No Go: Reviewing Parental Control Software for Smartphones

Fair to say that these days – more than ever before – it’s necessary for parents to establish some boundaries as to where their children are able to go on the Internet. We imagine that’s fairly apparent, even for those who aren’t parents. Impressionable minds do need to be kept safe from bad influences, and accordingly more and more Moms and Dads are actively seeking ways to restrict their children’s use of their mobile devices and where they ‘go’ with them.

Many of us here at 4GoodHosting are similarly minded, and as a Canadian web hosting provider we know it’s safe to assume that this is a priority for a good many of our customers too. For this reason we’re choosing to make a review of the best parental internet browser controls our topic for the blog today. And considering most parents are extremely busy people who’d prefer to spend as little time as possible on any one task, we imagine this review will be well received.

The Pocket Problem

It’s easier to keep tabs on your children’s browsing habits when you’re at home, and parental controls for desktop and notebook computers are much more commonplace and understood. When it comes to putting constraints on what they can do with their smartphones, however, it’s much more of a grey area and more challenging as a result. It’s something of a pocket problem, because they can be accessing data or finding a Wi-Fi connection pretty much anywhere, and not only are you not around to oversee them, but you may have thought there’s nothing you can do to their device to put restrictions on it.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are good smartphone parental controls out there, and so let’s not waste any more time in getting to discussing which ones are best. The best parental control apps offer ways to limit time spent on devices, track usage and location, and block apps or games. There are some free parental controls built into most devices nowadays, so you may not need to pay for a third-party app at all. There’s Google’s Family Link, Amazon’s parental controls are excellent, and Apple offers some parental controls too.

Alright, here’s our list:

  1. FamilyTime (Android and iOS)

This parental control app does everything, allowing you to explicitly customize what content your young ones will have access to, set time limits, track location, and more. Tool let your incorporate homework and bedtime limits, or create overall time limits. You can also get geofencing support that sends alerts when that phone enters or leaves a specific area, plus location tracking that allows you to see where your child is. You can also block or control on an app-by-app basis, place internet filters, monitor calls and texts, and overviews contact lists on the device.

There is a free version of this one, but you only receive a small subset of features. Premium ones for FamilyTime come with different plans available. $27 per year will set you up in full for one device, and $69 per year will do the same for up to 5 devices.

  1. Qustodio (Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook)

Qustodio gets high marks for user-friendliness and efficiency, and is a very good choice for parents for whom time is a scarce commodity. Its dashboard is particularly impressive, showing you all recent mobile activity for any of the connected devices. Reports include time spent on specific services like Instagram or Twitter, and you can set time limits, track texts, filter out sites you deem inappropriate, as well as block games or apps.

Add a host of customization options and it’s a great parental control app to use when managing devices for kids of multiple ages. Lastly, it works on Kindle or Nook devices, and is one of the only ones that does.

Qustodio costs $55 annually for the five-device plan. However, there is a free version with limited controls that you can use on just 1 device.

  1. ESET Parental Control (Android)

ESET is quite a good parental control app, but it’s limitation is that it’s only for Android devices. The free version lets you engage in app blocking, time limits on games, and basic reporting. The premium version allows website blocking, tracking location, parental messaging, and more detailed reports about what the smartphone user is doing.

ESET does have one especially smart feature – the parental message feature. It allows you to send out a message that your child must respond, otherwise they will not be able to continue using the phone. There’s a free 30-day trial for premium features, but following that it costs $30 per year, per device.

  1. Web Watcher (Android and iOS)

Web Watcher may be the best choice for those of you who see keeping tabs on your child’s text messaging as a priority. You’ll see all of them, including deleted texts, as well as photos, web browsing, call log, and location. Web Watcher also lets you oversee their activity on certain apps, including Tinder, WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber. Setting time limits and even capturing screenshots of your kid’s phone screen are also possible.

One of the things about Web Watcher is that because it’s essentially spyware, with a stealth mode, it has to be installed outside of the official app store. Be aware that serious security permissions are required, and it’s very invasive. However, it’s true that that is what some parents are after. It’s also far from cheap – it starts at $130 per year per device.

  1. Norton Family Premier (Android and iOS)

Norton is the premier name in antivirus software, and Norton Family Premier is a smartly designed program for restricting and monitoring what children do online. Family Premier offers parents a variety of features that are easily managed with the clean interface. Number 1 among its useful features is its robust web supervision; you can block sites entirely, or keep a general log of sites visited. You can make it so that warnings will be issued for sites that you choose not to ban outright, but where you would prefer your kids to proceed with caution.

You’re also able to set time limits, prevent device operation during specific hours of the day or night, and of course block apps too. The cost is $50 per year, but there’s no limits to the amount of devices you can use it with.

  1. Net Nanny (Android and iOS)

This feature-packed parental control allows you to track location, block apps, set time limits, and get a real-time feed of your child’s activity. You also have powerful web filtering controls for cutting out pornography, weapons, drugs and other content that is indisputably inappropriate for young people. Net Nanny does not allow for call or text snooping or monitoring of messenger apps, but you can see when they’re using them plus review their web searches.

Net Nanny costs $55 per year for up to five device pass, and can be used for non-mobile internet browsing devices too. There’s also a 20-device pass for $90 per year.

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We’ll conclude here today with some helpful tips – When picking a parental control app, writing down your password or login information isn’t advisable, no matter how well you think you can hide it. Creating a news alert for the software you choose to help keep an eye out for any new vulnerabilities or workarounds is also wise. Keep in mind that some software can be bypassed with phone resets, customer service requests, and other tricks. There’s plenty of information online regarding this.

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