Best Parental Control Software

By Sonja November 5, 2020

Parenting was way easier before the invention of the internet. Back in the day, the best parental control software parents had was grounding their kids and cutting off TV access. But such measures have become woefully inadequate for a generation that doesn’t watch TV or want to leave their gaming chair in the first place.

Child monitoring software might not win you any parent of the year awards, but it may just save your kids from worse things than getting grounded.

  • Excellent content filtering capabilities
  • Detailed time restriction options
  • Cross-platform support
  • Pricey
Price $49.46/year
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  • Support for an unlimited number of children and devices
  • Excellent web filtering
  • Geofencing
  • Doesn’t work as well on iOS
Price $14.95/year
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  • Excellent app blocking features
  • Supports a huge variety of devices and operating systems
  • Video monitoring tools
  • No geofencing
Price $3.99 /mo
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  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Excellent parental blocking features
  • Support for unlimited devices
  • No support for MacOS systems
Price $49.99/year
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  • Powerful filtering software
  • Supports a huge range of devices
  • App blocking
  • Expensive
Price $39.99/year
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1. Qustodio

" Best overall parental control software "

  • Price:
    Currently starting from $49.46 per year
  • Free Version:
    Yes
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Excellent content filtering capabilities
  • Detailed time restriction options
  • Cross-platform support
  • Pricey

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Excellent content filtering capabilities
  • Detailed time restriction options
  • Cross-platform support
  • Pricey
  • Price:
    Currently starting from $49.46 per year
  • Free Version:
    Yes
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

A phenomenal software that provides both paid and free parental control apps for just about every platform you could think of, from Windows to Kindle. Paid plans are not cheap, but the wealth of features offered more than make up for that.

Pricing

If you want to use Qustodio for free, you’ll have to deal with a very feature-limited plan. Alternatively, there are three subscriptions that have identical features but differ in the number of devices supported. At the time of writing this review, they are providing a 10% discount on all of the plans.

While the free basic plan is functional, in order to get the best internet filtering options, you’ll want to choose either the $49.46 Small Plan, $87.26 Medium Plan, or $124.16 Large Plan. While the free version monitors only one device, the paid plans can watch over five, ten, or up to fifteen devices, respectively. You also get access to location tracking and up to 30 days of activity history.

User experience

One of the advantages of Qustodio is that it works on just about any device and operating system you can think of. Installation is also a breeze, and you can modify settings for each installed device from the handy web interface.

The free parental control apps for Android and iOS have options for stealth installations, in case you don’t want your children to find out that you’re monitoring them. The user interface is generally well-designed, and desktop/web interface users will be able to see a color-coded pie-chart listing all of your child’s activities and apps used.

Features

Qustodio offers a variety of amazing tools for content filtration, activity tracking, location monitoring, and more. Starting with web filters, you can have up to 29 different ones, including everything from alcohol and drugs to gambling, pornography, and violence. You can also restrict access to specific websites or turn on safe search restrictions on all major search engines and YouTube.

In addition to some of the best internet filtering software on the market, they also offer great tools for monitoring your children’s activities. Excellent summaries broken down by time and percentage can tell you exactly how much time your child spent on each app, surfing the internet, or interacting on social media.

Time management options are also excellent. You can customize daily and weekly time allowances for each monitored device, set up alerts when the limits have been reached, automatically switch off the internet, or even completely lock the devices if you feel that your children are spending too much time on their smartphones.

Qustodio doesn’t have the best parental monitoring for apps, though: You cannot block specific chat applications or block apps that don’t require the internet to run. In terms of social network monitoring, you are limited to Facebook, and you cannot see private messages, only pictures, timeline photos, and comments.

All account types also get access to YouTube monitoring, but only premium customers can set limits and block the app completely. There are excellent geolocation and geofencing tools available as well.

Final words

Overall, Qustodio is a fantastic software. It may not be the cheapest option around, but the wealth of features and excellent user interface combined with fantastic notification tools make it an easy recommendation for anyone worried about their children’s online safety.

