Parental control software helps control children’s activities on the Internet, limiting the time spent at the computer/smartphone and blocking adult content. Projects with such features are distributed freely or through a paid subscription.
Why Parental Control is Needed
- Protect against harmful information (shock content, illicit videos, and adult-rated conversations).
- Better Prioritization - Set up controls that only enable your children to access the device after finishing their homework and chores.
- Show interest in live communication without social networks/messengers.
- Promote a Healthy Lifestyle - Increase physical activity by setting commands to limit TV watching during specific hours only.
According to teachers, the time spent on the Internet/games reduces the level of imagination and creativity.
Types of Parental Control APPS
The functions of applications with parental control are divided into active and passive.
- listening to the child's phone in stealth mode;
- tracking the current location of the child;
- granting permission to install apps from the store;
- access to viewing SMS, correspondence in instant messengers, call history and downloaded files.
Some developers have removed support for hidden listening due to the violation of children's personal space.
This concerns restrictions on:
- launching certain programs;
- in-game purchases (gold, VIP-subscription);
- access to certain sites (by topic), adult content, videos on YouTube;
- time spent in games or individual programs, use of the gadget on weekdays and weekends.
Regulate restrictions through the parent account without mandatory access to the child's device.
Nuances of Parental Control
Given the invasion of a child's personal space, parental control developers have shared recommendations for parents, some of which are:
- It is not recommended to use wiretapping for children over the age of 12 years.
- It is necessary to install a client for a child only after his consent.
- It is necessary to explain why installing applications with parental control and establishing a framework for personal space intervention is needed.
According to psychologists, obsessive control of a child with widespread interference in personal life leads to a deterioration in family relations. Children do not feel safe; constant “surveillance” results in paranoia, irritability, and aggression.
Applications with such functionality require full access to a computer/smartphone, so do not download them from unverified sources. There is a chance that it can infect the device with a virus or warrant full access to the file system (where personal information is stored).
How to Install Parental Controls on Smartphones
Regardless of the selected service, the installation process looks something like this:
- Install the program/application on the parent device.
- Create an account or log in with an existing account.
- When prompted for an account type, select "New User.”
- Specify the account type "Parent" and enter your name.
- Use the tips to set up your profile and software.
- Take your child's Android or iOS smartphone. Download the children's application client to it from the Google Play store or the App Store.
- Select "I have a parent account” and go through authorization.
- In the window for determining the type of device, check "Child.” Enter the child's name.
- Provide access to special features of your smartphone/tablet. Allow the software to use geolocation, contacts, internal memory, and the device’s phone application.
- Follow the prompts to customize the app.
The list of available functions will differ depending on the version of the smartphone’s operating system.
Best Parental Control Software
Here are the most popular projects available on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
A robust parental control service that blocks pornographic sites, allows you to control the time spent in games, and provides a 30-day report on child activity. Only with Android can parents track/block calls or read/block SMS. The SOS alarm button is available for children - when pressed, the parent’s phone receives an emergency notification.
The service is cross-platform and available on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Kindle, and Chromebook. The free version allows you to connect only one device with limited functions to the parent account. More opportunities become available with a premium subscription with protection for up to 5, 10, and 15 devices for $54.95, $96.95, and $137.95 per year.
- Essential protection on the Internet
- Branded geolocation tracker (Family Locator)
- Advanced Facebook monitoring
- Flexible Screen Activity Setting (includes connected applications)
Service available separately or as part of other products from Norton Security. The product’s most unique feature is Study Time Mode, which turns off the internet for selected devices during homework and study hours. The "Search Control" function will tell you more about the child’s interests while collecting keywords entered by your children when surfing the web.
The Request Access feature allows children to request permission to install an app they want but is prohibited from installing (due to being categorized as non-child-friendly content). Try all these features out for free for 30 days, and subscribe for as little as $50 a year after.
- Support Windows, Android, and iOS
- Unlimited number of devices per account
- Block applications after a set time
- Detailed information about visited sites or viewed YouTube videos
GPS tracking does not work in some countries, including Russia.
One of the best parental control solutions with a live feed - see what kids are doing in real-time, whether it's searching or launching apps. Freely customize the allowed time for using smartphones, turn on strict censorship of sites by topic or request (adult materials, anime, or information about the purchase of prohibited items).
The basic version for protecting one computer on Windows or Mac will cost $49.99 per year. You will have to pay $54.99 to control 5 devices, including devices for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire, or $129.99 annually for 20 devices. From time to time, the service launches promotions, reducing the subscription cost by $10, $15, or even $40.
- Keep track of the children’s whereabouts
- Disconnect the Internet on the child's device in one-click
- Block applications installed on the device
- Follow the actions on social networks (TikTok, Facebook, Instagram) Connecting and setting up the service takes about 1 hour.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Kaspersky Lab has the best parental control due to the rich selection of parental controls. For example, in addition to determining children’s location, you can set a safe zone. Meaning, when the child leaves, an alert will be sent to the parent's phone. Notifications are also triggered when the battery is low or when you try to find prohibited content.
Additional functions are blocking applications, managing screen time (limited device use and game access). A free version of the software with reduced functionality is available (although we don’t feel the free version offers enough). Therefore, stick with Premium for only $14.99/user/year for the most features, like:
- Instant notifications about the child's actions
- Prohibition of certain content on YouTube
- Control of running and installed applications
- Access to the advice of a psychologist regarding communication with a child
Most of the functions are implemented on Android, Windows, and iOS, although there are limitations associated with the OS’s peculiarities.
It is widely considered as one of the best parental control software. Its peculiarity is to analyze search queries, received/sent messages, and downloaded content for dangerous topics. These include sexual content, self-harm, violence, or mental health problems. If problems of any kind are identified, the parent will receive a notification with links to suspicious phrases/messages. The advice of psychologists helps to cope with the problems of children.
The program supports GPS tracking and offers to keep track of the child’s time with the device based on Android, iOS, and Amazon. Before signing up for an annual subscription for $99, you can try the 7-day free version. Those who don't need text analysis features can subscribe for $49 per year.
- Set up in less than 1 hour
- Tips for parents in raising children
- Identifies dangerous behavior on social networks
- Alarm notification when trying to uninstall an application
The service does not work in some countries due to a filter tailored to work with English.
A few words about other projects:
- Mobicip - Define acceptable videos for viewing on YouTube, get extended information about an activity, and remotely control your child's device;
- WebWatcher - Activity monitoring with detection of potential threats to the child on Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac, and Chrome;
- Boomerang - A broad scope of features on Android devices with a 14-day trial period or annual subscription for $15.99 for one device or $30.99 for 10 devices;
- Google Family Link is a completely free app for Android smartphones.
Our Top Product Picks
|Read Review → Expressvpn.com|
|Read Review → nordvpn.com|
|Read Review → purevpn.con|
|Read Review → surfshark.com|
- Can I install a parental control app without the child's knowledge?
- According to the license agreement, the child must be notified and permit to install such software on his device.
- Is there a chance of a device being compromised through a parental control app?
- Yes, if you install apps from unsecured sources. Therefore, we recommend using VPN services for additional protection.
- What are the main features of parental control apps?
- Protection from inappropriate content, autonomous restrictions against certain applications, and smartphone location tracking through GPS.