8 Best Parental Control Apps (Free and Paid)

Published May 26, 2022
mother putting parental controls on children's phone and tablet

In a digital world, it's hard to keep your kids safe from online predators and keep their app usage under control. Find out some of the best free and paid parental control apps on the market. Learn what they have to offer and any cons that users have found. Get the deets on what apps are best for iPhone and Android, and find out a few tips and tricks to finding the best parental control app for your home.

Free Parental Control Apps to Try

Keeping your kids safe is essential, but you don't need to put a big dent in your wallet to do it. You can find a few pretty solid parental control apps that can keep a history of where your kid is going on the web and what they are doing. And the best part, they don't cost you a dime. Check out two free apps with high ratings.

KidLogger Parental Control

Screenshot of Kidlogger App parental controls

KidLogger offers many features for you to try as a parent for free. It can track how long your child is on the device, and it keeps a log of all the different websites and apps that your child visited. As a parent, you also can pick and choose the different options you want to use. So you can have more control with a younger child, yet give a bit more independence to your teen. If you are worried about who your kid might be talking to, you can also listen to Skype calls. This is a great free app if you are looking to monitor several aspects of your child's digital usage, like messages and online viewing. This app gained an excellent rating of 8.0 out of 10 from WizCase.

Just a few of the features include:

  • Track keystrokes
  • Cross-platform tracking
  • Tracking messages
  • Tracking websites
  • Apps used
  • Website history monitoring
  • Screenshot monitoring
  • Folder and file monitoring
  • Time tracking

Cons of KidLogger

While this app has a wide range of features freely available to you, it does have some limitations. Just a few of the cons include:

  • Inability to record with the free version
  • Only 9 Mb of disk space
  • Only keeps logs for nine days
  • Lack of social media tracking
  • Premium services cost

Google Family Link

Screenshot of Google Family Link App for iPhone

If you want a completely free parental control app, you can try Google Family Link. This app allows you to set ground rules for your children and teens when viewing and watching digital media. Google Family Link has an easy-to-use dashboard and a nice set of features for you to use with your child. This app does not have a premium upgrade, so every feature listed is free. When it comes to parental controls, this app is an excellent app if you are just looking to monitor your kiddo's screen time and use light web filtering. Just to see where it stands with professionals, it was also given a 3.5 out of 5 rating from Tech Radar.

Just a few of the different features to try include:

  • Monitoring data usage
  • Managing apps
  • Setting limits for screen time
  • Locking their device
  • Location tracking
  • Teacher recommended apps
  • Completely block specific apps

Limitations to Google Family Link

While Google Family Link does offer some excellent free features, it does have a few rather disappointing limitations. For example, when a child turns 13, Google does offer them the option of opting out of the app, which doesn't make it great for monitoring teens. Other cons for this app include:

  • No dedicated web filters
  • Does not offer a history breakdown of app and website usage
  • No geofencing option
  • No support available
  • Does not monitor messages
  • Does not monitor social media
  • Dashboard not accessible on PC

Top Overall Paid Parental Control Apps to Keep Kids Safe

While a free service offers some good options, they do have a few different faults that can be overcome by getting a paid service. Depending on how much you are willing to pay, these services allow you to monitor every aspect of your child's digital life. You can watch everything from where they are going on the net to where they are in the real world. Explore a few apps that are great for both iPhone and Android tech.

Net Nanny From SafeToNet Company

Net Nanny knows what they are doing regarding parental control apps. From PC to mobile, Net Nanny can cover all the different aspects of a child's digital world. This app works perfectly for monitoring both younger kids and teens. It allows you to monitor, limit, and protect your children for $55-$90 a year, depending on how many devices you want to watch. It works on both Android and Apple devices. Net Nanny is designed for parents with multiple kids' ages they need to keep covered.

A few of the features you can enjoy include:

  • Clean, easy to use design
  • Extensive web filters
  • Geolocation tracking
  • App blocking
  • Screen and app time management
  • Easy setup
  • Online search reports
  • Real-time alerts

Net Nanny Cons to Consider

While Net Nanny received 4.4 stars from Tom's Guide for its expansive features, it does have a few downsides. Just a few of the cons to keep in mind include:

  • Price
  • Limited geofencing features
  • Lack of social media monitoring

Canopy App

Another top option is the Canopy app. Canopy runs a monthly service starting at $8 a month for three devices. You can protect up to 15 devices for $16. This monthly subscription is also free for 30 days, so you can be sure you like the app. Canopy works on phones, tablets, and computers to protect all your tech. It also offers direct email support and received a 4 out of 5-star rating from Tech Radar. Canopy is a great all-around app for ensuring your children of all ages are protected from inappropriate material and people online.

To get an idea of what you can expect from Canopy, check out these features:

  • Nudity and pornography filter
  • Sexting blocker
  • Easy setup
  • App blocker
  • Real-time location
  • Parental alerts
  • Website management

Canopy App Cons to Think About

Canopy does a lot to keep your kids away from predators, but it does have a higher price point when you think about the monthly subscription. Other limitations to think about include:

  • No time management features
  • Limited support
  • High cost for devices
  • Images in apps not blocked

Best Parental Control Apps for iPhone

Looking for the best parental control app to add to your kid's iPhone? You've found the right place. Learn a few apps with top rates for iOS devices. While some of these might also work on Android products, their compatibility with iPhone makes them stand out.