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2. Kaspersky Safe Kids

" Best parental control software for Android "

  • Price:
    Starting from $14.95 per year
  • Free version:
    Yes
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Support for an unlimited number of children and devices
  • Excellent web filtering
  • Geofencing
  • Doesn’t work as well on iOS

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Support for an unlimited number of children and devices
  • Excellent web filtering
  • Geofencing
  • Doesn’t work as well on iOS
  • Price:
    Starting from $14.95 per year
  • Free version:
    Yes
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

An affordable solution for both desktop and mobile devices, Kaspersky Safe Kids offers a competent set of parental controls at a bargain price. To top it off, there are no user or device limits, which is a rarity at this price point.

Pricing

One of the great things about Kasperky’s parental control software is its phenomenal value proposition. The company offers one plan only for a price of just $14.95. To make the deal sweeter, the company has no restrictions on the number of children/devices that you can monitor, which is unheard of at this price point.

There is even a completely free version available, but it comes with several limitations. Finally, you can test all of the premium features without paying a dime by opting for a seven-day free trial.

User experience

The software works on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS platforms and is very easy to install. Safe Kids may not be the best free parental control app for iPhone users due to some limitations such as not being able to stop a child from visiting a site after their allotted browsing time has been exceeded. Other platforms have no such issues, though. There is only one app for both children and parents, and they run very well regardless of the platform. Unfortunately, the web interface is a bit slower and can feel laggy at times.

Features

The software has fourteen different content categorizations for websites, with default restrictions being adjusted to your child’s age, but every setting is also easily customizable by the parents.

Every category can either be allowed, forbidden, or made to display a warning, and as with the best parental monitoring apps, parents will be notified every time their child goes to a site or app that has a warning label or tries to access forbidden content.

On Android, there are 17 different application categories that have the same type of settings available, while on iOS systems, apps are simply blocked based on their age rating on the app store.

Safe Kids also features age-appropriate safe search tools and custom categories and filters for all of the popular browsers. On mobile devices, kids will be forced to use the app to browse the internet, as all other browsers will be blocked.

The time tracking features include the ability to set daily limits and down times as well sending warnings or blocking access once those limits have been reached. Again, Safe Kids is probably not the best parental control for iPad and iPhone users, as for some reason, it’s impossible to block iOS devices properly at the moment.

Both mobile apps let you monitor your children on Facebook and VK, while the Android parental control also allows for SMS and call monitoring. Social network monitoring is similar to Qustodio – parents won’t be able to read private messages. They can see everything else though and will be notified about inappropriate content on social media pages.

Finally, the software has excellent location tracking services as well as geofencing, which allows you to instantly get notified if your children, for example, leave school when they’re not supposed to.

Final words

While it may not be the best free parental control software around, Kaspersky Safe Kids offers the best paid plan value of any internet filtering software on our list. Supporting an unlimited number of devices and advanced geolocation tracking features, it’s more than just a good content block software. We just wish that the iOS app was better.

3. Mobicip

" Best parental control software for cross-platform monitoring "

  • Price:
    Starting from $3.99 per month for up to five devices
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Kindle, Chromebook
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Excellent app blocking features
  • Supports a huge variety of devices and operating systems
  • Video monitoring tools
  • No geofencing

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Excellent app blocking features
  • Supports a huge variety of devices and operating systems
  • Video monitoring tools
  • No geofencing
  • Price:
    Starting from $3.99 per month for up to five devices
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Kindle, Chromebook
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

One of the pioneers of internet parental controls, Mobicip has been keeping kids safe for over a decade. With reasonable pricing and support for pretty much every device your child could possibly use, its only negative aspect is that it uses fairly basic tools.

Pricing

Mobicip has a simple pricing scheme, with three paid subscriptions that differ only in the number of supported devices. They can all be previewed for seven days with a free trial. However, the company no longer has completely free parental control software for Windows 10 and other platforms.

The three plans are: Small ($3.99 per month, covers up to five devices), Medium ($4.99 per month, covers up to 10 devices) and X-Large ($9.99 per month, covers up to 20 devices). For more than 20 devices, you’ll need to get a quote.

