The internet is a great place for kids to learn and explore, but as a parent, you also want to keep your children safe. Thankfully, hundreds of apps have popped up to track internet use and block harmful content. Some even track your kid’s location. But sifting everything to find the gems is daunting.
We’ve done the deep digging to build this list of the best parental control apps on offer. Our top pick for PC and laptop monitoring is Kaspersky Safe Kids. It’s got a full range of features at a low price. The best Android parental control app is Google Family Link. It tracks content, screen time, and even child location for free. Plus, half a million users can’t be wrong.
10 best parental control apps
We ranked the 10 best parental control apps below based on features, price, user ratings, numbers of downloads, pro reviews, and other key factors to make sure you’re getting the best insights. We also road-tested each piece of software to give a feel of how each one works. All pricing is current as of the publication date of this article.
1. Google Family Link – best Android parental control app
First on our list is Google Family Link for Android
. It is loved, loved, loved by more than 500,000 moms and dads and also has versions for Chrome OS and iOS
. Its sky-high 4.2-star rating on the Google Play store is thanks to a wide range of features that work simply, and simply work. Track app activity and screen time, block harmful apps and content, and even see your child’s physical location.
The app is free to use, but it doesn’t offer call or text control. There’s also no geofencing
option, either, so you won’t get notified when your kids step out of the neighborhood or out of town. If that’s a problem and you don’t want to pay $40 or more per year for a top parental monitoring app, just add a separate free geofencing app
. If call and text monitoring are a must, try Safe Lagoon below.
2. Kaspersky Safe Kids – best parental control app for PCs
Need an app for your kid’s PC? This is our top pick for Windows. What was your kid looking at on YouTube last night? Is she using inappropriate apps or games? Kaspersky Safe Kids
generates reports on web use and Facebook activity, including posts and newly-added friends. Filter content, control app use, and manage your kid’s screen time.
You’ll also get real-time alerts when your kids wander from their comfort zone. The free version is feature-rich, and the paid plan is a minimal cost. There’s a mobile version but it’s not a crowd-pleaser, mostly because savvy kids can disable it at will.
Cost: Free version, paid family plan $15 per year
3. Safe Lagoon – full-featured Android parental control app
A close second in the race for the best parental control app for Android
is Safe Lagoon. Also available on iOS
, this one does it all, though its treasure-trove of features does come at a price. You’ll pay $5 to $10 per month depending on which pricing tier you choose. There’s a free option too, but it only works for a single device and is stripped down to web filtering.
So what does this parental control software do? It lets you monitor up to 20 kids, see IMs and texts, track GPS location, and filter web results. You can set screen time limits and schedules and even peek in on YouTube usage history. It gets 4.3 stars from 6,600+ users on Google Play. There’s a Windows 10 version in the works, but it wasn’t available by our publication date.
Cost: Free, $5, or $10 per month, depending on the plan
4. FamilyTime – budget Android parental control app
If you’re on a tight budget, consider FamilyTime
as the best parental app for Android. This one only costs $1 to $2 per month per child. It lets you see where your kids are, set up geofencing alerts, and see who they’re in touch with. You can view their contact lists too, as well as call records and SMS message history.
Monitor and block offending websites, limit screen time, and block apps or games you don’t like. Want to set up scheduled times for lockdown, bedtime, or homework? FamilyTime lets you do that too. View your kids’ web history and installed apps and even get notified when your teen drives too fast.
FamilyTime gets fairly high 3.9-star reviews from thousands of users, but it has two drawbacks. First, you can’t use it to monitor laptops or PCs. Second, about 25% of its reviewers on Google Play give it a 1-star rating for less-than-stellar customer support.
Cost: $1 to $2 per month per child
5. Screen Time – user-friendly Android parental control app
The Screen Time
parental control app for Android and iOS packs in a lot of features for less than $10 per month. Get daily web app reports and manage all your kids’ devices with one account. Block apps, control Kindle use, and track locations. Want to see a map of where Kate or Kevin were and not just where they are? It does that too.
