When it comes to children and electronic devices, it's better to be safe than sorry. Since you can't always be looking over their shoulder, there are a ton of parental control apps with features like usage monitoring and limits, location tracking and blocking content to make sure kids stay safe and responsible when using smartphones and tablets. Here are the free and paid apps from reputable companies which we think are worth considering.
Google Family Link
Google has finally created a free parental control solution, and while it may not be as robust as the paid options we discuss later, it gets the job done. With Family Link, you create a special Google account for your kid which gives them access to Google services but puts you in the driver's seat. Features include approving or blocking app downloads, monitoring screen time by app and setting daily limits, and remote device locking to enforce a dinner or bed time tech break. There are some notable limitations, such as a lack of location tracking and the fact that the app is only for Android devices.
Norton Family Premier
The well-known computer antivirus software company also helps with security for your children online with Norton Family Premier. While there is no longer a free version available, you can make use of a free 30-day trial, after which the fee for the first year of subscription is $49.99. It offers features like blocking websites and tracking browsing history, tracking and scheduling time spent on devices, limiting which apps kids are allowed to use, text message supervision, 30-day location history and active location tracking, plus the ability to lock devices instantly to help your child focus on the real world. One of its main drawbacks is its lack of Mac support and limited iOS support.
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Kaspersky offers both a free and an affordable premium version of its Safe Kids software. The free version lets you filter online content, plus manage specific app usage and screen time in general. The premium version, which costs just $14.95 and offers a free trial, also lets you track location and uses geofencing to alert you when your child leaves a predefined safe area, plus it includes battery level, call, text and social media tracking. As with the Norton app, iOS support is limited, but it does work fully with Macs, PCs and Android devices.
More options coming soon for Android and iOS
Those three apps are the top free and paid parental control apps of the moment, each with different features and compatibility. More solutions are on the way soon, though. For those with Android smartphones, Microsoft Launcher and Edge browser are in the process of rolling out parental control features on Android, which would make it the only free solution that also has location tracking. The apps listed here have limited, if any, iOS compatibility. But, when iOS 12 comes out soon, the new cross-device Screen Time features will add to the existing app and content filtering settings, making Apple's built-in, free parental control capabilities rival those listed above.
Do you know of any other good parental control apps? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!
This article was completely rewritten in August 2018. Comments below may refer to a previous version of the article.