If your kids have smartphones, you know that it’s a full-time job trying to keep track and control their usage. According to recently released data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 94% of 15-year-olds have a mobile phone, 86% of minors are on the internet without any content filtering systems, and 28% to 38% of minors access unsafe or harmful content with those rates escalating as they get older.
Parental-control apps have made monitoring and protecting children much easier these days, giving you the ability to track locations, block objectionable or dangerous websites, restrict access to social media or games, and monitor who kids are communicating with. In the long run, these apps can also help children to develop good habits for how they use smartphones as they grow up.
We know it can be confusing to know what works best for you and your family, so we compiled a list of highly-rated apps to give you an idea of the resources and options available for monitoring children’s smartphone usage. What you choose will depend on factors such as your child’s age and what they use their phone for to decide which is best for you.
Before you decide to download or start using a new app, remember that there are often parental controls built into most phones these days that you might already have but not be aware of. For example, Google’s Family Link is very handy, Amazon’s parental controls are excellent, and Apple offers some parental controls too.
Norton Family Premier
Norton Family Premier comes free with Norton’s antivirus suite, Norton Security Premium, or you can purchase it on its own. This app works on both Android and iOS devices, but seems to have a lot more capabilities for Android and Windows. It offers location-tracking, time-scheduling, web-filtering and web-monitoring for both iOS and Android. In addition, Android users also get text-message logging and monitoring, and the ability to set time limits, shutting down their devices after a certain amount of time or during specific hours of the day.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Kaspersky Safe Kids offers web monitoring, time limits and app management. It can also allow you to see Facebook activity, view their location, block inappropriate websites, and “geofencing” by defining a safe area for your child to be in with alerts when they cross those boundaries. They offer a free version with limited capabilities, and the paid version is only $15 annual.
The FamilyTime app seems like it can do just about everything for both Android and iOS. It allows you to customize what your kids should have access to, set time limits, track location, set homework and bedtimes, or limit total time spent on the phone. You also have full access to location tracking and geofencing, can block apps, monitor calls and texts, and even view contact lists. FamilyTime offers both free and paid versions.
The Zift app works for both Android and iOS devices and offers excellent web-filtering technology and an intuitive, easy-to-use design. This app can track location, set time allowances and schedules for usage, and block apps (although how many you can block differs between the IOS and Android versions). It can also send instant alerts if possibly dangerous content is viewed that contains porn, drugs, weapons, and suicide-related topics.
The Qustodio app offers a dashboard that shows all recent mobile activity for any connected device, including time spent on specific services like Instagram or Twitter. You can set screen time limits or schedules, track calls and texts, limit access to objectionable websites, find their locations, and block apps and games. It’s highly customizable if you have a family with kids at different ages who need different levels of access, and it also works on Kindle and Nook devices. There are free and paid versions available, and some of the capabilities differ between Android and iOS, so be sure to do check before committing.