Best parental control apps for your kid’s smartphone

These parental control apps will help keep your kids' device habits in check

Wavebreak Media Ltd/123RF.com

If your kids have their own smartphones, you may want a way to track and control what they’re doing. The best parental control apps offer ways to limit time spent on devices, track usage and location, and block apps or games. Before we delve into the options, it’s worth noting that there are some free parental controls built in to most devices nowadays, so you may not need to spring for a third-party app at all. For example, Google’s Family Link is very handy, Amazon’s parental controls are excellent, and Apple offers some parental controls too.

We also have resources if you want parental controls for mobile game systems and gaming consoles. Now, let’s take a look at the top parental control apps that made our list.

FamilyTime (Android and iOS)

FamilyTime does everything, allowing you to customize precisely what content your kids should have access to, set time limits, track location, and more. The software gives you tools to set homework and bedtimes, or merely limit the total time that your kids spend on their phones. There’s also support for geofencing so that you get alerts when that phone enters or leaves a specific area, and location tracking, so that you can see where your child is. On top of that, you can block or control on an app-by-app basis, apply internet filters, monitor calls and texts, and keep an eye on contact lists.

The free version only gives you access to a small subset of features. If you want the premium features, then there are different plans available. For example, it will cost you $27 per year for one device, up to $69 per year for five devices.

FamilyTime

Qustodio (Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook)

Qustodio is user-friendly, efficient, and excellent for parents who are short on time. It offers a dashboard that shows you all recent mobile activity for any connected device, including time spent on specific services like Instagram or Twitter. From there you can set time limits, track texts, filter out racy sites, and block any game or app. Plenty of customization options make it a great parental control app to use when managing devices for kids of multiple ages, and it also works on Kindle or Nook devices, which is rare.

On the downside, the software is a little expensive at $55 annually for the five-device plan, but there is a free version with limited controls that you can use on just one device.

Qustodio

ESET Parental Control (Android)

ESET has a decent parental control app, but it’s just for Android devices. The free version offers app blocking, time limits on games, and basic reporting. The premium version gives you website blocking, location tracking, parental messaging, and more detailed reports about what they’re doing. The parental message feature is a clever idea. It allows you to send out a message that your child is required to respond to before they can continue using their phone. You can try the premium features for free for 30 days, but then it costs $30 per year per device.

ESET

Web Watcher (Android and iOS)

If you feel the need to keep tabs on your child’s text messaging, including deleted texts, photos, web browsing, call log, and location then this might be the app for you. Web Watcher even allows you to delve into their activity on certain apps, including Tinder, WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber. You can also set time limits and even capture screenshots of your kid’s phone screen. Because it’s essentially spyware, with a stealth mode, it has to be installed outside the official app store. You’ll need to give it some serious security permissions, and it’s very invasive, so you should certainly think twice before considering it. The price may also give you pause, because it starts at $130 per year per device.

Web Watcher

Norton Family Premier (Android and iOS)

Norton is a big name in the field of antivirus software, and Norton Family Premier is a program for restricting and monitoring your kids’ behavior online. Family Premier offers parents a variety of features and makes it easy to manage all those options thanks to its clean interface. Among Family Premier’s most notable features is its robust web supervision, which allows you to block sites entirely, or simply keep a log of sites visited. You can also set Norton to issue warnings for sites that you may not want to ban, but would prefer your kids be careful on — for example, you might want to discourage them from spending all their time browsing memes on Reddit. Norton also lets you set time limits, shut down devices during specific hours of the day or night, and there’s app blocking, too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work correctly according to a lot of reviews in the app store and the iOS version is limited compared to the Android app.

It costs $50 per year, but it doesn’t limit the number of devices you can have on an account, so simply install on any iOS or Android devices (or Windows desktops) your kids use.

Norton

Final note: There are thriving teen forums online discussing all the possible ways to get around parental controls, some with highly advanced and/or sneaky tactics. If you know teens, that shouldn’t surprise you, but it’s still something to prepare for. When picking a parental control app, don’t write down your password or login information (no matter how well you think you can hide it). You may also want to create a news alert for the software you choose, to help keep an eye out for any new vulnerabilities or workarounds. Some software can be bypassed with phone resets, customer service requests, and other tricks that you should know about.

Deals

Best Memorial Day smart mattress sales from Sleep Number, Beautyrest, and more

Memorial Day is one of the best holidays when it comes to online sales. If you're looking for a new mattress, a smart mattress may be right for you. Check out some of the best Memorial Day smart mattress sales of the year to take your smart…
Movies & TV

Tired of stock Netflix titles? Here are the best films streaming on HBO

From The Hangover to Dawn of the Dead and everything in between, we've compiled a list of the best movies currently available on HBO, whether you're looking for something thrilling, or fun to watch with the entire family.
Home Theater

Sports-centric streaming service FuboTV adds entertainment, lifestyle channels

With the addition of Viacom channels, yet maintaining a big emphasis on sports, FuboTV could be exactly what you’re looking for in a streaming service. We’ve got everything you need to know about it right here.
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Gaming

These are the 20 best Android games you can play offline

Even in our increasingly connected world, you don't always have an internet connection on the go. To help you pass the time when you're disconnected, we compiled a list of the best Android games that can be played offline.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Product Review

Oppo’s cutting-edge Reno has a shark fin pop-up camera, and plenty of bite

The Oppo Reno has a very cool shark fin-style pop-up camera to make it stand out in a crowd, and a rear camera with a 10x zoom, plus there’s a 5G version coming soon. It’s truly up-to-date, with plenty of cutting-edge tech inside.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Deals

Qustodio drops prices 10% on premium parental control software plans

With school almost out for summer, now is a prime time to keep your children's content consumption in check and protect your own peace of mind with Qustodio's premium parental control software plans, now available at 10% off.
Mobile

As stock Android spreads, is it time for Android manufacturer skins to die?

Many Android device manufacturers seem to be moving towards a stock Android look and ditching separate skins, but there are a few notable exceptions. Do manufacturer interfaces for Android still add value, or is it time for them to die?
Mobile

Prevent a broken screen with the best Google Pixel 3a XL screen protectors

The Pixel 3a XL is a solid choice if you're looking for a midrange phone with a large screen and a great camera. But it still needs protecting. Here are the best Pixel 3a XL screen protectors to keep your big display safe.
Mobile

Guard your Galaxy with the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are two of the best phones to ever grace this planet -- but the screen still isn't brick-proof. Here are the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors to keep yours safe.
Mobile

Huawei's situation in the U.S. may improve when trade war is resolved

The U.S. Commerce Department has added Huawei to its "Entity List." Google, Intel, and ARM are all confirmed or rumored to be ceasing business with the company, which may have disastrous effects on Huawei.
Deals

Best Memorial Day sales 2019: Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart deals

If you're looking to save big on some shiny new stuff for Memorial Day 2019, we've gathered everything you need to know into one place. Find out where to save the most money before the summer hits its stride.