Best for All-Around Protection

If you go for the paid-for version, you'll also get SMS monitoring, social media features and per-app controls. Its raft of features and support for a wide range of platforms make Qustodio the best free parental control software, but there are some other excellent free programs available, some of which may be better suited to your individual needs as a parent. Read on for the rest of our our top choices.

One of the big pluses here is that while FamilyShield can run on PCs and mobile devices, you can also apply it to your network router and filter all the traffic that passes through it — it's just a matter of changing the DNS server numbers in your control panel. By filtering everything at the router level, every device on your network benefits from the filters.

For more options, there's also a premium service available. Nothing gets past KidLogger. This free parental control software not only tracks what your children type and which websites they visit — it also keeps a record of which programs they use and any screengrabs they take. 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.

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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.

If you want content blocking too, premium subscriptions aren't expensive. 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. 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. Armed with that information, parents can easily make comprehensive screen time rules at a touch, from blocking apps to setting a screen time schedule and limits. It is an extremely powerful tool for parents who are dealing with kids who are glued to their devices.

The individual app restriction feature allows you to block certain apps or app categories.

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FamiSafe also has a content management feature that prevents in-app purchases in the App Store and blocks explicit content on Apple Books. Parents can monitor browsing history on main browsers and enable Google and Bing SafeSearch to automatically filter explicit search results. Parents can also receive different types of alerts on their cell phones with important warnings like kids visiting suspicious sites, watching blocked YouTube videos, or installing unknown apps.

FamiSafe is perfect for parents who need to monitor multiple children at once.

Apple Screen Time

With all of the customizable features, this is a perfect way to keep track of the needs of kids of different ages. Along with FamiSafe, you can help your kids form good digital habits, keep track of their whereabouts, and keep them safe from online danger. FamiSafe has protected over one million kids and counting, and is the ultimate online danger blocker. Get FamiSafe. Qustodio software is available for Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Kindle devices and provides a comprehensive dashboard to help you monitor your child's online activity.

The free version allows you to keep tabs on your child's web and search engine use, track her Facebook and Twitter logins, and set time controls, while Qustodio Premium also allows you to track her location, block certain games and apps, monitor calls and text messaging, and more. Get Qustodio. This software system can be installed on up to 10 different PC, Mac, or Android devices note: the software is not supported by Windows XP, and you need to purchase a separate product for Net Nanny to work on iOS devices.

It allows you to "mask" profanity on web pages — which can be useful if, for example, your child needs to read a news article for a school assignment but the comments section is loaded with swear words. You can set Internet time allowances for each child using a weekly grid divided into minute time blocks, so it's easy to prevent Web access during homework time or bedtime. This app has so many useful features including social media monitoring, location tracking and alerts, and more.

It is known as an all-in-one worry-free app. Social media monitoring is one of the most helpful features. With MamaBear you can monitor Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook activity to know when they have new tags, check-ins, or upload photos. You can also be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying are posted to their profiles by building your restricted words list. You can also get notifications when your teen drives or rides over a speed limit you set. There are several plan options including a free version.

Get it on iTunes. Screen Time is committed to letting kids be kids, and exploring the realm of childhood, outside their screens. Screen Time lets parents remotely monitor the amount of screen time kids spend on their mobile devices. Screen Time lets you set daily time limits, assign tasks to your kids to complete like homework, see which apps your child uses the most, and more. To find out if your kids' favorite apps offer any types of restrictions, go to the app's settings section usually represented by the gear icon.

Unless an app offers passcode protection for its settings and most don't , your kid can easily reverse them. Yes, kids can undo parental controls. In fact, the directions on how to get around them are easily available on the internet. Depending on your software, you may get a notification that the parental control was breached -- or not. Kids can figure out all sorts of ingenious methods to keep doing what they want to be doing -- talking to friends, staying up late playing Fortnite, and watching videos you don't want them to see.

If you notice something fishy such as a steep drop-off in your parental control notifications, Wi-Fi or data activity after you've turned off the network, or anything else that indicates the parental control isn't working the way it's supposed to, your kid may have figured out how to get around it.

Best cell phone parental control apps 2021

It could be for another reason, though, since parental controls can be affected by system updates, power outages, and other technical issues. It really depends on the type of controls you install and the devices you have. Some parental controls can be installed without your kids knowing, but Common Sense Media doesn't recommend it unless you have a really serious issue with your kid and you need to monitor discreetly.

In fact, be cautious with companies that promise covert monitoring, as they tend to prey on parents' fears. Parental control companies that encourage open dialogue will most likely be more helpful anyway, because at some point you'll need to discuss what you find. And that's a lot easier to do if your kid already knows you're monitoring them. If you decide to use parental controls, talk to your kids about why you're using them to help keep them safe and how your ultimate goal is for them to learn how to interact online responsibly and regulate their own usage independently.

Check out our talking points for building trust with your kid when you're using parental controls. Parents' Ultimate Guide to Support our work! Corona Column 3 Use these free activities to help kids explore our planet, learn about global challenges, think of solutions, and take action.

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What are the options? Do they really work? Here's everything you need to know about the wide array of parental control solutions, from OS settings to monitoring apps to network hardware. By Caroline Knorr.

Best for Large Families

What are the best parental controls if I want to: Block websites. Can I set parental controls in specific apps, such as Snapchat and TikTok? Updated March 9, Kid-Safe Browsers and Search Sites. Starter Games for Parents to Play Starter Games for Parents to Play with Kids.