If you're concerned about who your kids might be talking to online, there's even a voice-activated sound recorder.
If your children are a little older and more responsible, you can pick and choose which options to monitor and give them a little privacy. The free software only covers one device and lacks some of the sneakier features of the premium editions including silent monitoring of WhatsApp conversations and the ability to listen to Skype calls , but it's still a well-rounded tool if you're concerned about your kids' safety. Read our full Kidlogger review. Keyloggers have something of a bad reputation online, as they're often used by crooks hoping to capture passwords and bank details, but they can be a force for good too, and Spyrix Free Keylogger enables you to see what your children have been up to.
Although it's dubbed parental control software, the free version of Spyrix really a monitoring program; it doesn't stop the kids getting up to no good, but it does let you see exactly what they've done. The absence of filtering means Spyrix might not be the best choice for younger kids' computers, but it may be useful for older children if you suspect online bullying or other unpleasantness.
Kaspersky Safe Kids is parental control software for all devices — desktop and mobile — with both free and paid-for versions. The free edition includes a blacklist that prevents your kids seeing inappropriate content online, plus app controls that let you manage app use by time used, age restrictions, and category if you don't want your kids playing games on a school night, for example. There's also a screen time management tool to help you control overall device use,.
The paid version adds more mobile-specific features, including a battery tracker so you can see if your kid's phone is about to go flat, leaving them without a way to contact you. You can also keep an eye on their location with GPS tracking, manage their social media use, and receive real-time alerts if they visit websites they shouldn't or leave a pre-defined 'safe' area.
We found that it took longer than usual to log into a Windows account when Kaspersky Safe Kids was running on a Windows 10 PC, so this is worth bearing in mind if your kids' PC is a little on the slow side already. Wondershare Famisafe. A premium parental control app for mobile devices, Famisafe can be installed on up to 30 devices per account.
It features all the usual tools for keeping kids safe, including setting time limits and blocking inappropriate content, but can also detect potentially inappropriate photos and text messages, block games, and monitor your kids' whereabouts with GPS and geofencing. A full suite of parental control tools to keep your kids safe online. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a tool to create a family media plan , including a calculator that determines how much time a child should be allowed to spend on screen time, balancing it against the amount of sleep and active time a child needs.
Common Sense Media answers commonly asked questions about screen time, researches how children are using technology, and gives parents tips and advice on healthy technology use. The parental-controls market is a large and open-ended one: Some specialize in blocking pornography and other inappropriate content, others claim to monitor social media for cyberbullying.
Under pressure from parents and shareholders , as well as a digital-addiction awareness movement among Silicon Valley movers and shakers , both Google and Apple have recently rolled out free parental controls. Apple, for its part, has said that it began developing Screen Time before the letter from shareholders. Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at Common Sense Media, recommends that parents start with the least invasive controls.
Though parents naturally have the urge to keep their kids safe, they also have to give their kids room to make mistakes and figure things out on their own.
Other apps to consider
Some experts also warn that heavy surveillance could undermine your relationship with your child. Anya Kamenetz, author of The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life , suggests thinking of parental controls as scaffolding that can help kids develop self-control so that they can eventually manage how they use their phone on their own. These devices have been recommended by the organization Wait Until 8th as a beginner step to owning a cell phone, and we plan to review them in a future guide. But we expect that as parents upgrade to new phones, they will be inclined to pass down their old ones.
The best parental control apps for Android and iPhone 2020
Based on our research and interviews with experts, we determined that parental controls need to include three key features:. To determine our finalists, we surveyed parents and studied recent reviews and reports on parental controls. We narrowed the list down to:. I used an iPhone X as the parent phone.
2020 Parental Control Software & Cell Phone Monitoring Comparison Guide
We spent about 30 hours installing and examining the parental controls one at a time. We set daily caps and bedtime schedules on the phones, and handed them over to our kids to see if they worked. We also spent time looking at how the parental controls managed Web searches, text messaging, phone calls, location tracking, and the ability to download or delete apps. We did not test on an Android tablet because our preferred budget alternative to the iPad is the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition , which has good built-in parental controls.
As with other parental controls, Screen Time lets parents set a daily limit on the amount of time their child can spend on their iPhone, as well as automatically shut the phone down at bedtime. But unlike third-party iOS apps like Qustodio and unGlue for the iPhone, Screen Time provides parents with a deeper look at how their child is using their device, by showing how much time their child spends on social networking or entertainment apps. Compared with third-party apps, Screen Time also gives parents the most flexibility to manage how much time their child spends on certain kinds of apps; for instance, parents can allow their child to read ebooks for as long as they want, block all games, and limit social networking to an hour a day.
