The Best Parental Control Apps To Keep Your Family Safe
There are many online educational resources available for children and denying them access to the internet is virtually impossible in our connected world. Even babies are fascinated by smartphones, mobile devices, and other gadgets and that fascination doesn’t generally vanish as they get older.
With educational games and apps available for children of all ages, it’s no wonder they want to explore this resource. Understandably, however, as parents, we don’t want our children to be put at risk or be made vulnerable by inappropriate content or communications.
So, if refusing your kid’s access to the internet could be to their disadvantage, even though you’ll be protecting them against various online threats in the process, what’s the alternative? Parental controls allow parents and guardians to monitor and restrict their children’s access, steering them away from potentially harmful material and towards beneficial and educational content instead.
What Are Parental Control Apps?
Parental control apps give adults the ability to control their child’s internet access using a variety of methods, including app blocking, time management, and content filtering. Many also include a tracker which uses GPS to locate a missing device or, at worst, a missing child.
Parental control software enables the parent to prevent a child from downloading inappropriate apps and use web filtering to block access to any content that falls under a banned category. In this manner, it’s possible to prevent a child from accessing gambling sites or those with content of a sexual or violent nature.
Even if a child has an app installed on a device, its still possible to block it using the powers of your parental control software. For example, if you feel your teenage daughter is spending way too much time on Facebook, you can block the Facebook app for a specified period. The best parental control apps can block the entire device so you can control how much total screen time your child gets each day.
What Are the Benefits of Parental Control Apps?
Parental Control apps give parents the ability to allow their children a certain level of digital freedom while protecting them against inappropriate content. They also give parents control over online communications so they can monitor what their children are talking about over email, social media, and other messaging services.
Similarly, parents can restrict the results of a browser search, so no adult content appears in their children’s search results. The best parental control apps will also mean you can block certain features of specific apps and games so your child can’t make online purchases or enter into communications with other players.
In addition to the direct benefits of parental control apps, there are the indirect benefits of opening up a conversation with your child about good cyber habits. Not only will this help them understand child safety online, but it will also give them a deeper understanding of online security in the future. Talk to your child about the restrictions you’re applying and why and help them understand the consequences of hacking and how damaging cyberbullying can be.
In many instances, our children possess greater technological know-how than we do. As a result, many children find a way around the limitations put in place with a parental control app. Discussing with your child why you’ve installed the software and what it’s for can help prevent your child from attempting to circumvent it. Similarly, by establishing the limitations in negotiation with your child, you can create rules that they’re happy to stick to while allowing them enough online freedom to keep them happy.
It’s not always necessary to pay for parental control software and there are some excellent free apps available, including Google Family Link, which gives you many of the same benefits as a paid product. The only problem is, your child can opt-out of Google Family Link the minute he or she turns 13, and after that, they’re pretty much on their own. Paying for a reputable parental control app means you can discuss with your child what limitations stay in place and which restrictions are removed as they mature, meaning you can continue to exercise some level of control even as they enter their teenage years.
How to Choose a Good Parental Control App
There are a few key features to look out for when shopping around for the best parental control app, the top five of which are:
1. Device Compatibility
One of the most important things about any parental control app is that it’s compatible with your child’s device. While some operating systems have built-in parental controls, they are often fairly lightweight in comparison with the best parental control apps. Mac and iOS systems are generally more secure but also more difficult to find a compatible app for. Getting parental control for Android is easier so, if you haven’t yet invested in a phone or mobile device for your child, Android is probably the best option.
2. Filtering Capacity
Not every parent or child needs the same level of filtering when it comes to blocking content both online and in emails and messaging apps. The best parental control apps give parents a range of different levels, from low to high, depending on their needs. While a low-level filter will block out all pornographic content, a high level will enable greater specification and granularity, giving parents the power to block social networking sites, illegal activity, and video-sharing sites as well as adult content.
3. Monitoring and Alerts
Depending on how much you trust your child, you may want a parental control app that just gives a weekly report on your child’s online activity. On the other hand, if you’ve experienced problems with your child’s digital behavior in the past, you may prefer instant notification about each of their activities. Either way, the best parental control apps give parents the ability to specify the level of monitoring and how regularly notifications are given.
4. Screen Time
Parental controls aren’t just about blocking content, they’re also designed to help your child develop good online practices and a workable balance between how much time they spend online and how much they spend engaging in the real world. Different apps give different levels of control over screen time, with some allowing you to block specific apps and others simply blocking the device entirely for a specific length of time.
5. Location Tracking
This is a handy feature that not only allows you to keep track of where your child is but can also help locate a lost device. You need to be careful, however, and ensure the parental control app you choose restricts information about your child’s location so only you and other authorized users can access it.
