Mobile phones are no longer an exclusive product for adults. Children now have smartphones and tablets. Internet access is becoming more accessible every day, so it’s easier to keep an eye on your children’s activities online and offline via their mobile devices.
A parental control app is a great tool. This app can monitor your children online and offline and it is vital if you want information about your children’s activities on the internet.
These apps won’t be able to do everything. These apps will be most effective if they are part of a holistic approach to teaching your children online responsibility. Talk to your children about online behavior, what they should do and shouldn’t do, how you expect them to behave, and let them know that you will be watching their devices.
You can help your children stay safe online by keeping a line of communication open with you.
Are you ready to protect your children online? Let’s get started and find out 12 of the best parental control apps below!
What is a parental control application?
An app for parental control is designed to monitor a child’s smartphone activity and to control what they can access. Parents can manage screen time and content that their children view. These restrictions protect children from cybercriminals.
Most parental control apps have core functions, depending on the provider. These include screen time controller and app blocker. Geofencing, call monitoring, blocking, and geofencing.
The market has seen a huge success with parental control apps. These apps have become a huge hit for managing smartphone addition. These apps are receiving more positive feedback from parents and they have more features to reduce smartphone usage.
Why would you need a parental control application?
The technology-savvy generation is being raised by parents. Because it’s an easy way to keep in touch with their children, parents allow them to give their children a smartphone. Parents can also see where their children are and what they might be doing.
Parents face the challenge of weighing the pros and cons of allowing their children digital freedom, and setting boundaries.
You’re not the only parent who is concerned about screen time and parental controls apps. Because of kids’ inconsistent lives and health, parental control software is more important than ever. A recent study by JAMA Children found that over-screening can hinder a child’s physical and mental development.
Why do you need a parental app? These are the reasons.
Monitor inappropriate content on unrestricted internet platforms
Today, the internet portal has unlimited access. Children may find malicious content, such as violence or pornography, online. Parents can control this by using a parental control app.
Digital safety for children is important
Cyberbullying is the most serious online crime. Cyberbullying is a form of harassment that occurs mainly on social media sites. The bully can post rumors and sexual remarks and threaten the victim.
Online threats include predators, child molesters, and other online criminals who can inflict harm on children or teens through dating or gaming websites.
A parental control app can be very useful for protecting your children from being abducted and for keeping them safe on the road.
Protect the physical health of children
Studies have shown that children can be affected by excessive mobile device use. Children’s physical health can be affected by their habit of constantly checking their phones and using them at the dinner table.
Internet addiction can lead to myopia, blindness and obesity. It can also cause problems with ligaments, depression, cognitive disabilities such as memory loss, attention deficit, and other neurological disorders.
Parents can control the time that multiple apps are used and protect their children from unhealthy lifestyles.
Use in an emergency
Parents can’t be there 24/7 for their children. Parents can use parental control applications to protect their children in case of an emergency. These apps will notify parents about the location of their child.
Let’s now look at the best parental control apps.
12 Best parental control apps
1. mSpy (Recommended).
mSpy is known for its simplicity, quick installation, and exceptional customer service. This makes it easy to monitor your child’s device usage from any device. It’s easy for parents to see why mSpy is so popular.
mSpy has three bundles available so that you can select the security and protection that your family requires. The highest level allows you to view screenshots of your child’s activities and use a keylogger to alert you to any suspicious details in private messages.
You can also customize the app blocks to meet your needs or completely block downloads. mSpy allows you to make calls, track your location, view texts, emails and see messages.
- Interface that is user-friendly
- Intuitive control panel
- There is no jailbreaking required
- 24/7 customer support
- Customers will have to pay an extra fee for support, whether they choose a higher package or a per-access plan
- Calls cannot be recorded. The only information you will get is the number and duration of the call.
Pricing plans for phones: mSpy
- Basic plan: $26.99 (1 Month) / $59.99 (3 Months) / $99.99 (12 Months)
- Premium plan: $69.99 (1 month) / $119.99 (3 months) / 199.99 (12 months)
mSpy for computers
- Basic plan: $26.99 (1 Month) / $39.99 (3 Months) / $69.99 (12 Months)
- Premium plan: $119.97 (6 months) / 167.97 (12 months)
Qustodio, an app that allows you to create digital boundaries for your children in many ways, is extremely flexible.
The filtering technology of the website is automatically enabled to protect your children immediately from harmful content. You can also block specific websites, such as gaming sites or social networks. Qustodio can also help you set screen time limits by setting schedules or daily limits for internet time.
