I have written a number of reviews of parental control tools since starting Be Web Smart in 2012. I regularly receive e-mails from companies asking me to review their products, and I continually research new options available to parents.
This list includes some of the products that I’ve wanted to write about, but just haven’t had the time. I’m also including some of the parental control and monitoring software tools I’ve written about already, for a “one-stop-shopping” resource on the site. I hope to keep this page maintained so as I review products, I will add the links here.
How to use this guide
As a parent, you might be looking for parental control tools for many possible reasons. You might be concerned about the content your child sees when surfing the web. You might be concerned about too much screen time and want to set limits. You might be concerned with who your child communicates with. You might be concerned with the content your teen is sharing on social media. You might be concerned with all these things!
Parental control tools can help you as part of a “digital parenting” toolkit. I say toolkit because that’s what any software product is – a tool to assist you, not to replace you. Meaning, you can’t just rely on a parental control software product alone. Ongoing discussions with the kids is key to establishing healthy internet and device usage habits. (See also: The Best Parental Control Tool? Parents)
Start when they’re young, and gradually reduce monitoring over time. The goal is that eventually your kids will internalize these controls and make good decisions online, without any monitoring or intervention from you OR a piece of software.
For each service listed here you’ll find:
- Platforms available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Kindle
- Price: Paid or free – sometimes you pay more for the full functionality, and sometimes the price covers multiple devices/users, so please visit their pricing pages for details, and for any changes in pricing since original publication of this page.
- Link to my review if I have one, as well as the company website
- Summary of features – can you set time limits? Review text messages? Filter out porn and other inappropriate content? See what apps are being used?
So here in alphabetical order, a comprehensive list of parental control tools for phones, computers and tablets that parents might want to consider. Use this list and my reviews as a starting point in your research for the parental control tool that works best for your family.
Covenant Eyes – Covenant Eyes offers internet accountability and filtering software for computers, tablets and mobile devices. Accountability means that web activity is reported but not blocked, while filtering can be set to block content at 6 different levels such as youth, teen, and mature. The Filter Guardian can block Internet access at certain times of day (however not on iOS). If you’re concerned about porn addiction, Covenant Eyes also publishes some very helpful resources.
- Available for: PC, Mac, Android, Kindle, iOS
- Cost: Starts at $11.99/month, 30-day money back guarantee
- Review: Covenant Eyes Review by Be Web Smart
- Website*: http://www.covenanteyes.com/
Curbi – Curbi offers content filtering, for example to block adult sites. You can view installed apps, and can block apps and content by category at set times (such as bed time) using rules. For example, block social media apps during homework time. Set a “time out” on the device at a moment’s notice to disable internet access. Restrict device features such as the camera, Safari (which you can also accomplish using the built-in Restrictions)
- Available for: iOS, Android
- Cost: Free for up to 2 devices with basic features, $3.99/month premium
- Website: http://www.curbi.com/
FamilyTime – FamilyTime offers a large feature list so they divvy it up into groups such as Family watch (web and call history), Family Care (block apps, filter contacts), Family Locator, Family Link and Family Plus. Of note is the ability to “blacklist” an app (on Android), meaning block apps that you don’t want your kids using. FamilyTime recently added ability to set time limits and schedules for iOS devices. Features differ between iOS/Android so read carefully.
- Available for: Android, iOS, Kindle
- Cost: Free plan for limited features, Premium plans at three pricing levels
- Website: http://familytime.io/
MamaBear –MamaBear offers social media monitoring for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr; location monitoring and alerts; and one of the few that offers speeding alerts for teen drivers. The Android version also offers text message monitoring.
- Available for: iOS, Android
- Cost: Free plan which is ad supported, 3-month premium for $14.99 and 6 months for $24.99
- Website: http://mamabearapp.com/
Microsoft Family Safety – Family Safety is a feature available on your Windows PC’s and devices. With Family Safety you can monitor web site activity, block inappropriate web sites or block all web activity except the sites you decide, set time limits, and see which apps and programs were used. Take note, recent changes to prepare for Windows 10 have simplified these settings, but at the same time reduced the ability to fine-tune settings. To use with Windows 10, you have to create a Microsoft.com account for each family member. (One reviewer stated “They simplified this feature by severely reducing its functionality.”)
- Available for: Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10, Windows Phones, Surface tablets
- Cost: Free
- Website: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/family-safety-features-in-windows and https://account.microsoft.com/family/faq/
Mobicip – Mobicip was one of the first products I reviewed. At that time Mobicip was primarily a kid-safe browser. Since then, additional content filtering and monitoring features have been added such as ability to see what apps have been added to your child’s device, and the ability to set time limits for Internet usage. Mobicip has also partnered with Verizon to bring their filtering to Verizon wireless customers.
- Available for: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Kindle and Nook
- Cost: Basic plan is free, Premium is $39.99/year for up to 5 devices
- Review: Mobicip and other kids safe browsers
- Website*: http://www.mobicip.com/
NetNanny – NetNanny has been protecting family computers since 2001. Their service provides content filtering/ monitoring, such as porn blocking and profanity masking, time management, alerts and reporting, and the option for personal accountability. Net Nanny Social is no longer mentioned on the Net Nanny website, so it is unclear if any social media monitoring is available.
- Available for: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
- Cost: Varies depending on platform and number of devices. The Family Pass starts at $44.99 per year for 5 devices. Android and iOS support is only available with a Family Pass.
- Website: https://www.netnanny.com/
NetSanity – NetSanity includes a slew of features that parents may be looking for including the ability to block specific apps and games such as Instagram or Snapchat – just about the only service that does this. You can block Internet access or lock the screen at a moment’s notice, set a daily schedule for internet and app use, view location, and filter content for appropriate viewing.
