What Are the Best Parental Control Apps?
While we did not find a single flawless parental control programme for either Android or iOS, we did find that Net Nanny provided the best overall performance in our tests. It is also compatible with the Kindle Fire tablet, as well as PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks that have the Google Play store installed.
Although its app-management tools aren’t compatible with iOS devices, Norton Family delivers nearly all of the functions a parent could desire, including the recently added geofencing. It keeps tabs on Windows computers, but not Macs, in addition to mobile devices.
Several Norton and Kaspersky products, as well as those from other vendors, have parental controls. Check out our compilation of the finest (and worst) parental control software to see how these fare in comparison to separate providers.
Due to Apple’s stricter app limits and system control, all of these parental control apps have less access and less ability to do more on Android. This means that Android phones are preferable than iPhones if you wish to monitor your children’s online activity closely.
Still yet, you need to be aware of any Android parental control programme that you need to “sideload” on your own. When an app isn’t featured in Google’s official app store, there’s typically a solid explanation. (With Qustodio, whose sideloaded version offers features the Google Play app doesn’t, we’ll make an exception.)
Parental-control-app News & Updates
Norton now includes automated location alerts, geofencing, and schedule customization for use throughout the school day.
Support for Chromebooks(opens in new tab) is now available in Qustodio via Google Play and a browser plugin.
Multi-year subscriptions to ESET Parental Control for Android are on sale at a discount (opens in new tab): two years of service are now $45 ($25 off), and three years of service are $60 ($33 off), reflecting savings of 25% and 33%, respectively.
The Best Parental Control App You Can Get
We found that Net Nanny, which we consider to be the finest parental control app, has a clean interface and advanced web-filtering technology that really evaluates sites before blocking them, rather than merely doing so automatically.
In comparison to the other parental-control apps we tested, Net Nanny has the most feature parity between its iOS and Android iterations. Your child’s whereabouts can be tracked, a history of where they’ve been can be viewed, and limits and routines may be set in either environment.
More than 100 apps can be restricted on an iPhone, and all apps can be restricted on an Android device. The App Advisor feature alerts you to any new, potentially dangerous apps. (Every Net Nanny package is $10 cheaper for Tom’s Guide readers (opens in a new tab)!)
Instead of completely blocking or permitting access to social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, Net Nanny provides in-app content filtering.
One thing that can’t be done with Net Nanny on a smartphone is to listen in on phone calls or read text messages. Although none of the iOS apps we tried were capable of doing so, a few still exist for Android that accomplish just that.
Kaspersky Safe Kids is a parental control and monitoring solution that works similarly to Net Nanny on computers, Macs, and mobile devices. Kaspersky’s paid tier costs only $15 per year (there’s a 7-day free trial) for an unlimited number of child devices, and its free plan allows you to control screen time, filter websites, and manage other apps.
Kaspersky’s web monitoring and device scheduling, as well as social network monitoring, are all available with the premium plan, as are location tracking and geofencing for both iOS and Android. However, restricting access to mature-only apps is the extent of iOS’s app management capabilities.
Also, unlike on Macs, you may ban certain types of YouTube searches(opens in new tab) and review your search history if you have a YouTube Premium account.
The mobile apps are poorly designed, the web portal can be slow, and the web filters might not support less popular browsers, although these are all rather minor issues. Nonetheless, Kaspersky Safe Kids is a great option if you don’t want to read your children’s text messages (in which case you’d require Qustodio).
We should point out that Kaspersky is, at heart, a Russian corporation, despite its widespread international presence. It is currently unclear whether Kaspersky software will be affected by the current Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting economic sanctions against Russia. Please see our note on Kaspersky software at the bottom of the page for more information on this matter.
Norton Family is one of the most powerful and feature-rich parental control apps available, and it is especially well-suited for homes with multiple children using Android (or Windows). It has nearly all of the tools that any parent could want from a top-tier app in this category, and it even has geofencing, which is a relatively new addition.
This service’s location tracking, time scheduling, and site filtering and monitoring features are compatible with both iOS and Android, while Norton’s allowances are only valid for its Windows and Android applications. The iOS app has serious problems with managing apps.
Norton Family, on the other hand, features robust web filters, including support for iOS, Hulu and YouTube monitoring, and a brand new feature called School Time that helps keep kids on task during online study.
If you purchase a more expensive Norton antivirus package, like Norton 360 Deluxe (which is regularly discounted to as little as $50 per year), you will receive Norton Family at no additional cost. If your kids don’t use Macs, it’s a no-brainer to buy Norton Family and Norton’s superb antivirus protection.
OurPact was the most robust parental-control tool for iPhones, but Apple temporarily banned it from the App Store, reducing its functionality. But it may still control or prohibit any iOS app, just like it can on Android.
OurPact performs a wonderful job of scheduling screen time and involves youngsters in controlling their daily allotment. With the Premium Plus subscription, you can ban messaging and texting apps without being able to see the messages themselves, and you can even acquire screenshots from your child’s smartphone, even if they’re using an iOS device.
However, porn websites are simply blocked, and the interface for managing time is awkward. Using geofencing, OurPact will alert you when your child enters and exits predetermined areas, but it won’t be able to tell you where they’ve gone in the past.