The intuitive dashboard makes it easy for you to monitor your children’s activities and ensure they use their devices properly. It can track activities on more social media platforms that most parental control apps. It even works in private mode.
Qustodio can email you weekly, or monthly, if you sign up for extended reporting. This will show you your child’s activity over the last 30 days. The SOS panic button allows your child to instantly send you an alert based on their location if they are having trouble. You can also use the family locator to locate your child in real time on a GPS map.
Qustodio is compatible with Android, iOS and macOS. All premium features can be tried for free for three days. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can test it completely risk-free.
- Wide feature set
- Powerful text and call monitoring
- The powerful SOS panic button
- Location tracking system that is robust
- Comprehensive time restrictions
- Only Android users can access the SOS panic button.
- Small Plan: $43.96/year
- Medium Plan: $77.56/year
- Large plan: $110.36/year
Mobicip’s clean, modern design was easy to use. It allows you to set up your preferences and monitor your child’s activities from one place. It’s easy to set daily or weekly limits on each device’s screen time.
Mobicip also allows you to instantly lock all your family’s devices with one click. It is possible to block all video streaming sites and apps. This is great for keeping homework distractions at bay. Mobicip allows you to view up to four weeks of your child’s browsing history via the dashboard. You can also protect your child against malicious content by custom content blocking.
Mobicip’s transparency and dedication to data privacy is what we love best about it. Mobicip is serious about protecting your child’s privacy and ensuring that no one can see their activity.
Mobicip only offers premium versions, but you can test it with a free 7-day trial for all subscriptions.
- Modern and clean design
- Instantly lock all family devices
- You can review 4 weeks worth of browsing history
- Keep children away from explicit content on the internet
- Track your location
- No geofencing
- Mobile interface is less than Web version.
- Time schedules are not possible to set.
- Small plan: $3.99 per month (billed annually).
- Medium plan: $4.99/ month
- X-Large Plan: $9.99/month
4. Net Nanny
Net Nanny, another popular parental control app, packs a lot of safety features into an intuitive interface.
Net Nanny’s most notable feature is its family feed. This allows you to easily monitor all your family’s online activities from one place. The app allows you to view the online activity of your children, including their app usage and searches. It also gives you instant notifications when it blocks them from seeing content that is pornographic, violent, or threatening.
You can also easily modify websites, apps, or other content to restrict your children’s access. This is great if you are concerned about certain apps and websites being blocked by default.
Net Nanny also allows you to create internet usage schedules for your children so they can be responsible with their screen time. You can also check your child’s location instantly, in real time, and see their locations on the Family Overview Map.
Net Nanny works on Windows, iOS and Android. You can get a full refund within 14 days of purchase to give you time to evaluate whether this app is right and suitable for your family.
- It’s simple and straightforward to set up
- Capable screen time options
- Filtering tools that are specific to this purpose
- Amazing website blocking
- Remote control
- Quite expensive
- Limited geofencing features
- There are very few pre-set web filters
- 1 desktop: $39.99/year
- 5 devices: $54.99/year
- 20 devices, $89.99/year
5. Kaspersky Safe Kids
Kaspersky Safe Kids offers a variety of tools that are free to use. You’d need to pay for most apps in order to get the free online tools, such as content filtering, app usage management and screen time management.
The app blocks inappropriate and harmful content automatically. However, you can set time limits or schedules for your child’s app and internet usage by upgrading to the premium version.
The premium plan includes advanced tools such as geo-fencing, social media monitoring, and real-time GPS location tracking. You will also receive real-time alerts when your child attempts to access harmful content or websites.
Low device battery alerts are a notable feature of Kaspersky. You’ll be notified if your child’s device needs to charge. This means you won’t be able to use the excuse “my phone died” when asking your child why they didn’t answer your text or call.
Kaspersky Safe Kids Premium is only for one device. However, you can purchase additional licenses at a lower cost, which is better for small families. The premium plan comes with a free 7-day trial and a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Many free features
- Flexible control over device and app usage
- Extensive alert system
- Web filtering that is robust
- Affordable plans
- There are a few iOS limitations
- Only limited content filtering is available for certain browsers
- Slow web interface
- Sometimes, web portal slow
- Plan for free
- Premium plan: $14.99/year
OurPact is a family-locating and time management solution that allows parents to track and limit the online access of their children.
The app is user-friendly and offers many options for child supervision via mobile devices. There are many tools available to parents for monitoring and managing their children, including text messages, app blocking and locator capabilities and website filtering.
Parents can use the free plan to monitor their children. Parents have the option to upgrade to an upgraded plan that includes additional features. These are all fairly common in the industry.
