In an ideal world, your kids should be able to go out and interact without worries of any dangers lurking around every corner. Unfortunately, that is not the case, especially in the world of the internet where your private information can easily be retrieved by anyone. This is where parental control software will give you peace of mind and make it easier for you to manage your children’s access to the internet.
As busy adults, it’s not always possible for you to spend all your time hovering your children’s shoulders and watching what they’re doing online. The parental control software will help take off some of that burden from you by allowing you to block access to particular sites and even control their screen time. You might want to check out the best iPhone spyware apps to keep your loved ones safe.
The best parental control software will help look after your kids when you’re unable to. It does not matter their age or the type of device they’re using. Once these secret Android spyware has installed, it will keep them safe when they’re conducting research for school projects, keeping in touch with friends, or simply just exploring through the internet. In this guide, we have shortlisted and reviewed some of the best parental control apps that you can consider to help lend you a vigilant hand.
Things to Consider when Choosing the Best Parental Control Apps
Whether it’s on the playground or in cyberspace, you’ll certainly do a better job of keeping your kids safe with some backup. And the best backup you can have when it comes to the internet is to have a parental control app or web filtering software. Parental control apps help you set safe boundaries while your child explores the online world.
In addition to reviewing some of the top parental control apps available on the market, we’ve also put together a quick buying guide to help you identify the parental control features that will best protect your family.
Things you want a parental control app to have:
- Content monitoring
- Safe browsing
- Limited screen time management
- Blocking inappropriate apps and other downloads
- Safe text and instant messaging
- Social apps monitoring and management
- Things you’d want to see on a parental control app
- Online activity reports
- Search history
- Access requests
- Time-extension requests
- Bad language alerts
- Content filtering updates
Parental control workarounds to watch out for
Kids these days are extremely smart and they’re quick to master the digital world. Depending on your children’s age and their determination, they may often try to outsmart all the parental controls you’ve put in place. In fact, there are even come parental control apps with negative reviews posted by parents as their kids were able to bypass the filters easily.
If you happen to be dealing with little geniuses who love thinking outside of the box, here are a few workarounds that your kid might try to outsmart the parental control apps:
- Using a different network (public, cellular data).
- Using a VPN to hide their activity.
- Using a friend’s device.
- Private browsing.
- Using browsers hidden inside other apps.
- Doing a hard reset of their device.
Best Parental Control Apps
1. mSpy – Best easy-to-use parental control app
mSpy is one of the most reliable software monitoring apps currently available that features an easy-to-use interface. You only need a few minutes to get mSpy up and running on your Android and iOS devices and you are allowed to locate a cellphone without permission. Plus, it runs in total stealth mode in the background so that your child won’t even know they’re being monitored.
mSpy parental monitoring software helps you track instant messages, phone calls, location, internet usage, social network activity, and more while remaining hidden in the background once it’s installed on the target mobile device. mSpy uploads all data on your child’s Android devices or iPhone onto a cloud server where you can easily track through an online dashboard. From the mSpy web-based control panel, you can view contact information, texts, phone calls, and so much more.
On top of that, mSpy even has a customer support team that’s on standby 24/7 for you to contact via email or their online chat if you require any help. Unlike other parental control software, mSpy comes with a non-jailbreak version that you can use without jailbreaking or rooting your kid’s mobile device. This is especially helpful for those who find the process much too complicated for them.
Features on mSpy:
mSpy replaces the default keyboard with a mSpy keyboard that will track keystrokes entered into the device. This powerful function allows you to monitor certain language usage or for logging usernames and passwords to websites on the mobile.
mSpy automatically notifies you instantly when it detects a specific word or phrase used on the target mobile phone. You can choose to enable immediate notification to you or your mobile phone when words such as drugs, sex, porn, alcohol, or other keywords of your choosing. The parental control app will search through messages, apps, browsing history, and more to let you know any time the word or phrase appears in your kid’s cell phone.
