The digital age can be particularly challenging for parents of kids who have smartphones loaded with messaging apps such as Snapchat, TikTok or Kik. Your kids may really believe that their texts, tweets or viral videos can't wait until the following morning. The best parental-control apps for smartphones can help you track your kids, see whom they are communicating with, block kids from viewing objectionable or dangerous websites, and even help kids understand the value of limits while preventing them from accessing adult content or communicating with strangers.
No single parental-control service we tested is perfect, but Zift now Net Nanny delivered the best mix of web filtering, location tracking and app management on both Android and iOS devices. All of these apps can do more on Android than on iOS, due to Apple's tight restrictions. Norton Family Premier was a close runner-up for best parental-control app. Unlike Zift, Norton's service offers text-message logging and monitoring, but only on Android devices. Parents on tight budgets should consider Kaspersky Safe Kids.
Among all the parental-control apps we tried, it comes closest to having feature parity between its iOS and Android versions. Its iOS abilities don't seem to have been affected by recent Apple policy changes. Net Nanny can track your child's location, display their location history, and set time allowances and schedules equally well on both platforms.
The iOS version lets you block several dozen apps on your kid's phone; the Android one lets you block them all. The only thing Net Nanny can't do on a smartphone is monitor calls or texts. No apps we tested can do that on iOS, but several do on Android. Read our full Net Nanny Parental Control review. Norton Family Premier's power and features are ideal for Android and Windows households with many children, offering nearly every feature a parent could want.
The Best Apps for Managing Your Kid’s Phone
This service's location-tracking, time-scheduling, and web-filtering and -monitoring capabilities work on both iOS and Android, but time allowances are for only Windows and Android. App management and text-message monitoring don't work on iOS at all. There's no geofencing on either platform. At that price, getting Norton Family Premier along with Norton's excellent antivirus protection is a no-brainer.
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Read our full Norton Family Premier review. Location tracking and geofencing work in both iOS and Android, as do web monitoring and device scheduling, but app management is limited on iOS, and the iOS app can't monitor calls or texts at all. But if you don't need to read your kids' text messages, then Kaspersky Safe Kids is well worth considering. In March , Kaspersky Lab filed an antitrust complaint against Apple for allegedly forcing the removal of some features from Kaspersky Safe Kids.
Apple hinted in June that it might relax some of its tighter restrictions on iOS parental-control apps with iOS 13, but we'll have to wait to see how that pans out. Read our full Kaspersky Safe Kids review. Qustodio has software for Macs, PCs. This service's limited location tracking works on both iOS and Android, although there's no geofencing option. You can manage only a few dozen apps on iOS, as opposed to all Android apps.
Web filtering is more powerful on iOS, while monitoring texts and calls works on only Android. Instant pause, allowing parents to instantly pause their child's devices. Animal videos! Skateboarding demos! Retro cartoons! YouTube is an obvious source of free entertainment for kids — but it doesn't always feel like a safe choice.
You can create custom kid profiles, block channels or videos, keep tabs on their watch history, turn search on or off, set a timer to limit kids' screen time, report videos, and more. For example, the app lets you know if your child is exceeding a speed limit that you set, hard-braking, alerts you off their location while driving and when parked, and more. Want to send a strong message when your child repeatedly ignores your texts and phone calls?
This forces the child to call the parent back in order to unlock their phone. It's a better option than taking your child's phone away because he'll still be able to make emergency phone calls to you or even when his phone is otherwise locked.
FamilyTime (Android and iOS)
The app is currently only available on Android devices but will be available on iPhones soon. Qustodio software is available for Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Kindle devices and provides a comprehensive dashboard to help you monitor your child's online activity.
The free version allows you to keep tabs on your child's web and search engine use, track her Facebook and Twitter logins, and set time controls, while Qustodio Premium also allows you to track her location, block certain games and apps, monitor calls and text messages, and more. According to their Cyberbully Prevention page , Bark analyzes all of your children's online activities to help detect cyberbullying, taking into account context and an individual's digital history to determine true threats.
We notify parents and children of both victims and bullies that use Bark, and provide action-based recommendations. Often the solution is simple: block the bully online. In some instances, it's serious enough to start documenting the abuse in case you need to take legal action. This software system can be installed on up to 10 different PC, Mac, or Android devices note: the software is not supported by Windows XP, and you need to purchase a separate product for Net Nanny to work on iOS devices. It allows you to "mask" profanity on web pages — which can be useful if, for example, your child needs to read a news article for a school assignment but the comments section is loaded with swear words.