The Best Parental Control Apps
#1. Qustodio – Powerful Yet Pricey
Qustodio has parental control apps that are compatible with nearly every device, including Amazon Fire tables, iOS, Macs, and PCs. Android parental control software is also available, making it more versatile than many of its rivals.
Although its iOS software isn’t as comprehensive as its Android app, it still gives parents a high level of control, enabling them to block online content, set limits on screen time, and monitor social networking activity. Qustodio’s parental control Android app, however, has the additional benefits of SMS and call tracking, and a panic button feature that your child can use to call for help.
Although Qustodio has an impressive set of features available, it’s not the easiest to navigate and is so wide-reaching that it can take a while to discover and utilize all its capabilities. With some of the most comprehensive and granular parental control features around, Qustodio is one of the best in its field, and its pricing reflects that. Qustodio does have a free version available but this is very limited.
#2. Kaspersky Safe Kids – Parental Control Bargain
Kaspersky Safe Kids is almost as versatile as Qustodio and is compatible with iOS, Android and PCs. It also offers a basic free version that allows parents to control online content and manage both apps and screen time. Its premium parental controls include a location tracker, social networking monitoring, vulnerability alerts, and even a battery tracker.
Kaspersky Safe Kids has a lot going for it, although its iOS app is lacking any call or SMS monitoring capacity. If you’re looking for affordable protection for a large number of devices, however, Kaspersky could be the answer. One license costs just $14.99 per year and will protect up to 500 devices for 100 children so is suitable for the largest of families!
With comprehensive web filtering, a variety of categories for app blocking, and strong location tracking and geofencing features, Kaspersky Safe Kids offers great value for money. It’s not the most intuitive, however, and some users may find the interface confusing and difficult to navigate.
#3. Symantec Norton Family Premier – Best Parental Control for Android
While Norton’s iOS app is extremely limited, when it comes to parental control for Android, this is one of the best choices. Not only with Norton Family Premier give you granular control over your child’s app, but it will also help to protect your child’s sensitive data online. Norton’s parental control app will notify you the moment your child attempts to access blocked content or break another of the house rules you’ve applied.
Norton Family Premier operates in a similar way to Kaspersky insofar as a single license covers an unlimited number of devices. At over three times the price of Kaspersky, however, Norton’s certainly not a budget option. Its power and versatility are worth paying for, however, and gives parents a high level of customization, allowing them to warn children before entering a site without completely banning them.
Norton’s parental control app for Android is one of the most comprehensive available and, at just $49.99 per year, considerably cheaper than products like Qustodio.
#4. Net Nanny – Super Sleuth for iOS
Net Nanny seems to be one of the few parental control apps that manage to provide as many features in its iOS app as in its Android equivalent. Regardless of which operating system your child is using, Net Nanny gives you the power to track their location, set time limits, and control apps.
The most recent version of Net Nanny has introduced some new features, including the ability to set up real-time alerts so you always know what online content your child is accessing and can immediately block anything you deem to be inappropriate.
Net Nanny offers feature-rich apps that give parents a high level of customizable control over their children’s phone usage and internet access. Unfortunately, Net Nanny doesn’t allow you to monitor emails or messaging apps but, if you don’t mind not being able to snoop on your child’s communications, then Net Nanny is one of the most comprehensive parental control apps as well as being one of the easiest to navigate, with its colorful and intuitive user interfaces.
#5. Boomerang – Best for Mobile Monitoring
Although Boomerang doesn’t extend its coverage to PCs or Macs, if you only want a parental control app for mobile devices, it’s got some handy features at a reasonable price. Boomerang gives parents the power to create geofences to control their child’s location, as well as an emergency mode which will notify you via phone and email should your child be in any trouble.
While some aspects of Boomerang’s design are a little cluttered, it’s simple enough to get to grips with, although you’ll need to install Boomerang’s SPIN browser before you can start monitoring your child’s online activities. Unfortunately, Boomerang won’t let you spy on your child’s social media activity, although it will let you know how much time they’re spending on such apps. Call and SMS monitoring are both available on Android but not on the more restrictive iOS.
Boomerang offers a 14-day free trial so you can familiarize yourself with its features and mode of operating before signing up. With competitive prices available, Boomerang is a good option for those who are only looking to cover a maximum of 10 mobile devices.
No one wants to keep having the same arguments with their children over again, and parental control apps can mean no more screen time bickering or late-night messaging. Not only will the best parental control apps make your child’s digital experience a safer one, but they will also set parents’ minds at rest and enable both parties to establish a common understanding of online safety for children.
The best parental control apps are simple to install and easy to navigate, so you don’t need a degree in computer science to get started. Not only will it mean a safer online experience for your child, but it will also give you the chance to talk about safe online practices and start establishing a foundation for good cyber etiquette.