User experience

Mobicip works well on just about every device that your child could possibly use, from smartphones and tablets to PCs, Chromebook, and Kindle. Installation is straightforward on every system except for iOS, where in addition to installing the app on the phone, you’ll also need to scan a QR code for the account and then download and install an MDM profile that will let you enforce restrictions.

While it may not be the best phone monitoring app for iPhone lovers, Mobicip does have a very good web interface with a well-designed and easy-to-navigate dashboard.

Features

Mobicip has excellent web filtering features, with 30 different categories, one of which is simply named ‘uncategorized’ and is meant to fit everything that somehow doesn’t get covered by the other categories. Specific sites may be blocked, but safe search functionality is a bit iffy and you’ll need to manually disable all other browsers and make your children use the Mobicip app in “safe browser mode.”

Parents can set up weekly schedules and block the screen on all monitored devices easily. One of the best internet parental control features – setting up the number of hours allowed on a daily or weekly basis is strangely missing, though. There are also no ways to monitor SMS messages or calls, but Mobicip does feature a video monitoring tool that lets you watch all of the clips that your children are watching from your dashboard.

App management is uniformly excellent: once the parent has set up parental tools to sync with their children’s devices, they can remotely log into the Mobicip app, allowing them to block or allow apps directly from the device itself.

Mobicip is definitely not the best parental monitoring app when it comes to social networks. While you can easily block or monitor usage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social network, there are no sophisticated features for monitoring activities once the app is actually used.

The company also has location tracking services available. In order to get this feature, along with video monitoring and remote application management, you’ll need to install an additional app called Supervise, which is available for both Windows and MacOS users.

Final words

Mobicip is not a perfect service. Parental controls on Android are much easier to set up than on iOS devices, and you need two separate apps to get the most out of it. That being said, video monitoring and app management tools are excellent, as is the option to remotely black out all monitored screens with the press of a button.

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4. Norton Family

" Best parental control software for PC "

  • Price:
    Starting from $49.99 per year
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, Android, iOS
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Excellent parental blocking features
  • Support for unlimited devices
  • No support for MacOS systems

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Excellent parental blocking features
  • Support for unlimited devices
  • No support for MacOS systems
  • Price:
    Starting from $49.99 per year
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, Android, iOS
  • Notifications:
    Daily and weekly email reports, push notifications

While they may not have the best Android parental control software around, Norton does offer excellent parental lock software at popular prices. Support for an unlimited number of devices and an excellent web-based control dashboard are the key selling points.

Pricing

As one of the world’s leading cybersecurity solutions, Norton tries to tie all of its products together whenever it can. As such, you could get Norton Family for $49.99 per year or use an ongoing promotion to pay the same amount of money during your first year using their excellent Norton 360 Deluxe solution.

This option also includes a host of other security tools such as virus protection, a secure firewall and VPN, and more. There is no free version of the software available, but you can get a 30-day free trial.

User experience

Looking at our list of best parental control software, Norton Family is probably the most platform-limited solution of the lot. Forget exotic devices, you won’t even be able to install this software on your Mac. With that being said, key platforms such as Windows, Android, and iOS are all supported.

Installation is generally a simple affair on most devices, though with Android, parents have to make sure that guest accounts are disabled so kids are not able to evade detection.

The web interface is generally well-organized, with alerts for each child available in the Alerts tab and each child being able to be supervised through seven categories: Web, Time, Mobile App, Location, Search, Video, and Social.

Features

Norton Family has probably the best internet filter in the industry. There are 47 categories available, including specialized ones like plagiarism and legal. Sites are automatically allowed, blocked, or set to show warnings based on your child’s age, but you can also set up custom permissions. Parents get both real-time notifications and daily email summaries of all the forbidden sites that their child has tried to visit.

Time tracking tools offer age-based default restrictions which can be customized for each child. Parents can set up daily and weekly restrictions, completely block off access during certain hours, and more.