You can set Internet time allowances for each child using a weekly grid divided into minute time blocks, so it's easy to prevent Web access during homework time or bedtime. Net Nanny takes a slightly different approach and applies these time limits to internet usage. Still others, such as Qustodio, offers a mix; you can set up usage schedules for specific apps and device usage, as well as specifying a total time allotment for your child that applies across every piece of hardware they use to access the internet. A mobile parental control app should at the very least be able to keep track of a child's current location and some historical location data, too.
It's also important for them to offer some level of control over notifications and the frequency of location reporting, to avoid bombarding the parent with useless data. Both Qustodio and Norton Family offer these features. Some services, including Locategy, Boomerang, and FamilyTime, go one step further, letting you construct geofences around a location. For the uninitiated, geofences are digital boundaries around a physical location that help parents keep track of when a child arrives at or leaves a given location.
Kaspersky Safe Kids even lets you add a dimension of time to a geofence, so you can easily make sure a child stays where they are supposed to be throughout the day. Boomerang offers a unique feature, in that you can draw custom geofences on a map; others just create a circular radius around a point you define. The best parental control applications let you record and monitor who your child communicates with and what they talk about in said conversations. Keep in mind that this capability is almost exclusively limited to Android. The implementation of this feature varies from service to service, of course.
FamilyTime Premium, for example, copies a child's entire SMS history and call log for parents to review. Norton and Boomerang take a less invasive approach and let you specify which conversations to monitor and log. Still others, like Locategy, only display the phone's call log. The best parental control software also lets you manage your child's social media activity, though in most cases this is limited to Facebook. Net Nanny used to offer a service dedicated to tracking social media accounts, but it is no longer available at the time of this writing. One last feature worth mentioning is an SOS button.
When a child presses this button, it sends out an alert to the parent and any other trusted contacts.
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The notification includes time and location information and will in some cases keep broadcasting said data until either the child deactivates the alarm or the parent disables it from their own account. This works regardless of platform and even if a child has run out of their allotted time. Parents who are worried about always being reachable to their kids in case of emergencies should consider Qustodio and Locategy for this reason.
Although the range of features that parental control software supports is impressive, no system is perfect. If your children want to get around the limitations you impose, they will likely be able to do so either by using unmonitored devices or finding ways to wipe their devices clean of the controlling apps. Thus, it's worthwhile to take the time to talk with your child about why you have installed monitoring software in the first place.
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- Best Parental Control Apps for Your Kid's Smartphone | Digital Trends?
- 10 Apps for Parents to Monitor Kids' Mobile Use - FamilyEducation.
- Here are the best parental controls for managing apps, filtering websites and logging activities.
After all, digital safety and security are worthwhile topics for everyone. It's better to approach these conversations honestly, rather than have them find out on their own and stop trusting you. Especially for older children, it's also important to listen to your child's specific privacy concerns, rather than just setting rules and restrictions that may otherwise be seen as arbitrary.
Time scheduler for internet, device, and application usage. Location tracking. Cons: Expensive. Social monitoring only tracks Facebook. Dated web portal. Some iOS limitations. Pros: Affordable. No limit on devices or child profiles. Flexible control of device and app usage. Robust web filtering. Extensive alert system. Cons: Several iOS limitations. Content filtering limited to specific browsers. Social monitoring only covers Facebook and VK.
Sluggish web interface. Excellent web dashboard. Settings apply across all devices. No limit on number of PC, phones, tablets, or children protected. Tracks child's location. Cons: Does not work on Macs. No Free version anymore. Web extension is easily disabled. Platform-dependent features.
Lackluster social media tracking. Bottom Line: Norton Family's top-notch web interface and wealth of features make it easy for parents to track and manage their children's activity across their many devices, though it doesn't work on Macs. Pros: Supports Windows, Mac, Android. Web-based configuration and reporting. Powerful filtering. Cross-platform internet time allowance. App control for Android. Cons: No new updates. No location tracking. Lacks advanced time management control.
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The app is ostensibly intended for legal monitoring use, and there are certainly legitimate reasons to install the software. Companies, for instance, could inform their employees that they’re surveilling company phones for security purposes