Internet-connected devices make it easy for kids to hang out with friends or learn new things, but they also provide a way to access to inappropriate content. However, with a parental control app, you can limit usage times and block unwanted content.
Things to Look For in a Parental Control App
While Screen Time and Digital Wellness Built-in Android and iOS Devices Help If you take into account the habits of internet and device usage, the here apps described a wider range of useful tools designed to prevent your children from accessing inappropriate apps and websites, in addition to limiting time online. Here are the features that we think are most important for parental control apps:
- Easy to use: These apps are meant to help you, so it goes without saying that they should also be easy to install and use . You can look up the mobile apps in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and install them like you would any other app. Desktop protection varies by product: some download a client to your desktop while others run in the browser. The parent portal on the corporate website should also be easy to use, with clearly labeled tools and features, easy-to-read reports, and quick access to account and billing information.
- Web Filters: With these apps you can filter and restrict web content both by general categories (usually as an option that you can turn on or off in the parent portal, such as pornography or drugs) or by specific URLs (such as Facebook or Snapchat). The best parental control apps also record every attempt to access restricted content and save it in a report, along with what time the attempt was made and on what device. This often makes it easier to talk to your child about it or to see if they think a site has been mistakenly blocked by the filter. Having a capable web filter can also make it easier for you to find out if your child is hurting, sexting, or engaging in other behaviors that you don't approve of.
- App Blocking: Just as it is important to block certain websites, good parental control apps should also allow you to avoid downloading a specific app if you find it inappropriate. This is usually done on a case-by-case basis and there are usually no broad category switches like for web filtering, although this feature may vary by company.
- Location Tracking: Straightforward location tracking pushes against a privacy gray area, especially if you don't tell your kids that these apps have that capability. However, if you talk about this feature ahead of time, your kids may understand that it's an easy way for parents to verify that their child is where it should be, such as at school or at a friend's house, without bothering them through text or chat. Geofencing works the same way within these apps, allowing parents to receive alerts when their child enters or leaves a specific area, such as your home or school, using the device's GPS.
- Time Management: The time spent on devices increases over the course of a day and eventually it is time to take a break for homework or family time. Good parental control apps track how much time is spent online every day, giving you a starting point to talk to your kids about better management of this time. The apps can also set time limits for daily device use.
- Detailed Reports: These apps track screen time and internet usage, then turn this information into an easily digestible report for parents. Reports vary by app, but include a breakdown by day, week or month, and by device, so you can see what each child is doing on their device every day. These reports should include simple graphs and easy-to-understand terms that are easy to understand for both adults and children.
Privacy and Discussions
Some parental control apps do not prioritize transparency or personal privacy and are designed to work like spyware, running invisibly on a device without the user's knowledge or consent. This is a common factor in domestic violence. There are also apps that can record phone calls, which can be a legality issue as one- and two-party consent laws for call recording vary by state (and country). As such, we didn't consider any app that would work invisibly on devices or provide the ability to record calls.
The apps in this piece are provided as a way to ensure that your child cannot access. inappropriate or harmful content on internet-connected devices. They are also great for enabling an ongoing discussion with your kids about safe and responsible internet use. Letting your kids know that you install this kind of software on their phone, instead of secretly installing an invisible spyware app, is one way to help you set clear expectations and rules for them when they use their devices without betray their confidence.
Strongest Enforcement: Net Nanny
If you're looking for tons of features and comprehensive reports, Net Nanny (from $ 39.99 / year) gives you only that. It is designed to monitor, restrict and protect your children, and provides extremely thorough and detailed monitoring of apps, websites and activities, so that no resource is left idle. From Net Nanny & # 39; s Family Feed, you can browse chronological events for all or individual users, showing you every activity from web searches to which apps are open and when. It shows blocked search attempts and those suspected to fall into limited categories. You can even see a short summary of an app under a notification stating that it has been used, such as what type of app it is (e.g. social media) and what kind of activities can be done in the app (such as chatting and sharing Photos)
The service allows screen time limits to be set and a pop-up notification to be sent to your child's device once they have reached the assigned screen time. You can block websites and apps by category or individually and filter internet content for each family member. Net Nanny tracks the location of a device via its GPS with the app, which is useful if you want to see where your child is currently located. If your child searches for something inappropriate or dangerous online, Net Nanny will send you a real-time alert and it can help you identify red flags and patterns in searches that could indicate cyberbullying, risky behavior, self-harm and other potential problems before go far. It can also mask swearing, which is great for younger children.
Net Nanny's base plan is $ 39.99 / year, but only covers one desktop device. You must upgrade to the 5 device plan for $ 54.99 / year or the 20 device plan for $ 89.99 / year for additional device coverage (including iOS, Android and Kindle mobile devices). Whichever plan you choose, you can be sure to receive comprehensive reports for all activities, so you can keep a close eye on searches, apps, location and screen time.
Best for social media monitoring: Bark
Bark (starts at $ 49 / year) is a great service to ensure your kids are protected on iOS- and Android devices and on desktop computers, while remaining fairly quiet for you. The service offers two plans: Bark Jr ($ 49 / year) and Bark ($ 99 / year) and will run on unlimited devices. Ideal for younger children, Bark Jr filters which sites they can visit, helps you manage their screen time, and shows you where your kids are with location checks.