Even the best iOS parental control software cannot get around some annoying features put in by Apple, so app monitoring and control will be much smoother on Android. Any app on a child’s Android device can easily be blocked through the mobile dashboard section of the web interface, but for the same functionality on Apple devices, one needs to use Apple’s ScreenTime together with Norton Family.

In terms of social networks and streaming services, they can only be monitored if the children are using them on personal computers with Windows installed. On Android and iOS parents still have the option of simply blocking apps. Basic location tracking for your children using Android and iOS devices is also available.

Final words

Norton Family comes from a company with a distinguished cybersecurity pedigree, and it shows. While the lack of support for Mac devices may turn off some potential customers, world-class web-filtering, excellent app control, and great reporting tools make it an essential tool for any well-monitored parental network.

5. Net Nanny

" Best parental control software for iPhone "

  • Price:
    Starting from $39.99 per year for one desktop or $54.99 per year for five devices
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Kindle, Chromebook
  • Notifications:
    Daily, weekly, and monthly email reports

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Powerful filtering software
  • Supports a huge range of devices
  • App blocking
  • Expensive

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Powerful filtering software
  • Supports a huge range of devices
  • App blocking
  • Expensive
  • Price:
    Starting from $39.99 per year for one desktop or $54.99 per year for five devices
  • Free version:
    No
  • Supported platforms:
    Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Kindle, Chromebook
  • Notifications:
    Daily, weekly, and monthly email reports

Net Nanny is a solid choice packed with excellent features such as customizable web filters and excellent app blocking tools. Unfortunately, it comes with an above average price tag, and the web interface could use some work.

Pricing

Net Nanny offers three different plans, using a tried-and-true system of limiting each price tier by the number of devices that can be monitored. The price is a little on the expensive side, but they almost always have some sort of discount available.

Currently, the plans offered are as follows: $39.99 per year for a single PC or Mac device, $54.99 for up to five devices (including Kindle, Chromebook, smartphones, etc.), and $89.99 per year for up to twenty different devices. Unfortunately, there is no free version or even free trial available at the moment.

User experience

As with the best internet monitoring software around, installation is generally a breeze, and the software works well on all types of devices and operating systems. You’ll need to install separate apps for devices that will get monitored and those that will be doing the monitoring.

The web interface is functional but feels a little cluttered. You can use Apple’s own settings to prevent unwanted app uninstalls on iOS devices or the built-in ‘Uninstall Protection’ feature to stop kids from tampering with the app on all other devices.

Features

When it comes to content and app monitoring, filtering, and blocking, Net Nanny is not just the best parental control app for iPhone, but it’s one of the best apps in general, regardless of the device.

Sure, fourteen base categories for websites don’t seem like much, but you can easily set your own filters or block/restrict specific websites. As is typical in the industry, you’ll get notified every time a child tries to access blocked sites or even those that show a warning before allowing access (Facebook, for example).

Time tracking options are excellent, too. Dubbed ‘Screen Time,’ this functionality allows you to set daily or weekly usage caps, after which access to the internet can be revoked or device access locked. Apps can also be stopped from opening through this feature.

So far nothing special, then. However, Net Nanny’s claim to the best parental control app title is made through a variety of functions we have not mentioned yet, most of which are not typically found in competing products.

For example, not only are apps easily blockable, but you can monitor social media sites, such as Facebook, in a more in-depth manner than with most of the competition. This includes chat records as well as profile activity.

Net Nanny also records and reports attempts at cyberbullying, as well as having the option to automatically block offenders. Email monitoring is also available, but SMS and calls cannot be tracked.

Final words

Net Nanny is a very powerful parental monitoring app that works very well on just about every device and operating system imaginable. Although it comes with class-leading social media monitoring and app control features, it does have a rather clunky web interface and comes with a high price tag. If you can live with these downsides, we are more than happy to give Net Nanny a sincere recommendation.

