Monitor your children with your mobile.
If you want to monitor the activity of your children on their devices in this modern age, you need a parental control application that works well on mobile platforms, as well as on the desktop. Children can do all kinds of bad things with their phones (or tablets), either on purpose or by accident. Perhaps they simply spend too much time each day in front of their screens. After all, technology addiction is a serious problem for both children and adults. Your kids may even be communicating with dangerous strangers without you knowing. In any case, a good parental control app can restore your sense of control and help you keep an eye out for anything that might cause them harm.
Parental control apps can help you stay in control in different ways. Some of the most common types of surveillance are web content filtering, app blocking, time management, and location tracking. We will see more details on these four main functions (and a few more) below. Keep in mind that some of the products we’re highlighting are mobile only solutions, which means you can’t keep an eye on your kids’ activities on PC or Mac. If these platforms are your main concern, be sure to check out our list of best mobile software. Parental control.
The realm of parental control is always changing, especially on the mobile side, so we’ll update this list as new names come in and new ones come out. If you use a parental control app that we have not mentioned and that you like a lot for one reason or another, leave a comment below the article. Your suggestions can go into future updates of the list.
The case of paid parental controls
You may be wondering: don’t they already have parental control options on their phones or computers? Why do I have to pay for something else?
The main problem that many parents have to deal with with this approach is that for every platform their children use, new rules and regulations must be established and enforced. For the youngest kids, under the age of five, it’s not a big problem, but once they start to be tweens and teens, that’s when everyone starts to have more problems.
Parental control software can mean a lot to a family. For some it is simply a way of monitoring what their children are doing online, who they are talking to or who is talking to them. But when it comes to talking about the subject with adolescents, it becomes a question of trust, on the fragile line between the desire of parents to protect their children and the desire of adolescents to establish themselves as trustworthy in the eyes of their children. parents.
Regardless of what they choose to do online, opting for the free route means that for every device you try to protect (smartphone, laptop, desktop computer, console, etc.), you have to go through the painful process of deciding what you want again. child may or may not do on that specific platform.
That is why we recommend opting for a parental control suite instead of using the individual controls that you can find on Windows, Android, iPhone, etc. Parental control programs work simultaneously on all devices at the same time, and centralize the activity of all your children in a very easy-to-use control panel. With good parental control software you can make changes to everyone’s browsing limits at once, or customize the rules individually if that suits your style better. The operating system-independent parental control settings offer that.
A quick comment: parental control software tends to be more powerful on Android than on iOS, as Apple blocks app permissions and device access. Most parental control apps for iPhone require you to install a Mobile Device Management (MDM) profile for all these functions (especially those related to managing apps and restricting time) to work properly. .
All the parental control suites that we have reviewed support the main operating systems on both desktop and mobile, and they guarantee that you can have the same level of protection on each device, no matter which one your child decides to navigate most of the time.
Features to look for
The main function of any parental control app is its ability to prevent children from accessing inappropriate or dangerous web pages. Most of these apps have their own browser that makes it easier for the service to manage, track and control browsing activity. This makes more sense than trying to reverse engineer any conceivable mobile browser. In this way, most apps advise blocking other browsers or preventing children from installing any other app.
Most of these browsers work in a similar way: they block access to web pages that fall into prohibited categories, such as the main offenders: file sharing, gambling, pornography and violence. The best examples have no problem redirecting HTTPS-encrypted traffic and blocking access to anonymous proxies. Some apps, like Net Nanny, allow you to create custom web filtering categories, and the vast majority allow you to add specific rules for certain domains. The quality of the web history report also varies by service. Qustodio displays previews of the sites your children visit on a timeline and contextual options for setting rules, while FamilyTime Premium does not support any monitoring.
App blocking: This is another main function to consider, as it prevents children (or more specifically in this case, teenagers) from finding a way to get around the block imposed on their web browser. Let’s say for example that you have blocked the category of nudity in an Android web browser … But what stops your child from simply typing “porn” in the Google Play Store and downloading the many apps that allow him to dive among unused adult content? the Navigator? App blocking, that’s what stops it.
App blocking works differently on iOS. You can block access to system apps like Safari, Camera, and Siri, if you want. You can also disable the iTunes Store and the App Store, and prohibit in-app purchases. Some parental control apps can even remove app icons entirely from the home screen, so there are no options for your child to access them.