OurPact does not offer email support, but it has detailed FAQs on its Support page. The app is also popular because it has many followers and “likes”, which increases its popularity and influence on social media.
- Great design and navigation
- Engage your children
- Alerts and notifications instantly
- High-quality, rich features
- It may be difficult for some to use the app
- Geofencing doesn’t work in conjunction with it
- Plan for free
- Premium plan: $6.99
- Premium+ Plan: $9.99/month
7. Android Parental Control by ESET
ESET offers a good parental control app for Android, but it’s only available for Android services. It is limited to one platform but offers many features that let you monitor your children’s web usage and limit their access if necessary.
ESET, like other apps for parental control, requires that you create a profile and then download the app to your child’s device. The app can be divided into four main sections: Home (locator), Rules (rules), and Devices.
You can use the free version to get web guards, app blocking and time limits for games. Basic reporting is also available. You can also enjoy features such as location tracking, website blocking and parental messaging.
- Simple to set up
- Simple user interface
- There are many features to choose from
- You can limit the zone that your children can enter on their phone’s screen and be notified when they do.
- Affordable pricing
- It is an Android-based application that does not support iOS devices
- No call and text monitoring
- Plan for free
- Premium plan: $29.99/year
Bark is one the most basic parental control apps we tested, but it offers powerful protection. This app is worth considering if you value text, email, or social media monitoring. The app is capable of tracking a wide range of platforms including Gmail and Facebook.
Bark is easy to use. After you have downloaded Bark and connected your child’s account, you can choose the apps that Bark should monitor. It is important to connect every app that your child uses to Bark with the login credentials of your child. The app will notify you if your child is trying to log in from another device. It will also let you know if your child downloads another app.
It can monitor your text messages, images and videos, as well as email content and Youtube videos. The app uses AI to flag keywords and identify their context. It also learns the subtleties of the often-changing slang used among teens, tweens, kids.
Bark will also notify you of any potential dangers it identifies, like cyberbullying, self harm, or suicidal thoughts. Bark will alert you immediately if your child searches the internet for information about suicide and depression.
Bark also allows parents to manage their child’s screen time. You can also set bedtimes and time-outs as well as block any objectionable websites. It provides an easy-to-read dashboard that displays activity reports. This is a great option for parents who are busy and want to make sure their child is safe online.
Bark’s advice and blogs are also popular. They offer many articles on social media and how you can talk to your kids about sensitive topics. It also discusses how the digital world is changing and what parents should be prepared for. Bark Connect allows parents to ask questions and receive advice from Bark as well as other parents with similar experiences.
Bark is compatible with iOS and Android phones, iPads and Macs, as well as PCs, Kindle tablets and Chromebooks. You can try it for free for seven days, and then you can use it on unlimited devices.
- It is easy to install and has a great user interface
- You can monitor a variety of social media apps
- Instant Alerts for Emails and Texts
- Detailled reports
- Compatible with all devices
- Parents can use these useful tips and advice
- Comparable to other apps, this app is quite expensive
- There are no full-service location services
- No blocking of websites
- Bark Jr.
- Bark: $14/month or $99 per year
This app provides the best activity monitoring for PC and Mac of any parental control software. You can also filter the content and set usage limits for each computer your children have access.
SentryPC Dashboard is easy to use and allows you view detailed logs for everything your children do on their computers. It even tracks keystrokes, takes full-size screenshots at random intervals, and even takes keystroke logs. You can also view graphs and other visuals that are easy to read.
If the app detects anything concerning, you will receive an alert immediately. You can immediately block any activity that you don’t agree with and apply the filtering rule.
There is no free trial. However, you can try the service by creating a demo account. This allows you to view a small sample of the desktop interface and continue exploring it for as long as necessary.
- Interface is clean and simple to use
- Monitors for both Macs and PCs
- Multiple monitoring features
- Excellent value for money
- Mac users cannot access certain features
- No mobile support
- Basic Plan (single license): $59.95/year
- Business 50 (50 licenses): $995/year
- Business 100 (100 licenses), $1,595/year
- $2,995/year for Business 250 (250 licenses).
- Business 500 (500 licenses): $3.995/year
- $4,995/year for Business 1000 (1,000 licenses).
REFOG records your child’s keystrokes so you can see all their messages and search terms. This is great if your kids try to circumvent the software using untraceable apps.
Another unique feature is the possibility to see your children via a webcam. This allows you to monitor their homework and ensure they do it correctly. You can also view detailed activity reports from your online account.
With a 3-day trial, you can decide if REFOG is right for you.