This app has everything, including geofencing to get alerts when kids leave approved real-world areas. Browse your kids’ web history, approve or block apps, and even enter “free play” for when you want to borrow a protected device in a pinch without running up against annoying roadblocks. It also gets stellar reviews from tens of thousands of happy users.
Downside - no text or call history monitoring. For that, see Safe Lagoon above.
Cost: $10 per month
6. Surfie – capture conversations and chats
Next on our list is Surfie
, which appears to have everything. See your kids’ physical location history as well as browsing history. Get notified through geofencing when Jack or Jill move out of approved areas. Protect your kids across platforms, on both mobile devices and PCs.
You can also track and block apps and games and set up online safety nets to catch offensive content. You can manage screen time too, and get social networking alerts and chat history. So why is it #6 on our list? It doesn’t get the highest marks from users who say it can be glitchy and difficult to use.
Cost: $4.99 per month, $49.99 per year
7. Kidslox – powerful website and app blocking
The main attraction of the Kidslox
parental control software is its lifetime buyout option for around $100. It comes packed with content, website, and app tracking and monitoring tools for Android and iOS. As with many of the entries here, parents can use it to set screen time limits and track physical locations.
You can add up to 10 devices per account, but you can’t read text messages or check up on browsing history. Kidslox deems this “spying on your kids,” and limits itself to being a door guardian to stop children from entering forbidden web zones. The app gets fairly high ratings from Android and iOS users.
Cost: $100 one time payment for a lifetime membership
8. ContentBarrier – Mac-only parental control app
Would you let your kids ride their bikes on a freeway? That’s the sales pitch from ContentBarrier X9
, a MacOS-only parental monitoring app. It combines time limits and forbidden website blocking with anti-predator chat monitoring. The monitoring works via AI and notifies you only if objectionable chats pop up.
ContentBarrier costs upwards of $40 per year and doesn’t work on Android, iOS, or Windows 10. It lets you set up a whitelist for sites you like, and view a history of past chats in case you get curious. A Time Machine-like control also shows screenshots of web activity, and even records keystrokes.
Cost: $40 per year
9. Norton Family – great parental control app for PCs
Norton thinks its award-winning Norton Family
parental control app is so good, they’ll give you 6 months free. It gets full marks from professional reviewers for its robust features list and excellent PC protection and monitoring. Set screen time limits, get insights into app and website use, and add as many monitored devices as you like.
Now for the downsides. It doesn’t work on Macs, lacks geofencing, and skimps a bit on social media. It also costs around $50 per year. Another mark against it is its relatively low user scores from Android and very low scores from iOS users.
Cost: Free 6-month trial, then $50 per year
10. Qustodio – stout time restrictions and geofencing tools
would be higher on our list of the best parental control apps, but it has a couple of problems. It rolls in every feature you could ever want, from app tracking to screen time tracking to geofencing and more. It features cross-platform support in a good looking interface, too.
However, the free plan is feature-skimpy. Premium plans start at over $40 and run up over $100 per year. If budget matters, choose one of the apps above and add a free geofencing app to round things out. Another issue is that it’s glitchy, earning it low 2 to 3-star average ratings on Google Play and the App Store from tens of thousands of users.
Cost: Free, $40 per year, or $100 per year depending on plan.
App-specific parental controls
Better safe than sorry. Most of the parental control phone apps above block harmful content on services like YouTube and Facebook. But what about your Roku box or streaming apps like Hulu? Here’s a list of links to free parental controls on popular apps, devices, and online services.
Kaspersky Safe Kids tops our list of the best parental control apps for laptops. If you’re searching for an Android parental control app, start with Google Family Link for its comprehensive functions and high ratings from more than half a million moms and dads (it’s also free).
For parental monitoring, location tracking, content blocking, and more, these software options will help you tame the modern online jungle.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.