The default Bark plan is better for teens, because it offers all that plus email monitoring, texts and over 30 platforms and apps (like YouTube, Snapchat, Whatsapp, TikTok, Instagram and more) for issues. It even sends you automatic email alerts when a problematic problem arises, such as drug use, cyberbullying and even suicidal thoughts.
When the app's algorithm detects a problem, it gives you details like a screenshot of a cyberbullying conversation on Instagram for example. However, what the app really excels at is the tips and recommendations it offers for dealing with these situations, which are made by expert child psychologists, youth counselors, law enforcement officers, and experts in digital media. This makes it easy for both you and your child to discuss and solve problems.
You can filter web content – and set rules and exceptions – for problematic topics such as adult content, social media, violence, gaming and faster and easier. from the dashboard. Parents and caregivers can also set time limits, and kids can be confident that Bark won't reveal all of their lyrics or activities to their parents, just the dubious ones. The app encourages proactive discussions between parents and children, especially regarding social media, and being built by caring experts makes it easy to recommend.
Most robust free and paid options: Qustodio
If you only want to monitor one child or one device, Qustodio (free) is a great place to start, as it offers free basic check for your first device. While it also offers solid paid options, Qustodio's free single device option is a great app to start with, complete with a powerful web filtering engine, reporting features and customizable screen time limit tools for devices. Plus, you can easily view all activities at any time through the parent's app or online dashboard, including which apps they use, what they visit on the web, and more.
Qustodio's premium paid plans (starting at $ 54.95 / year)) unlock all features and really prove how impressive and capable the service is. The premium version of the app has all the tools and features you would expect from any of these services, from YouTube monitoring to app blocking to thorough reports and a family search tool. You can set time limits for individual devices, so you can spend less time on mobile devices and more on your home computer, for example, so your kids can do homework research without distraction. However, Qustodio's comprehensive reports are where the app excels: it sends you a daily or weekly email with a detailed overview of device and internet activities.
You can view your child's current location (as long as they are at their device) and their location history so you know if they are in school or on the road to exercise. Qustodio also has an SOS button that your child can press on the device if there are any problems; this will send you a location based alert for them. The premium upgrade also gives you priority in customer support, both for setting things up and answering any questions about Qustodio.
The only real drawback of the app is that it does not have the most extensive social media monitoring, as services such as Bark and Net Nanny do. It actually only focuses on "Advanced Facebook Monitoring", but that shows you updates, photos, friends and other details for that specific site. Qustodio also offers a separate version of the Android app (from the version offered in the Google Play Store) with SMS and call log checking, which we only recommend for the most extreme cases.
Best Supervision Tools: Norton Family  Norton Family App Screenshots ” width=”1600″ height=”900″ src=”/pagespeed_static/1.JiBnMqyl6S.gif” onload=”pagespeed.lazyLoadImages.loadIfVisibleAndMaybeBeacon(this);” onerror=”this.onerror=null;pagespeed.lazyLoadImages.loadIfVisibleAndMaybeBeacon(this);”/>
Norton makes software known for protecting your computer from viruses and security threats, so it makes sense that it includes software offers to protect your children when they are online. Norton Family ($ 49.99 / year) is a solid all-round choice for tracking your kids' online activities on iOS and Android devices and on a computer.
Norton Family monitors websites, search queries, videos and mobile apps in one hand out of the way. It shows what your kids are looking for or what they are doing online, and you can block content if necessary instead of starting with massive in-situ filters and limitations. Norton uses this approach to parental control apps as a way to facilitate discussions about responsible and appropriate internet use between you and your children. You can view activities from the Parent Mobile App or from the Parent Portal, and choose to receive monthly or weekly reports and email alerts.
One of the best features of the app is that kids can send you a note within the app if they think there should be an exception for a particular site, or if they disagree with a rule you have set. The app also allows you to monitor which apps are used and how long they are used, and set a time limit if necessary. Norton Family has powerful security options to keep your kids safe, but also gives you the ability to easily monitor to see what they normally do and build protection if needed.
Best for Google Users: Google Family Link
If you and your family are big Google and Android users, Google Family Link might be (free) the perfect solution because it can help you check your teen or younger child's Google account. The app is designed to help you as a parent or guardian set basic rules that can help children get online, help them build healthy online habits and teach them responsible internet use. It tracks screen time for apps and allows you to set a hard limit on daily screen time (which is great for making time for chores, family time and homework, or making sure bedtime actually happens). Likewise, you can also remotely lock a device when it's time for a break.
Family Link gives you detailed control over whether or not to install an app, including the option to hide apps on a device and manage in-app purchases. In addition to app limitation features, the app also has teacher-recommended apps, such as those that focus on education and creativity, which are great for kids. Family Link also has a location feature, which shows you on a map where your child is (if they are on their device). The only caveat to the mobile app is that it only works on Android devices, although parents can follow their side on an Android or iPhone. The service can also run on a Chromebook, making it a perfect choice for Google enthusiasts.