- Available for: iOS and Samsung Android devices
- Cost: Monthly plans starting at $6.95; discounted annual plans; 14-day free trial
- Review: NetSanity Review by Be Web Smart
- Website: http://www.netsanity.net
OurPact – With OurPact, you can block internet and app usage on a recurring schedule or as needed, all from an app on your iOS device or the web. With the new premium version, you can block specific apps either entirely or on a schedule, block texting on both iOS and Android, establish screen time allowance and enable a family locator. And, OurPact has a new solution for the scrambled app issue you’ll find with most iOS parental control tools – premium subscribers can use “App Organizer”.
- Available for: iOS and Android monitoring; Parent app runs on iOS
- Cost: Free for 1 device with limited features; $1.99/month for up to 10 devices; OurPact premium for all features on up to 20 devices.
- Review: OurPact Review by Be Web Smart
- Website: http://ourpact.com/
PocketGuardian – With PocketGuardian you can monitor texts and social media accounts without feeling like you’re “spying” on your kids. The service looks for evidence of inappropriate content such as bullying or sexting and notifies you by e-mail, without revealing the actual content, just that it was sent or received. PocketGuardian can monitor web viewing history, iMessage and SMS text messages along with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram along with Kik, Oovoo, Viber, WhatsApp, Whisper, Tinder, and Snapchat stories.
- Available for: Android, iOS
- Cost: 12.99/month per household; multiple devices. Free 30 day trial.
- Review: PocketGuardian Review by Be Web Smart
- Website: https://gopocketguardian.com/
Pumpic – Pumpic is a monitoring tool for iOS and Android devices. Using Pumpic you can monitor text messages including iMessages; view web browsing and phone call histories; view location history, and monitor some popular messaging tools such as Kik, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Skype. One note though, some features are Android only OR will only work if you jailbreak your iOS device or “root” your Android (though Pumpic is moving away from iOS jailbreaking). There is a demo account online so you can see what the parental dashboard looks like – very intuitive.
- Available for: Android, iOS
- Cost: Starting at $6.23/month Android basic; $12.36/month iOS
- Review: Pumpic Review by Be Web Smart
- Website: http://pumpic.com
Qustodio – Qustodio offers a free service along with a more comprehensive premium service. With free you get content monitoring/filtering, safe search, social activity monitoring, along with time limit controls. Premium adds app and game blocking, location tracking and text and phone call log list (not all of these available for iOS, though their Apple support has greatly improved since my original review). Easy to install with an easy to read dashboard.
- Available for: PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook
- Cost: $54.95/year for premium on up to 5 devices; free version; free trial
- Review: Qustodio Review by Be Web Smart
- Website*: https://www.qustodio.com/
Rakkoon – Rakkoon is a monitoring tool designed to start conversations and help kids learn how to use social media responsibly. The Rakkoon app is installed on child and parent devices. As children use their social media apps, both parents AND child receive notifications of any concerning/inappropriate content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+. Parents can also view usage reports showing how much time was sent on each social media channel. Usage reports also cover Snapchat, YouTube, Vine, Tumblr, Kik, Tinder, musical.ly, WhatsApp and YikYak. Want to find out if your kid has a Finsta account? This is one the main reasons parents try out RAKKOON! And the monitoring uses image recognition to alert you to concerning images.
- Available for: iOS
- Cost: $9.99/month– multiple devices and users; free 14 day trial
- Website: https://www.rakkoon.com/
SafeKidsPro – SafeKidsPro is a social media monitoring tool. You can monitor up to 8 Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts, and reports for Tinder, LinkedIn, Reddit and Tumblr. You can decide what alerts you want to receive for each account being monitored, so you can set stricter restrictions for younger kids, for example. Receive real-time notifications of inappropriate, threatening, offensive and/or dangerous content.
- Available for: Any device
- Cost: Free 1 year trial, however I could not find any additional pricing information on their website.
- Website: https://safekidspro.com/
TeenSafe – TeenSafe is a phone and texting monitoring tool. It is one of the only products that will allow for the monitoring of iMessages in iOS. You can also monitor phone location, phone call logs, and web and search history. TeenSafe has also added TeenSafe Control (iOS only for now) for blocking apps by appropriateness or type, setting restrictions, and pausing your teen’s phone.
- Available for: Android, iOS
- Cost: $14.95/month after a free trial period; Control app for iOS $9.99/month
- Review: TeenSafe Review by Be Web Smart
- Website: http://www.teensafe.com
uKnowKids – uKnowKids was one of the first parental control tools that I reviewed, back in 2012, and they have added many new features and improvements since then. They call their product a parental “intelligence” tool. From a single dashboard you can view and monitor activity such Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; pictures, text messages, contacts and call history, location history, and installed apps. You can also scan to see if your child has created social media accounts you don’t know about. uKnowKids is one of the only products that can monitor iMessages.
- Available for: Android, iOS
- Cost: starting at $10/month, up to
$240(discounted to $120 for Be Web Smart Readers) for a one-time “lifetime” iOS plan; 1 week free trial.
- Review: uKnowKids Review by Be Web Smart and
- Website*: http://www.uknowkids.com
VISR – VISR is a social media monitoring tool that notifies you when potentially unsafe activity (such as sexting or bullying) or objectionable content is detected. VISR can monitor your child’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Pinterest, Tumblr or KidsEmail account. Great choice when you don’t want to see everything; just the potentially bad stuff.
I’ll be adding to the list as I didn’t get a chance to include all the available products. Bookmark the page for future reference or follow Be Web Smart on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll announce updates to this list. You may also want to visit the companion list of Parental Controls that cover every device in your home, such as Circle by Disney and KoalaSafe.
If you try any of the services, or know of others I should add to my “to-do” list, please leave a comment!