GPS Location Tracking and Geo-Fencing
Through the GPS geofencing capabilities, mSpy lets parents set up an unlimited number of restricted zones within the app that will also automatically log when and how often each of the zones is visited. mSpy will even send you an email notification when the phone enters or exit a specific zone.
- An impressive list of features
- Simple setup and easy to download
- Excellent and reliable customer support team
- Fast app function
- User-friendly dashboard
- Difficult usage and updating
- Sometimes inaccurate GPS location tracking
2. Spyic – Best stealth parental control software
Spyic was established by a team of experienced IT researchers, strategists, and designers who are working on the next generation of real-time monitoring tools to allow parents to feel at ease. The parental control software comes with a plethora of features and ability that has served over 1 million satisfied users across 190 countries around the world.
The parental control software works in the background and stays hidden so that your child will not be aware of your monitoring activities. All captured information from the target iOS and Android device are sent to your virtual control panel where you can access from any browser anywhere and at any time.
Features on Spyic:
Phone Call Recording
The parental control app lets you record phone calls as well as give you the caller’s phone number. This feature lets you know who your kid is talking to and what they’re talking about. Additionally, the Spyic app also tracks total incoming calls and outgoing calls along with their call duration.
Access to Calendar Events
Spyic tracking app gives you full access to the child’s device’s calendar and events. From your dashboard, you have full access to see any planned activity and the event details such as the start and end time of the event and its location.
Spyic can log every keystroke typed on your child’s device, including words typed into the following apps:
- Google Docs
- Google Sheets
- Google Slides
All keylogger records are available from your Control Panel, including the app used, timestamps, as well as the text typed.
- Monitor a great variety of social network platforms including instant messengers and popular dating apps
- Simple and user-friendly interface
- Does not require the target device to be rooted or jailbroken
- Has advanced functionalities such as keylogger and geo-fencing
- A wide variety of subscription packages to choose from
- Limited functionalities for a jailbreak solution
- High subscription plans
- Does not have a phone or live chat customer support
- It may take a long time to get a response from customer service
3. Bark – Best parental control software for social network monitoring
Bark is one of the simplest parental control apps out there that deliver powerful protection, especially in terms of social media monitoring. In fact, the company specializes in social media monitoring to address one of the main concerns of parents today.
Aside from that, The parental control app is equipped with an impressive algorithm that’s able to catch any warning signs in social media posts, emails, text messages, and photos. The company claims to have prevented 16 school shootings and helped identify up to 10,000 self-harm situations.
Bark uses artificial intelligence to not only flag certain keywords, but can also identify the context the words are being used in and even learn the oft-changing slang used by kids these days. It will detect a pattern over time that may suggest a potential problem. Although the level of oversight sounds rather invasive, the app will only alert you to posts or photos that it has flagged. The parental control app will send you alerts to specific warning signs based for you to stay tuned to what’s actually happening on your child’s phone.
The app costs $99 per year and is one of the most expensive parental control apps here, but it’s also one of the most comprehensive. The app works on iOS and Android devices, iPads, Mac, PCs, Kindle tablets, and Chromebooks. One thing that we love most is that Bark encourages proactive parental engagement by providing parents with advice and recommendations on how to deal with any situation.
Features on Bark:
Social Network Monitoring
The app lets you keep tabs on up to 24 different apps and social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.
The app will notify you if it detects any concerning items from your child’s email. Bark monitors Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, AOL, Comcast, and iCloud email accounts.
Bark watches over your child’s text messages and will alert you if it detects worrisome messages showing up on their phone, tablet, as well as other instant messaging platforms like Slack.
- Easy to install and use.
- Free 7 days trial.
- Artificial intelligence to learn and identify risky behavior.
- Engages child psychologists to give parents advice.
- Able to alert you if it’s uninstalled.
- One of the more expensive parental control apps.
- You might potentially receive a lot of alerts.