Screen Time displays a stacked bar chart left that shows how much time has been spent on specific app categories. With Apple Screen Time, you can set time limits for usage by app category left as well as content or ratings restrictions right. Screen Time allows you to set time limits by increments as small as 1 minute left as well as by day, and also to schedule what the company calls Downtime, a period when most phone functionality can be disabled right.
Screen Time groups apps into nine categories, including entertainment, games, social networking, education, and productivity. Once their child reaches the limit, the apps are blocked and the child must request additional time from the parent. In addition, parents can limit how much time their child spends on individual apps each day. Phone calls can still be made during Downtime, and the clock can also still be accessed. Parents can also track their own screen habits Screen Time is automatically included in iOS 12; you can turn it off if you prefer not to track your personal iPhone use.
This feature can be a starting point for parents to talk to their kids about how best to use their phone—and when to put it down. Inside Screen Time, parents can also manage the content that their child can access. For instance, they can prevent the child from downloading new apps or making in-app purchases, or allow it. They can also block the child from adult websites, as well as set age restrictions for content from music, videos, and books. Chen concluded in his review. Screen Time has plenty of room to improve.
Geoffrey A. Fowler, a columnist for The Washington Post, complained that this was just one of too many decisions that a parent must make with this new feature of iOS Although apps like Qustodio provide guidance during installation, with Screen Time, you have to look up any kind of instruction. Finding certain information—like how specific apps are categorized—involves too many clicks. Parents must go in and manually change the restrictions if they want them to be more age appropriate.
Also note that the filters apply only to the Safari browser and iTunes content. Parents still need to check the content filters on individual apps; for instance, in the Netflix app, parents need to designate that it is for kids only. This is a disappointment because many older iPhones can still be used, including iPhones that are more than five years old. Finally, kids have already found ways to get around some aspects of Screen Time, such as one child sending YouTube links to himself on iMessage, and watching them after his entertainment time limit was up. Google Family Link is best for families with children under 13 in Android-dedicated households, or for kids who have an Android phone even if their parents use iPhones a not-uncommon situation because budget Android phones are plentiful.
With Google Family Link, parents can limit how much time their child spends on the phone daily and block access to the phone at bedtime. The app also provides weekly and monthly reports on usage. Google Family Link lets you see how much time your kid spends on each app and allows you to block apps.
You can also lock and unlock access to the phone with one touch. With Google Family Link, parents can set a daily limit for screen time.
Parents can also see how much time their child spends on individual apps, and block specific apps. After seeing my kids spend close to an hour on YouTube Kids, for instance, I blocked it, which made the app disappear from the phone. Once I unblocked the app, it reappeared. Like Qustodio, Google Family Link also allows parents to set a bedtime, automatically shutting down access to the smartphone at the appointed hour. The only way to unlock the phone once it shuts down is through a parent access code, retrieved from the parent app, which expires five minutes after it was generated.
Inside Google Family Link, parents can also require kids to seek approval for any in-app purchases, purchases in the Google Play store, or downloads of new apps. Note, however, that it blocks only in-app purchases of content such as a virtual sword; blocking does not apply to purchases of actual goods inside shopping apps.
The app stopped us from purchasing gold coins in the digital pet game Pululu , but it did not prevent us from making a purchase in the Etsy app. Like all of the parental controls options we tested, Google Family Link blocks mature sites and content, but in this case, the default settings are set to mature and requires a parent to change them manually.
The best free parental control software | TechRadar
Google says that the data it saves is used to improve its services. Once your child turns 13, they can opt out of Family Link. The reasoning, Google says, is that kids are allowed to sign up for their own account on Google once they turn Chen in a review. It could let the parent decide when the child has demonstrated safe, responsible smartphone use and graduate from all restrictions. That might happen when the child turns 13, 15 or even But the children should not be allowed to strip away settings just because they turn Our approach is to give parents and kids transparency, and encourage a family conversation around this moment.
Those emails inform both the parent and child of some of the changes that will take effect if the child decides to graduate. This is something we continue to get feedback on and will continue to consider the best approach. If your child is 13 or older and uses an Android phone, the paid version of Qustodio is your best bet.
Discounts are frequently offered on its website. Unlike with Google Family Link, you use the same email account to set up the app on both devices. Qustodio offers the most features and flexibility among the third-party parental-control apps we tested. The paid version allows you to set multiple schedules, limit overall phone use and specific app use, and block phone and app use.
The best parental control app you can get
Keep in mind, though, that many experts warn that this level of monitoring is not actually good for kids. Qustodio also offers a free version, which can be used on one device. With it, parents can set a schedule and determine how much time—by minute increments, and up to 24 hours—their child spends on the phone daily.
The free version also includes reports for parents, as well as the Web filter, but little else.