managing your child’s digital life. It works on both Android and iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. In this article, we’re going to focus on mSpy’s iMessage tracking feature.


Why monitor messages?

iMessages are a preferred communication channel for kids because they’re free and offer many features beyond standard SMS. While the platform includes strong protections against strangers contacting your kids, it can still be used for cyberbullying or by online predators who have managed to infiltrate your child’s contacts.


The challenge of monitoring iMessages

Apple has built a reputation as a company that respects its users’ privacy. It has consistently pushed back against government requests to create backdoors in its security systems so that law enforcement agencies can access data stored on criminals’ iPhones. This approach benefits everyone, but it poses a problem for parents who want to use parental control apps to monitor their kids’ device usage.

The main issue is that Apple locks down its operating system so tightly that there’s no way for third-party developers like mSpy to access iMessages directly from the app or the underlying database. This means mSpy needs to get creative when monitoring these communications.


How does mSpy monitor iMessages?

mSpy uses an indirect method: iCloud backups. Here’s how it works:

  1. An iPhone regularly backs up data such as photos, contacts, calendar events, app data (but not the apps themselves), and settings to iCloud.
  2. mSpy waits until Apple performs a new backup.
  3. When that happens, it accesses the backup and stores all the new data on its servers.
  4. You can log in to the mSpy dashboard from any web browser and view all the backed-up data.

This means you’re not viewing real-time data but historical information that was current at some point between now and the last time the phone backed up with iCloud.

This method lets mSpy access more than just iMessages; you can also view regular text messages (SMS), contacts, WhatsApp messages (on Android), call history, Safari browsing history & bookmarks (on iOS), Skype activity (on Android), notes & calendars (on iOS), installed applications list (on both platforms), GPS location history (from Find My Friends app on iOS), geofencing alerts, Wi-Fi networks connected to & Bluetooth devices paired with target Android devices; emails sent/received via Mail app on iOS devices; photos saved on an iPhone or iPad; videos saved on an iPhone or iPad; keylogging data entered in any language character; Viber messages sent/received on an Android device; Instagram activities logged from an Android device; Tinder matches & messages from/to an Android phone – quite an impressive array of features!

Here are some details you can learn about each message:

  • Whether it was incoming or outgoing
  • The name of the person who sent or received it
  • Their phone number
  • A timestamp
  • Any media attachments

All this information helps build context around each message so you can understand what your child was discussing with their friends.


Is this ethical?

I think so! Parents have a duty to protect their children from harm until they reach adulthood and can take care of themselves. If you suspect your child is using drugs, being bullied at school or online, engaging in inappropriate sexual activities with someone they met online or having suicidal thoughts – among other dangerous behaviors – then you need as much information as possible so you can intervene before something terrible happens.

Some people may argue this monitoring invades children’s privacy too much because every human needs space where they can be themselves without fearing judgment or repercussions. I agree! That’s why I advocate using these tools responsibly: only activate them after discussing your intentions with your children and explaining why you feel compelled to monitor them; show them what kind of data you collect and promise not to use any of this information against them unless there are strong reasons supporting this decision – like those I’ve mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

It comes down to whether parents believe their children’s safety trumps their right to privacy – especially considering no right is absolute in any society I know about.


Do you monitor your child's texts?

If so, how do you feel about doing this? Do you believe it helps keep them safe? Have they ever complained about this practice? Would love reading your opinions!

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