Besides the educational toys and all the kid gear your mini-me will undoubtedly need, shopping for the best parental control apps and devices is not nearly as fun, but making sure your child’s devices are safe is more important than ever. Given how much screen time kids get in general (even more than usual, thanks to remote learning), let alone how they’re spending all that time online (kids 8-10 spend as much as six hours a day on screens), we parents have enough to worry about. The last thing you want is for your kiddo to stumble onto something they shouldn’t.
With the right apps, devices, and even routers, you can let your kiddo surf the net, play games, and watch videos ’til their hearts’ content without worrying something (or someone) ghastly is virtually lurking around them. The following are the best parental control apps and devices for parents, so you can relax each time your kid picks up their phone, turns on the TV, or logs into a computer or iPad.
Best parental control apps & best parent control app for iPhones
With Net Nanny, you can track your kiddo’s precise location, create filters for content that’s age-appropriate, block websites, block porn, see all of their online searches and their screen time usage, receive alerts and reporting, AND create a curfew for apps— whew! It’s kind of an all-in-one suite of parental control. The starting price of $40 per year only lets you monitor one desktop device, but you can upgrade to one of two Family Protection Passes: a five-device plan that costs $55 per year and a 20-device plan that costs $90 per year. In addition to Android and iOS devices, it also works on Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS devices that support Google Play.
This simple router is easy as pie to set up: Just plug it in, download the app, and you’re good to go. You can manage screen time by device, so if your kid has a phone, a tablet, and a laptop, you can cover them all, monitor browsing history, and even set boundaries regarding when it’s time to shut it down. It also allows you to filter content on apps and websites such as YouTube, turn on safe search tools that filter out inappropriate content, and set up an approval system so your kiddo has to ping you anytime they want to visit a website that’s blocked or extend their bedtime. It’s pricey, but you get a lot for the money, including a crowd-ranking system that lets you see reviews and thoughts from other parents as you figure out what works best for your family.
This is a great deal that offers a lot of bang for your buck. In addition to automatically filtering porn, crime, drug, and gambling content (because card-dealing kids?), you can also set a ton of restrictions for popular apps like TikTok and Snapchat as well as a slew of games. An easy-to-use control panel allows you to see how much screen time your little one is getting, as well as what they’re spending that time doing. Our fave feature might be the curfew setting, which locks your kiddo’s devices at bedtime.
Just download the app, connect the device to your router, and you’re instantly able to manage every device both inside your house and those that are away, like your child’s smartphone when they’re at school. You can customize the settings for each family member based on the age and maturity level of your kids (the latter is a huge plus as every parent knows not all kids develop at the same pace). For example, you can give children unlimited access to their email account but limit the types of games they can play. It can be programmed to turn off at bedtime and works with both PC, Android and iOs devices. This one comes with a 1-year subscription ($120 value) with access to all premium features, then it’s $10 per month after the first year.
This cloud-based system (just plug it into your existing router, activate your account, download the app, and you’re good to go) lets you block, limit, pause, monitor, and manage your fam’s online usage on every connected device no matter what networks they’re connected to. It’s also super easy to figure out, even if you’re not tech-savvy. One Amazon mom says she loves how she can shut off her son’s internet at any time and track what sites he accesses on his smartphone when he’s not at home with the add-on features. You can block specific websites or entire categories of them. The one caveat: While it’s compatible with most routers, it’s not universal, so you’ll have to double-check before purchase. The system includes unlimited home and mobile device protection for one year — after that, it’s $10 per month or $100 per year.
For families with kids who are always on social media, Bark is a standout. It monitors activity throughout dozens of social media apps in addition to text and email. We love how it encourages you to talk to your kids about online safety via push notifications designed to get the conversation going. Like other parental control apps, it also allows you to block websites, filter content, and set screen time limits on all connected devices. You can also set it up for automatic location check-ins when your kiddo’s on a play date and you want to keep up with his whereabouts. If Bark detects suspicious activity, including cyberbullying or even signs of depression, it alerts you via text or email. An account includes monitoring for an unlimited number of devices, so it’s a great deal if you have a large family. A pared-down Bark Jr. membership is great if you have younger kids and you just want to manage screen time and filter websites. It’s $5 per month or $49 for the year.
From one of the biggest players in antivirus software, Norton Family allows you to track your kiddo’s whereabouts, and monitor and filter their time online, including their text messaging. One of our favorite things about Norton Family is that for $50, it supports an unlimited number of kids and devices, making it perfect for big families. The only catch is that it’s compatible with Android and Windows, but not iOS systems.
Android-only friendly parental control device:
While several other parental control apps and devices monitor your child’s text messages and social media networks (’cause who doesn’t want to keep an eye on those), Qustodio monitors their calls, too, though only on Android devices. We love the Family Locator feature that lets you know where everybody is, perfect if you multiple kids. Qustodio also lets you set time limits for individual apps and individual devices, and it has a geofencing option that relies on GPS technology to track your child’s whereabouts, alerting you if they step out of the boundaries of a specific area. There are three family plans to choose from depending on the number of devices you want to be covered: The small plan is $49 for up to five devices, the medium plan is $87 for up to 1o devices, and the large plan is $124 for up to 15 devices.
A parent’s work is never done, so be sure to check out more must-have home essentials that will make life easier for you.