Another must-have feature on our list is the option to impose a time schedule on your children’s devices. All the parental control programs that we have analyzed allow you to do this in one way or another, but the way in which they manage the blocking of time from one app to another may vary.
Some services, like Norton and FamilyTime, allow you to specify how many total hours (or minutes) a child can spend on a given device, as well as schedule when they can use it. Net Nanny takes a slightly different approach and applies these time limits to internet usage. Others, like Qustodio, offer a mix; You can set usage times for the use of specific apps and devices, as well as specify a total time allowed for your child that applies to whatever hardware they use to access the Internet.
A mobile parental control app should at least be able to track your child’s current location, as well as provide location history data. It is important that they offer some level of control over notifications and the frequency of location reports, to avoid bombarding parents with unnecessary data. Both Qustodio and Norton Family offer these features.
Some services, such as Locategy and FamilyTime, go one step further, allowing you to build “geofences” around a location. For those who don’t know, geofences are digital boundaries around a physical location that help parents know when their children arrive or leave a certain location. Kaspersky Safe Kids even lets you add a time dimension to geofences, so you can make sure your child is where they are supposed to be throughout the day.
Call and SMS surveillance
The best parental control apps allow you to record and monitor who your child communicates with and what they are talking about in their conversations. Keep in mind that this ability is almost exclusive to Android. The implementation of this functionality varies according to the service, of course. FamilyTime Premium, for example, copies the child’s entire call and SMS history and saves it in a log that parents can view. Norton has a less invasive philosophy, and allows you to specify which conversations you want to monitor and store. Others, like Locategy, only show the mobile call log.
Social media surveillance:
With the proliferation of social media, many parents have found themselves at a loss when it comes to exactly how they should handle their children’s personal accounts.
The social networks where children most connect with their friends these days, so it is important to do what you must to give them the freedom they need to feel independent, while being sure that no one is trying to contact illegally with them while you look away.
Solutions such as uKnowKids know the behavior of children and adolescents, and that is why 90% of the suite’s functionalities are focused on analyzing, recording and monitoring the online life of your children on social networks.
One last feature worth mentioning is an SOS button. When the child presses this button, an alert is sent to parents and other trusted contacts. The notification includes information about the time and location and (in some cases) will continue to send that data until either the child deactivates the alarm or the parents do so from their own account. This works no matter what platform it is and even if a child has run out of their allotted time. Parents who are concerned about always being accessible to their children in an emergency should consider Qustodio and Locategy for this reason.
A well-designed control panel:
All parental control software on the market begins and ends in one place: The control panel.
The dashboard is where parents can see everything their parental controls are doing, from what they are blocking to what their children are watching, and so on. A good parental control program makes this process so easy that anyone can use it, summarizing everything you need to know in a visually clean format while making it easy to change the rules or add new limits on the fly.
Mobile surveillance and notifications:
Another key component that a good parental control should have is the ability to notify you immediately if your child is browsing an inappropriate site. The benefit is twofold: On the one hand, it allows you to keep up to date with how your browsing habits change in real time. And two, if the program has a “request access” function, you can add to a whitelist a page that may have produced a false positive from your mobile or computer, but which your child does not need to access.
This allows your child to continue browsing approved content without hindrance, and lets them know that you trust them to make the right decisions after the site is clean.
A strong support team:
Lastly, any parental control company should have several support options to choose from to help any parent who is not as tech savvy as their own children. It is no secret that children today can often be better at deciphering technology than parents. To combat this, companies have to have a support team that is responsive and capable of guiding parents through whatever they need to know to keep their children traceable.
Obviously, no solution will permanently prevent your kids from finding new or more imaginative ways to bypass surveillance software, so it’s always nice to be able to call and get a second tutorial in case you’ve found a way to get past the front line of defending.
Stay in touch with your children
Although the variety of functions that parental control software supports is impressive, no system is perfect. If your child wants to bypass the limitations you place on them, they will probably be able to do so, either by using unattended devices or by finding ways to get rid of the control apps on their devices. So it’s worth taking the time to talk with your child about why you’ve installed a surveillance program in the first place. After all, digital security is a topic that affects everyone. It’s better to keep these conversations honest, rather than letting them find out for themselves and stop trusting you. Especially for older children, it is also important to listen to their specific concerns about their privacy,
The best parental control software of 2020
1. Qustodio Parental Control: Best overall program
The Qustodio parental control app is a highly configurable and easy-to-use tool to keep track of your child’s activities on Windows, Mac , iOS and Android devices.