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Our methodology

Security should be the utmost priority of any family and high-end tech gadgets are here to help. From tenant screening services to home security systems, electronic equipment can help us deal with the insecurities of daily life, and the same goes for parenting. In order to find the best parental control software, we devised a methodology that uses both standard software considerations (price, value, ease of use, customer support) and ones specific to the industry (parental control for computers: filtering, blocking and reporting options, time management, activity, and social media tracking).

Content blocking and filtering

This is the essential feature that every child protection software needs to have. Different programs go about it slightly differently, but the main idea is setting up certain topics that will be considered inappropriate (violence, porn, racism, etc.) which the software then uses to filter out content and/or prevent access to certain websites. The best parental control apps will even send notifications to parents when their children try to access problematic content.

Remote reporting

Speaking of notifications and reporting, one of the key features that many good kid protection apps have is the ability to remotely report on a child’s activity. Kids often use the opportunity when their parents are not around, but with a software that has remote reporting functionality, you can always stay on top of things. It’s not just for restrictions, either: sometimes you may need to remotely allow your child more internet browsing time or manually unblock a specific page on a website, in order for them to finish a school project, for example.

Time management

The best parental control software isn’t limited to just blocking content. As mentioned above, parents will often want to simply restrict their children’s daily, weekly, or monthly internet usage. Instead of inappropriate content exposure, the worry here is simply that a child may be spending too much time on the internet. With the appropriate parental control settings, it’s possible to set up a weekly or monthly schedule for your children, block off internet access completely after a certain hour, or remotely allow extra hours in case your children really need to use the internet.

Activity logging

Activity logs are a common feature even in free parental control software, and for good reason. Not only do parents want to know that their children cannot access certain content (or overindulge in internet usage in general), but they also want to see what their children have been doing and what sites they have been visiting.
Most companies provide daily and weekly reports, while some even offer monthly summaries of a child’s device usage patterns. These can cover everything from websites visited to social networks and apps used.

App management

These days it’s not enough to just restrict browser access in order to make sure your kids aren’t exposed to dangerous content. The best free parental control app for Android and iOS platforms can also monitor and restrict mobile app usage, although these features are usually restricted to paid tiers with most providers. A good parental monitoring app will be able to control how phone apps behave and restrict the children’s access to the internet and online payments and more.

Social network monitoring

Depending on how important their child’s safety is, some parents are willing to go the extra step when it comes to parental monitoring software. While a lot of people may feel uncomfortable spying on their children’s Facebook activities, social networks represent dangers of their own. Considering the amount of time the average child spends on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, it may be well worth investigating what the best parental control tools have to say about their activities on those and other social networks.

Pricing and value

The overall value of parental monitoring apps is a consideration shared with every other type of software on the market. A lot of companies offer basic free plans, which often set a limit on the number of devices that can be monitored. Another option is getting a time-limited trial in order to test out the full functionality of the software. The overall value proposition can differ greatly between companies, so it’s well worth taking a good look at how much you’re getting for your money.

Usage experience

The final criteria on which we assessed the best parental monitoring software has to do with the overall user experience. This includes everything from what platforms the software works on and how easy it is to install and set up to how intuitive the program is in everyday usage.

5 best parental control apps in 2020

  • Qustodio
  • Kaspersky Safe Kids
  • Norton Family
  • Mobicip
  • Net Nanny

FAQ

Can I set parental controls on Google Chrome?

Yes, but in order to set up parental restrictions, you first have to make sure that SafeSearch is turned on. For more detailed parental controls, you can set up Google Family Link, block websites with a browser extension, or use a dedicated VPN for Chrome. For the best parental control on Android and other platforms, though, you’ll need one of the programs on our list.

How do I restrict Google searches?

Simply use either a website blocking extension or one of the programs for parental control on your PC, Mac, console, or mobile device.

Can I put parental controls on my Wi-Fi?

Without a doubt. While some routers automatically support these features, others may require that you install the OpenDNS protocol first. After that, it’s just a matter of setting it up in your router’s web settings.

Which parental control software is the best?

This depends on both your needs and budget. Check out our list of the best parental control software above, though: we have several excellent choices to consider, including Qustodio, Kaspersky Safe Kids, and Norton Family.