4. Qustodio – Best pick parental control app for multi-platform support
Qustodio is another comprehensive parental control app that has software for Macs, PCs, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire tablets, and Chromebooks. The company provides a large variety of control tools that work across a number of browsers and operating systems. Although they have a free version, the monitoring options are rather limited, allowing you to just monitor one profile and one device only.
Nonetheless, you can also choose to pay up to access extra features in the parental control app. In the paid version, Parents can customize the app to meet their own particular concerns and requirements such as blocking specific apps and games or blocking certain contacts from calling your child’s phone or sending text messages.
Not only will you be able to view texts and read the messages from your child’s phone, but the parental control app also helps you monitor what’s going on on social media apps like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Qustodio even lets you set time limits in the phone for you to limit online gameplay and interaction.
One of our favorite features is the panic button that can be accessed by your kids through the app on their smartphone. You will instantly get a panic alert and the app lets you pinpoint exactly where your kid is thanks to tracking capability. Qustodio also has advanced Facebook monitoring features to give you full visibility of your child’s messaging, posts, and photos.
Features on Qustodio:
The app acts as a real-time internet filter to block any inappropriate content and pornography. This functionality even works when your child is browsing in private mode.
Screen Time Management
Lets you set time limits for your kid to spend on certain apps or games. The company will even send you an activity review timeline to show what or where your kids are spending their time online.
Social Network Monitoring
The app can track your child’s activity on social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook.
Qustodio uses location tracking software to give you the reassurance of a panic button within the app to give your child a direct line for help.
- Location tracking with a panic button.
- Screen time monitoring and time limit.
- Web filtering and blocking.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Not compatible with antivirus software.
- Short premium trial period.
5. Net Nanny – Top parental control app for younger kids
Net Nanny can be considered as one of the best parental control apps with excellent web-filtering technology and a modern, intuitive design. While it has a ton of features and a strong reputation, the setup can be a struggle for some and it does cost a little more than the parental control apps out there.
However, once you’ve got the Net Nanny installed, you will be able to easily block access to specific websites and apps and even have a remote time-out feature on your kid’s mobile device. The iOS and Android versions seem to have feature parity. The iOS version lets you block several dozen apps while the Android one lets you block them all.
NetNanny has even added a content screening functionality to help monitor social network apps and services such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. This gives your child access to them while still keeping a close eye on what they’re watching.
Features on NetNanny:
Net Nanny uses real-time scanning to keep tabs on new sites and filter every inappropriate site instantly if they seem suspicious.
Screen Time Management
You can schedule a specific online time for your kid every day, or give them a daily or weekly allowance of time. This will help train their time management skills as well.
Remote Time Out
You can pause or totally block access to the internet from your kid’s mobile device. This is another great way to reinforce screen time rules.
The parental control app blocks and protects your child from any accidental exposure to adult content whether on Windows, Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire devices.
Net Nanny uses your child’s phone’s GPS tracking system to help you keep tabs on their location. This way, you’ll never have to worry about where your kid really is.
- Remote time out and screen time management.
- Extensive reports and logs.
- Location tracker.
- Pornography blocker.
- No social network or text monitoring.
- Complicated download.
6. Kaspersky Safe Kids – Best budget parental control software
Like Qustodio, Kaspersky Safe Kids lets you monitor your kids’ activity on different devices. In fact, the app delivers a lot for a low price at around $15 and lets you protect up to 500 devices with all of Kaspersky’s premium features. This is a great choice for families of any size in need of affordable parental control protection.
Kaspersky’s location tracking and geofencing features work in both iOS and Android devices. It also has web filtering and device scheduling functionality. However, the app management is limited on iOS, the iOS version also isn’t able to monitor calls or texts at all.
Nonetheless, one of Kaspersky’s most innovative features is the low battery alert that will send you a notification when your child’s mobile device needs a charge. This means no more “my phone died” excuses when they ignore your call or text message.
Features on Kaspersky Safe Kids:
The parental control app lets you see how much time your child is spending in different apps and even block access to certain apps based on age restrictions or categories.
Kaspersky Safe Kids keep your kids safe by blocking adult websites and inappropriate content on their devices.