- Multi-device support.
- Browser independent content filter that handles HTTPS traffic.
- Time scheduler for the use of the Internet, devices and applications.
- Location tracking.
- Social media surveillance only tracks Facebook.
- Outdated web portal.
- Some limitations on iOS.
Parental control suites have evolved a lot since their inception, and nowhere is this evolution in features and functionality more apparent than in Qustodio. Qustodio is a suite of apps that allows you to install parental controls on Windows, OSX, Android, iOS and Kindle, offering one of the most complete lists of functionalities that we have seen in a service to date.
To put it bluntly: there is not a single aspect of the parental control experience where Qustodio is not objectively the best (except perhaps for the magic of uKnowKids with iOS which we will talk about below). In addition to that, regardless of whether the program is configured, due to the extensive number of filters that you can apply to your children’s browsing habits, which depend on their age, or even simply because of their general appearance, Qustodio is left alone in front of the competition.
If we had to put any problem with Qustodio (and believe us, we are really in a hurry to find anything negative in this service), it would be that it does not have the possibility of children requesting access when they come across a website that has been blocked for the wrong reason. This functionality typically makes it easier for parents to allow access to their children on the go, especially if the app includes an option for some form of mobile notification over and above the normal access request service. Without it, kids may have to wait several hours before you get to manually unlock that specific domain through the Qustodio control panel.
Regardless of any small complaints, Qustodio shines above any other parental control suite of its kind, proving that even if you don’t have a big name like Norton or Kaspersky you can do something bigger, better and more functional than the rest of them.
2. Kaspersky Safe Kids: Better user experience
- Unlimited device or child profiles.
- Flexible control over the use of devices and apps.
- Robust web filter. Geo-fencing.
- Extensive alert system.
- Various limitations on iOS.
- Content filter limited to specific browsers.
- Social media surveillance only covers Facebook and VK.
- Slow web interface.
Kaspersky Safe Kids is an affordable, feature-rich parental monitoring system for desktop and mobile platforms that does not impose limits on the number of devices you can monitor.
Kaspersky was and still is one of the best antivirus providers on the internet today, and despite the troublesome news you may have heard a few years ago about the CEO and his ties to the Kremlint’s cybersecurity unit, they remain our top pick. in terms of containment as the best parental control software of 2020.
Why? Well, it all comes down to how user friendly it is. Kaspersky Safe Kids shines on just about any metric we test it against, whether it’s how intuitive the app is for parents to set up or how accurate its detection agent is when it comes to analyzing browsing history and by know which sites have to be marked as dangerous and which are okay.
We achieved almost 100% accuracy in all of our screening tests, the highest score of all the options we show in this list. This was achieved in part thanks to the ease of use of the software, which makes it extremely simple to customize and carefully control exactly what type of content can (or cannot) pass the filter and reach the eyes of any kid on the web.
Add to that a host of customer service options, as well as Kaspersky’s award-winning antivirus software (an enhancement that comes outside of Safe Kids, but can easily be integrated into the software if you want), and we have the recipe for parental control success.
3. Norton Family: Best Value
- Excellent web control panel.
- The settings apply to all devices.
- No limit on the number of PCs, mobiles, tablets or children protected.
- Track the location of the child.
- It doesn’t work on Mac.
- It no longer has a free version.
- It does not block HTTPS sites in unsupported browsers.
- The web extension is easily disabled.
- Platform-dependent features.
- Poor tracking on social media.
Norton Family’s world-class web interface and variety of features make it easy for parents to track and manage their children’s activity across multiple devices, although it doesn’t work on Mac.
While the daunting $ 49.99 upfront price for an annual license for Norton Family’s parental control app network may not seem like the cheapest option on the market, $ 59.99 per year for the entire Norton Antivirus catalog and apps network protection is almost the best deal you can find.
Norton recognizes the problem that many families have to pay for both the antivirus suite and the parental control app, so it has focused more on the budget-conscious user and created a near-perfect parental control option. in its main network of programs based on the protection that gives you some savings.