OurPact’s well-designed layout and straightforward features make it a delight to use, especially if your kids have iPhones, but these flaws can’t take away from how useful it is.
As far as I can tell, Google Family Link is the only cost-free option here. If your children happen to have Android smartphones or tablets, you may be pleasantly surprised by how powerful and useful it can be.
By using Google Family Link(opens in new tab), parents can manage the permissions that their child’s apps receive on their Android device. We haven’t found this feature in any other parental-control programme. It also allows you to restrict the types of apps, or whether any apps at all, that your child can download from Google Play.
While there isn’t a Google Family Link app for iOS, parents can still keep tabs on their children’s gadgets in the same ways they can with their own. Since Android provides parents with greater access and control over their children’s app usage, we recommend it as the platform of choice for kid-friendly apps.
As for the negatives, Google Family Link only offers one online filter, which blocks “adult sites,” and it isn’t foolproof. YouTube users can access the same unified filter set. However, geofencing is missing and location tracking is somewhat rudimentary. Nonetheless, the time-control functions perform admirably.
Google Family Link might be all you need if monitoring your children’s app usage is your top priority. If you need a more versatile app, Google Family Link pairs well with any of the others presented here.
Qustodio is available for use on a wide variety of platforms, including iOS, Android, Amazon Fire tablets, Macintosh, PC, and Chromebooks. Aside from that, you can limit the use of specific apps or devices.
Location tracking, geofencing, and a Family Locator that displays everyone’s whereabouts at once are all compatible with both iOS and Android devices, as is the service’s ability to track your own movements. The online filtering doesn’t function that well on either mobile platform, but you can manage roughly 6,000 apps on iOS and all Android apps.
Qustodio, however, is one of the few apps we’ve recently tested that can still monitor a child’s texts and calls, read the content of text messages, and block phone numbers, at least on Android, and this only happens if you sideload a specific version of the app from Qustodio’s website. But if you care about these options, then Qustodio could be the app for you.
Costing up to $138 per year for 15 devices, Qustodio’s price tag is the service’s biggest drawback. You can save 10% if you read Tom’s Guide.
Unlike the iOS function of the same name, “Screen Time” does a fantastic job of monitoring and restricting children’s screen time. On iOS devices, at least, it doesn’t do anything else. Android users are the only ones who can use app management and web filtering.
Both the location tracking and the site filters in Screen Time come at an extra cost, despite the fact that they are arguably necessary and typical in other parental-control programmes. (The premium trial version of Screen Time offers access to both services for 14 days.)
The way in which Using Screen Time, you may reward your children with more screen time if they complete certain tasks or commit acts of kindness. Apple has just included geofencing and location history, but you still can’t censor apps or monitor calls or texts.
ESET Parental Control for Android is only available for Android, but it falls short even there due to its lacklustre capabilities and the fact that it is unable to monitor text messages or phone calls (or ban specific numbers) altogether.
Both the free and paid versions of ESET Parental Control for Android provide useful tools for managing apps and setting time limits, respectively. The paid version also includes location tracking and geofencing. (There is a free trial available for 14 days, and annual plans are significantly discounted.) And we appreciated the option for a child to quickly and easily send an emergency message to predetermined phones.
Although, unless you also get ESET Smart Security Premium, the $30 annual plan is not worthwhile. That’s because Kaspersky Safe Kids outperforms ESET Parental Control for Android on four times as many platforms for a fraction of the price.
MMGuardian includes practically all of the parental-control features you could desire for Android phones, such as the ability to track, block, and read text messages and phone conversations.
Since Mac and PC applications can search through an iPhone’s backups, it is also the only app we know of that can read texts and messages on iOS, though it cannot stop them.
However, the interfaces for both systems are old and difficult to use. Smartphone apps for both iOS and Android provide location tracking and superior web filtering, and MMGuardian now includes an AI component to detect sexually explicit content in archived photographs.
Android is the sole platform supported for time management and screen time scheduling, and the MMGuardian app for tablets does not provide location monitoring.
MMGuardian’s app administration for iOS is rudimentary, and it lacks the ability to restrict incoming calls. However, MMGuardian is a good option to think about if you’re concerned about your kid’s iPhone text messages.
How to Choose the Best Parental Control App for You
How restrictive you need to be with a parental control app is mostly determined by the ages of your kids. Having the option to block inappropriate websites is a must if you have a child under the age of 12, but you may also want to think about an app that is available on Amazon’s Fire tablets.
However, if your children are teenagers, it may be in their best interest to view some questionable content online, so long as you keep tabs on what they’re viewing. It’s a good idea to check in on your adolescents’ whereabouts and online chats on a late Friday night. Consider a service that can keep tabs not only on their smartphones, but also on their PCs and Macs.
The most useful parental control apps have features like blocking specific apps and restricting access to specific websites.
Geofencing is another helpful add-on function that notifies you when your child’s phone leaves a predetermined “safe” region, such as the vicinity of a school or a relative’s home. Most of these apps provide a web interface that lets you keep tabs on your kid’s phone from any computer.
Some of these programmes also allow you to prevent and log a child’s phone calls and text messages, as well as view those messages. This, however, necessitates further effort on their part. No matter how good a parental control programme is, it is against the law to eavesdrop on a phone call.
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