You can set up safe areas for your kids to roam on their own and instantly get notified when they leave the boundaries.
Low Battery Alerts
You never have to lose touch with your child again as the app will let you know when their mobile device needs to be charged.
- One of the most affordable parental control apps.
- Geofencing capability.
- Apps management.
- Expert advice and tips.
- Low battery alerts.
- Upgrade required for most features.
- No uninstall protection
7. Norton Family Premier – Best for Combining with Antivirus Software
Online safety is not only applicable to young kids, but even adults are susceptible to viruses, hackers, and malware. As long as your devices are connected to the internet, you and your family will always be vulnerable. Since you may already be considering an antivirus software to protect your home, why not combine it with a parental control app for seamless monitoring?
The Norton Family Premier is a powerful parental monitoring software that is suitable for households with many children, offering every feature a parent could ever ask for in the best parental control apps. The Norton parental control software is very easy to set up with presets to block certain websites, apps, games, and social networks depending on your child’s age.
The parental control app even lets you set up house rules to remind your child which activities are being monitored and which are blocked. Norton Family Premier even lets you check your child’s activities via the Norton Family Premier dashboard or email alerts. Norton’s Internet Security Center offers tons of articles concerning safety tips, common online threats, cyberbullying, viruses, malware, online scams, and more for you to stay informed on the latest internet security issues.
Norton Family comes free with one of their more expensive antivirus suites such as the Norton 360 Deluxe. At that price, getting the Family Plan is a total no-brainer, unless your kids are using Macs instead of Windows PC.
Features on Family Premier Norton
The parental control app lets you manage existing apps, however, this feature is strictly available for the Android version only. Through this, you get a complete list of all the apps installed onto the device and you even get to pick which app should be blocked.
Norton has one of the most robust sets of tools for both filtering and monitoring web usage, especially with mobile devices to limit what your child is using on the Norton browser. The House Rules are split into Supervision Level, Blocked Categories, Restricted Websites, and Allowed Websites where you’re also free to make changes as you see fit.
Android and Windows support all of the Time Management features for Family Premier Norton. This is a pretty basic feature with one setting for the overall time allowed per device and the ability to set a schedule each day.
This functionality presents you with your child’s location at any time of the day. It even gives you a timestamp of their previous locations for specific days and time frames.
- An extensive set of features.
- Supports an unlimited number of devices.
- Works with most platforms.
- Limited features on iOS devices.
- No more free tier
Today we have to protect our kids both while on the playground and online. Threats like cyberbullying and online predators are constantly evolving and your first line of defense should be open communication. This is why you need to make sure your children understand why the parental control application is necessary and that those restrictions can be eased when certain conditions are met.
It is best for you to always let your kids know you are there to help and support them no matter what. Nonetheless, parental control apps are on the job 24/7 to lend you a helping hand to stay ahead of the next cyber threat. We hope that today’s article on parental control apps has given you enough details to make an informed purchasing decision to keep your kids safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I install a parental control app?
A monitoring app is best installed when you give your child his/her mobile device. You should also discuss the reason behind the installation and let your kids know that the restrictions on the apps will change as they grow older. If your child is already using a mobile device, you may want to install the app if you start to notice a problem of significant change in your child’s behavior. However, you should also discuss the installation of the monitoring app with your child beforehand.
When should I stop monitoring my child’s online activity?
You can stop monitoring your child’s online activity if your child is happy, healthy, sociable, responsible, and is not constantly hooked on online games. You should also stop monitoring your child once they reach their 18th birthday. Constant and strict monitoring of your adult child will only lead to alienating him or her or cause estrangement issues.
Should I secretly install the best parental control apps on my child’s mobile?
It is not advisable for you to install the app secretly as you’d be considered spying on your child. This could lead to mistrust between you and your child and possibly put a strain on your relationship. We recommend for you always discuss any monitoring of mobile phone usage with your child and reach an agreement on rules for the phone’s use.