It’s only a $ 10 addition, so the option to upgrade to Norton Premiere will only cost parents $ 0.83 a month to have one of the best protections available today. Norton implements many of the same design elements from its antivirus options in its parental control suite, and the effort pays off handsomely.
Everything from the monitoring control panel to the settings menu is well laid out and easy to understand for the common user, but it also offers a host of more advanced options to play with (for anyone interested in it. ).
If you have a low budget and want the best way to protect your children on each front (malware, spyware and malicious links among others), the Norton Family suite of apps plus Norton Antivirus Premier is your best choice.
4. Net Nanny
- Support for Windows, Mac and Android.
- Configuration and reports from the web.
- Powerful filter.
- Time allowed on the multiplatform Internet.
- App control for Android.
- No new updates.
- No location tracking.
- It lacks advanced time management control.
- Limited features on iOS.
Net Nanny’s web-centric, cross-platform approach to parental controls makes it a useful option for the modern world, but it hasn’t been substantially updated in years.
Net Nanny has turned out to be one of the best parental control apps that we have tried to include in this article. This application is one of those with the hardest filters to block inappropriate content and web pages. It can be at the same level as ESET. Any image, video or source of adult or violent content will be totally and immediately blocked. There is no way your child can disable it. In addition, it also blocks applications.
Net Nanny is the perfect choice if you need to set time limits for some applications or web pages. All social networks can be easily managed with the help of this amazing application. Its offering is minimal when it comes to text surveillance, but its other parental control options are great.
Also, Net Nanny is the best option if you want to use it as a parental control tool on just one device. You can use the free trial for 14 days. Then, if you like the app, you can buy it for just $ 13 a year. The price is more than affordable and reasonable if we take into account its advantages and functionalities.
5. uKnowKids: Best Social Media Surveillance
- Exceptionally well-designed control panel.
- Simple setup procedure.
- Numerous social media surveillance features.
- It is the only iOS app with full surveillance.
- 7-day free trial.
- No web filter options.
- No internet blocking.
- Support options are limited.
Although several of the options we have mentioned in the list contain some kind of social media monitoring feature in their software, none do as well as uKnowKids. Knowing that children and adolescents can spend an average of nine hours a day only on social networks, the company has decided to make surveillance on these sites its main sales claim … And it has turned out really well, unlike other existing suites .
The sheer number of social networks and apps that uKnowKids can monitor outshines any other rivals on this list. The list includes: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, KiK, and others.
uKnowKids has deep logs and reports for all of these apps, as well as several iOS mobile tracking options unique to this software. This is possible through the iCloud login function, which allows you to see all the photos your children take, the texts they send and receive, etc. uKnowKids tracks almost anything you can find on an iCloud account.
But with all these social and mobile media options that you can choose from, there is a trade-off: It does not have a web filter or content blocking. Although uKnowKids is the most logical choice for parents of teenagers who want to monitor their social media habits above anything else, for the little ones who need app blocking or content filtering, unfortunately it does not have those possibilities.
That said, there is nothing wrong with taking a hybrid approach. You always have the option to install another suite and run both to take advantage of their strengths, for example Qustodio combined with uKnowKids, for a complete parental control experience.
Other things you should know
Parental control suites are available in many types, and for each family there is a program or collection of apps that will work best for their individual situations. That said, if you’re tired of mediocre software suites that don’t measure up to every aspect you need, you can’t go wrong with our number one pick: Qustodio Parental Control.
But what else should you ask yourself when it comes to securing your home network against anyone who tries to do you (or your children) some digital harm? Well, the first thing is that you always access the Internet prepared with a good antivirus solution installed on all the computers in your home, for which you can read our list of Best Antivirus 2020 to protect your network from threats such as malware, adware and spyware with ease.
The next thing we recommend is adding another layer of security to your network with the help of the best VPNs of 2020 . A VPN is a bomb-proof way to protect the real identity of your children while they are surfing the web and to prevent hackers or advertisers from collecting data about them during their next browsing session.
No matter what your child chooses to do online, it is important that as a parent you always keep an eye on what they do, so that you can guide them (or at least give them a gentle nudge) in the right direction. Having robust parental controls installed on your network ensures that your children will be safe while enjoying all the knowledge the Internet has to offer. So, whether you’re studying for college entrance or just watching a Minecraft video marathon, start taking control of your family’s browsing habits and pick the best parental control suite of 2020 now!