Best Parental Control Apps and Software Buyers Guide
Things to Consider When Choosing a Parental Control Filter
You want to keep your children safe, whether it’s on the playground or in cyberspace. In both environments, you’ll do a better job of protecting your kids with some backup. When it comes to the internet, the best backup you can have is a parental control app or web filtering software. These tools help set safe boundaries that let your children explore the online world with limited risk.
In addition to identifying the best parental control tools on the market, we’ve also put together a quick-reference guide to help you identify the parental control features that will best protect your family.
What you want a parental control app to help you with
- Content filtering
- Safe browsing
- Limiting screen time
- Blocking unsavory apps and other downloads
- Safe text and instant messaging
- Social media monitoring and management
What you want a parental control app to show you
- Online activity reports
- Search history
- Access requests
- Time-extension requests
- Bad language alerts
- Content filtering updates
Spying vs. Filtering
All of the parental filters we recommend are monitoring tools that let you set limits and keep an eye on your child’s online activity. There are other products out there that are designed for covert observation of your kid’s search habits, texting, etc. In a word—spying. This spyware lets you see what’s going on without your children knowing.
We recommend having an open line of communication with your child to help foster and encourage good online habits. If you use spyware (Mobile Spy, PhoneSheriff, WebWatcher, mSpy) to secretly track your child’s online activities, you’re missing the opportunity to give them real tools that will help them stay safe online for a lifetime.
Top Parental Control Software
Top Parental Control Routers and Firewalls
Top Parental Control Apps
Watch Out for These Parental Control Workarounds
Kids are smart—and when it comes to mastering the digital world, they’re pros. Depending on the age of your children (and their determination to see the latest viral online sensation), the day may come when they try to outsmart the parental controls you’ve put in place. In fact, we found multiple negative reviews of every product we’ve featured posted by kids whose efforts to bypass the filters failed.
We don’t think you can get a better endorsement than a disgruntled child who couldn’t access something inappropriate, but in case your little geniuses start thinking outside the box, we want you to watch out for these workarounds that your kid might try:
- Using a different network (public, cellular data)
- Using a VPN (virtual private network that hides their activity)
- Using a friend’s device
- Using private browsing
- Using browsers hidden inside other apps
- Doing a hard reset of their device
Internet Safety Extras to Keep Your Family Safe Online
Parental control apps and routers aren’t the only way to protect your kids and teach them responsible online habits. We like these alternative ideas to help boost internet safety at home.
- Rewarding good screen time habits
- Puts kids in charge of screen time
- Rewards good choices
- Makes unplugging fun
- Appeals to younger children, so may not work for older kids