Qustodio

While Qustodio is a bit expensive, many iPhone, macOS, and iOS users find it worth the price. The cost for Qustodio ranges from $55-$138 a year. The variation depends on how many devices you are looking to cover. This app does have a comprehensive list of features that parents of toddlers to tweens might want to check out. This app can be a great addition to your parenting arsenal if you need excellent all-around coverage for your Apple products.

In addition to a comprehensive dashboard and filtering, Qustodio offers:

  • Easy setup and installation
  • Time management
  • App blocking
  • Parental reports
  • Track calls and SMS
  • Location services
  • Alerts for parents
  • Ability for children to send SOS
  • Social media usage tracking

Potential Downside of Qustodio

While Comparitech gave Qustodio 4.4 out of 5 stars, this app isn't cheap, which can be a big con depending on your budget. Additionally, parents and users alike did notice a few other cons to the app.

  • Filter is a bit lacking
  • Social media tracking limited
  • Kids can figure out how to disable it
  • Hard to remove
  • App can be buggy

OurPact App

Do you want to monitor and guard everything from your kid's tablet to their computer? OurPact has all your techy needs covered. You have two paying options for this app, including premium for $70 a year and premium + for $100 a year. The app allows you to set different house rules that your kids must follow. It also has a family locator. With the ability to manage up to 20 devices and a very good 3.4 out of 5-star rating from Consumer Advocate, you can't go wrong. You might also want to consider this app if you are trying to give your kids a bit of independence with their technology, but still keep them safe.

Check out a few of the features of OurPact:

  • Blocks apps
  • Time management features
  • Internet blocker
  • Texting blocker
  • Parental reports
  • Web filter
  • Geofences
  • Instant location alerts
  • Easy to use dashboard

Cons Associated With OurPact

Overall, OurPact has gotten pretty stellar reviews from users and reviewers. However, you can find a few different negatives associated with this app.

  • Kids can figure out to uninstall it
  • The sync can be buggy
  • Price
  • Email support is slow

Best Parental Control Apps for Android

Not an iPhone fan? Then, you need to look for a parental control app that works the best on your Android products. Grab your phone or tablet and try out one of these paid parental control products.

Norton Family Parental Controls

You've probably heard of Norton Antivirus and might even use it on your computer. If you enjoy their antivirus software, their parental control app might be what you are looking for. Priced at $50 for the year, Norton Family offers a handful of features and is also included with a purchase of Norton 360 with LifeLock. The features make this a fantastic app for a family of Windows and Android users.

In addition to being relatively easy to download and operate, Norton offers:

  • Unlimited device monitoring
  • Impressive web filters
  • Unsafe web behavior flags
  • Detailed reports
  • Website blocks
  • Mobile activity reports
  • Video supervision
  • Instant lock
  • Geofencing

Limitations for Norton

One of the biggest Norton limitations is that it's only available on Android and PCs. While you can track Apple products, the parental controls must be downloaded onto an Android or PC. Additionally, PC Magazine only gives Norton Family a 'good' rating of 3.5 out of 5. Other significant limitations to note include:

  • Inability to block individual games on PC
  • No social media tracking
  • No free version available
  • Blocking some websites can be difficult
  • Web extensions can be disabled
  • Unlocking a device can affect alerts

mSpy Android Parental Control

Keeping your children safe is a full-time job. Make your life a little easier by installing the mSpy app on your child's Android products. From online activities and real-life locations to calls and texts, mSpy monitors it all. The device is designed to stay hidden on a device, so your child won't realize it's there. This app costs roughly $12-$49 a month. Parental Control Now ranked this app 9s across the board and 9.5 for ease of use on a 10-star system. This app works best for parents wondering what their tweens and teens might be up to.

Here's a list of other features you might be interested in.

  • Track messaging, including Snapchat and Whatsapp
  • Location history
  • Geofencing
  • Tracks browser history
  • Message blocking
  • Monitoring of calls
  • Monitoring emails
  • Access to calendars
  • Keystroke logging

Cons of mSpy

mSpy is nice when you are looking for an app you can put in the background of your Android device. Beyond just the device limitations, mSpy does have these cons.

  • Must pay for each install
  • No time management features
  • Slow support
  • Weak internet controls

Things to Consider When Getting a Parental Control App

Not all parental control apps are created equal. When getting the best control app for your family, use a few tips and tricks to find the best one for you.

  • Cost - free apps can offer some impressive blockers, but if you need more protection, consider a paid subscription
  • Age - the monitoring you need and levels of control will be different for a toddler than a teen
  • Device - consider what type of device you need to be covered
  • Location - GPS functionality and real-time location for wandering children and teens
  • Web filters - choose the app with web filters that best fit the age of your children
  • Streamlined account - watch for apps that cover multiple devices

Parental Controls on Smartphones

Kids can get into a lot of trouble on smartphones or the internet. Keep them safe and track their time online by trying the best parental control apps. These apps are available in free and paid versions. Just be sure to consider what you can afford and how much protection you need to keep your child safe and happy.

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