How Parental Control Apps Work on Laptop, Desktop and Mobile Devices
As a parent or grandparent, or anyone who has kiddos running ’round the house, keeping up with what youngsters do on the internet can be tough. Ensuring their safety while online is tougher. Parental control apps are tools that can help protect young ones and give you peace of mind. How do parental control apps work? They monitor and manage your child or grandchild’s online activity by:
- Blocking inappropriate content and apps
- Limiting screen time
- Tracking device location
- Monitoring calls and SMS texts
Here we’ll explore some of the best parental control apps available for computers, laptops, and mobile devices.
Parental Control Apps for Windows PCs
Norton Family is a parental control app for Windows PCs, laptops, and Android and iOS mobile devices. According to TechRadar, Norton Family can limit screen time, block inappropriate web content, restrict app use, and check the current location of your child’s device. Enable the School Time feature to restrict your child’s access to only educational sites for up to eight hours. And, thanks to its geofencing capabilities, this parental control app can alert you when your child or grandchild arrives at or leaves any location, including home and school. You can even view your child’s YouTube search history and videos watched. However, the Norton Family parental controls software cannot restrict apps your child uses by category, time, or schedule. It can only monitor videos on YouTube and Hulu in browsers like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. TechRadar gave Norton Family four stars. This parental controls app will cover unlimited devices and costs $50/year.
TechRadar tested and reviewed Qustodio, giving it 4.5 stars. At the same time, CommonSenseMedia.org noted it’s one of the best parental control apps for limiting the time children spend online, supervising their social media use, and blocking inappropriate websites. Qustodio can also monitor messages and calls. However, the tool has a few limitations: It’s a bit pricey, and when used on desktops, someone can bypass it with a virtual private network (VPN). The interface is intuitive, and you can use it across many devices, including Windows computers, laptops, and iOS and Android smartphones. Qustodio offers a free version with limited features. Plans for this parental controls app include Small $55/year (five devices), Medium $97 (ten devices), and Large $138/year (15 devices).
Net Nanny received four stars from TechRadar and a nod from CommonSenseMedi.org as one of the top parental control apps. Launched almost 30 years ago in 1996, this software continues to meet the needs of parents wanting to take control of their family’s screen time. Net Nanny’s real-time analysis feature scans every web page your kids try to access to ensure they are legitimate and safe sites. It also has a smart reporting feature that helps you monitor your child’s activities and tracks their location history. The software runs on Windows devices, Mac, Android, and iOS. However, Net Nanny has some geofencing limitations, and a VPN can bypass the app. Plans cost $49.99 (one desktop), $79.99 (five devices), and $89.99 (20 devices).
Google Family Link
The free parental controls app, Google Family Link, allows parents to create and manage a specific Google account for their child with limitations on what the account can access from Google. With Family Link, you can approve or block Google Play Store apps your child tries to install, monitor and limit screen time, and view detailed reports on your child’s recent activities and device location. Although the app is designed for Android and iOS devices, you can set up the controls online. Limits of this parental controls app include the inability to view emails, messages, past searches, listen to calls, or unlock a child’s mobile device.
Best Parental Controls for Android Phones
You have a couple of options for controlling your child’s activity on an Android phone. You can share your phone by creating multiple accounts, one for you and one for your child. This method allows you to keep your apps separate from your child’s. You can enable this feature within the device settings. To add a new user profile for your child, go to Settings >> System >> Multiple Users >> and enable Multiple users. Note: These steps may vary depending on your device model, age, and operating system.
The best free parental control app for android is Google Family Link, covered above. Once you download the app to your phone, you can select the restrictions you want on your child’s account. Your Google account will remain unchanged. You can monitor your child’s activity through the app’s dashboard and email alerts.
A final option is to select guest mode on your Android device. This setting will provide your child access without harming any of your messages, apps, etc.
Best Parental Controls for Apple iOS Users
Apple’s Family Sharing parental control app lets you can keep track of your family’s app usage, set limits and exceptions for certain apps and websites, and set a device bedtime. The App Store has a Made for Kids section where you can find age-appropriate, fun, educational games that Apple carefully curates. You can also choose which apps your children can use and enable the Ask to Buy feature to approve or decline their app purchases and downloads. Family Sharing is an excellent tool for parents looking for the best parental control app for iPhone.
Other Ways to Keep Kids Safe Online
Google’s SafeSearch feature for online usage is a tool for parents looking for a parental control app that cannot be deleted. To help protect your children online, this tool filters out explicit content from Google search results, including images, videos, and websites. You can enable this feature for personal accounts or browsers. There are a few downsides to this parental control app. It isn’t 100% accurate, it only works for Google searches, and it can’t filter explicit results found via other search engines or websites that are visited directly.
To enable Google’s SafeSearch feature on your desktop:
- Visit Google.com.
- Click Settings (bottom right corner).
- Go to Search Settings
- Tap Manage Settings under SafeSearch.
- Select Filter (screens and helps remove explicit images), Blur (blurs explicit images; some explicit images may still show), or Off (displays all search results, including explicit).
You can also manage SafeSearch settings by tapping Quick Settings in the top right corner of Google search results.