- User-friendly, beautiful interface
- Recording a robust webcam from your computer
- Remote viewing in real-time
- Comprehensive reports
- The bulk of the pre-installation windows will be followed
- There is not enough stealthiness
- Personal monitor for 1 device, $30 per month or $95 per 12 months
- Personal monitor for 3 devices: $45 (1 Month) or $135 (12 Months)
WebWatcher claims that it can be installed and started using within five minutes. This is true according to our tests. This is a great option for those who are new to monitoring software or don’t have the time to set it all up.
WebWatcher’s best feature is its ability to let you be as involved as you like with your children’s online activities.
WebWatcher allows you to view detailed recorded reports on your children’s daily activities or trust the Alert Log to alert you of any suspicious behavior. You can tailor your WebWatcher experience to suit your family’s needs. To protect your children against predators, you can view screenshots, call logs and deleted text. WebWatcher allows you to view your child’s location in real time using its GPS locator.
- Compatible with nearly all devices and operating system
- Access all data online from any device
- Gives out instant email warnings
- It allows for discrete and easy sifting web content
- No jailbreak required
- It is not intuitive to use compared to other parental control apps
- It can be a bit difficult and overwhelming to put the device in place
- Antivirus programs and security features must be disabled
- The premium version of the product is quite expensive
- It will be removed immediately after any antivirus program detects it.
- This causes the target phone to lag in functionality after installation
Pricing Plan: $59.95/ 3 Months or $129.95/ 12 Months
12. Norton Family
Norton Family, a major name in antivirus software, offers a parental control application called Norton Family (formerly Norton Family Premier). This app monitors and limits your children’s online behavior.
It is easy to set the app up. Before you can start, sign up on both your device and that of your child. You will also need to choose the level of surveillance you want. This is different for different age groups. Each of your children can have their own accounts. The accounts are kept separate, so monitoring is much easier.
Norton Family allows you to set up preset blocks for websites, apps and games as well as social media sites. You can customize your settings and choose the type of alerts that you receive. You can set up house rules to remind your children of what activities are permitted and prohibited. The dashboard allows you to check your children’s activities and send you email alerts when house rules are broken.
You can limit the time each device has to access social media or games, block all phone calls (except emergency calls), and track your child’s activities on social media. Norton Family offers location tracking. You have the option to receive reports every day, weekly or monthly on your children’s activities.
The Internet Security Center has a Kid’s Safety section that contains articles about safety, online threats and other topics. Other articles about viruses, online scams and malware will be available.
Norton Family is compatible with Windows 7-10, Vista, Android 6 and later, iOS, and Windows 7. The app is not compatible with Mac.
- Web filters and monitoring that are excellent
- Unlimited devices
- Flexible content blocking filters as per your requirements
- Beautiful dashboard with detailed reports
- Mac not compatible
- iOS Support Limited
- For a single device, or for one child, it can be very expensive
- No geofencing
How do you choose the best parental control app?
It can be difficult to pick the right parental control app from the many available. Here are some factors to consider.
Type of device
First, you must know the operating system on your target device. Some parental control apps are only compatible with iOS or Android, but others can be used on both. You should carefully review the compatibility and features.
Your chosen parental control app should protect your children against inappropriate and malicious websites and apps. It should also install a proprietary browser to prevent your children accessing inappropriate content and keep track of their online activities.
Apps with web filtering may also prevent children from installing new apps. These apps can also block sites that are classified under violence, gambling or pornography as well as other inappropriate and illegal content.
You should consider an app that has time-control features if you are concerned about how your children spend their time online. You can track the time your children spend online, and create a schedule for monitoring. You can even set time limits based upon the week and other time limits for different apps.
App blocking and in-app purchases
You might also be interested in apps that block specific apps from certain devices. This can be very useful for kids who are addicted to gaming or social media.
App blocking can block unwanted apps, and even prevent children from installing new apps that you have not authorized. Some apps also have the ability to block access to the App Store or Play Store, and even prevent users from making in-app purchases.
Tracking of location
Parental control apps can keep track of your children’s online activities and report on their location to you. You will be notified if your children go beyond the boundaries set by these apps. This feature is known as “Geofencing”, which ensures that your child is exactly where he/she is supposed to be.
Pricing is perhaps the most important aspect of any app. There are many parental control apps available for free, but not all can offer the same features as the premium version.
If you’ve chosen the best parental control app for free, ensure that the free version includes all the features you need. If you decide to purchase the premium version, ensure you have enough money.
The final verdict
If you decide to use parental control apps, make sure your children know why and how restrictions can be lifted if certain conditions are met. Ensure that your children know you are there for them, no matter what.