Best Parental Control Apps

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Research shows 75% of kids under the age of 8 are using mobile devices—and this number continues to rise. Most of the time, adults aren’t monitoring what kids are doing online.

In fact, most parents want their kids to be somewhat independent when it comes to digital devices. In addition to providing entertainment (like occupying their children while waiting at the doctor’s office), apps can also be educational.

It’s no secret, however, that the internet can expose kids to lots of inappropriate content. Nearly 80% of parents are concerned about how much violent and sexual content is in the media.

This is why parental control apps are so important. They can monitor, restrict, and manage what kids are doing on their digital devices. While apps aren’t always 100% foolproof, they are an important tool that can help parents learn more about what their kids are doing online. Finding the best parental control app, however, can be a bit daunting because there are so many to choose from, and they all offer something slightly different.

Fortunately, we’ve done a bit of the work to help aid your search and narrowed it down to the five best parental control apps of 2022 below.

The 7 Best Parental Control Apps of 2022

Best Overall : Net Nanny


Net Nanny

Net Nanny

Key Specs

  • Pricing: Starts at $50 per year and goes up to $129 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both 
  • Number of Devices: 1, 5, or 20, depending on your plan 

Why We Chose It: Net Nanny lets parents decide whether they want to allow, block, or receive alerts when their kids browse websites that contain potentially inappropriate or dangerous topics, such as porn and tobacco.

Pros
  • Top-notch web filtering system that analyzes websites

  • Can set specific times for children to use devices

  • Blocks content across web addresses and apps

  • Monitors their physical and virtual location

Cons
  • Only offers annual subscription 

  • No monitoring of calls and texts

Net Nanny is one of the most trusted and comprehensive apps on the market. Net Nanny allows you to monitor your family’s digital habits while also protecting your kids from harmful content. You can establish limits on screen time and prevent your kids from accessing inappropriate content.

You’ll receive detailed information on the searches your kids are conducting. You’ll also get real-time alerts on any pornographic, suicide, weapons, or drug-related content. Then, you can block websites and apps you don’t want your child to access or establish specific times of the day they're allowed to be online.

Be aware that some reviewers of this product found that it didn’t block enough content. Others found it blocked too many sites—including ones they tried to add to their safe sites. So while no app is perfect, you may want to keep a close eye on how this one works before assuming your kids will be completely safe once it’s installed.

Best for Older Kids : Canopy


Canopy

Key Specs

  • Pricing: From $8 to $16 per month 
  • iOS/Android: Both 
  • Number of Devices: Up to 10 

Why We Chose It: Canopy helps keep the internet a safe space for young adults by protecting them from exposure to pornography and inappropriate messaging. It also lets parents block access to apps and games. 

Pros
  • Focuses on filtering out nudity and pornography

  • Analyzes photos to detect and prevent sexting

  • Can choose which apps are allowed on different devices

  • Real-time location feature

  • Doesn’t sell your data

Cons
  • No screen time limits

  • Can’t filter or block content within apps

Parenting young adults is a challenge, especially when it comes to social media and the internet. On one hand, you want them to have freedom, and on the other, you want to protect them from inappropriate content. 

That’s why we recommend Canopy for parents of adolescents. It’s not overly restrictive and doesn’t invade their privacy—you can’t read the content of their texts, for example—but it does continually look out for their safety during virtual interactions. If necessary, the system flags problematic content like “sexted” photos, pornography, and other types of explicit content to your device. It does most of its blocking in real-time rather than with a predetermined set of forbidden content and allows you as the parent to decide whether or not your child can receive access to the images or videos. 

Starting at $8 per month, Canopy allows you to restrict as much or as little content from your child’s device, plus it gives you the ability to track their location. The parental control app also includes removal prevention, so your teen can’t secretly delete the app.

Best for Younger Children : Qustodio


Q Logo

Key Specs

  • Pricing: From $55 to $138 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Number of Devices: 5, 10, or 15, depending on your plan 

Why We Chose It: Qustodio helps parents prioritize their kids' health and safety by limiting screen time and preventing exposure to inappropriate content. The app’s features can lead to better sleeping habits and overall mental well-being.

Pros
  • Easy-to-read dashboard 

  • Can set screen time limits, block content, and review calls/texts

  • Access to current and previous locations

  • Three plans available

  • Free trial

Cons
  • Some features only available for Android users

  • Parents can’t review in-app interactions (think Snapchat)

Qustodio allows you to monitor social networks, view your child’s messages, and track your child’s location. It's also a comprehensive app that allows you to filter websites that may contain inappropriate content. You can block games and apps that you don’t want your child to access and you can also establish time limits on each device.

You can also locate your child’s devices at any time. And your child will have access to a panic button that can immediately alert you to your his or her location.

Just be aware that with Qustodio, monitoring and access is limited on some social media sites. For example, parents can see when their child used Snapchat and for how long, but they can't access their interaction with other users. So make sure you are aware of the program’s limitations before you install it.

Best for Overall Monitoring : Bark


Bark

Bark

Key Specs

  • Pricing: From $49 to $99 per year or from $5 to $14 per month
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Number of Devices: Unlimited

Why We Chose It: Bark’s premium plan has an alert system that goes above and beyond, sending parents notifications the second the app identifies concerning content or activity on nearly 20 different topics.

Pros
  • Monitors in-app conversations and messages

  • Sends alerts for inappropriate or concerning content

  • Allows screen time management

  • One plan covers any number of devices 

  • Free 7-day trial

Cons
  • Limited monitoring features for iOS users

  • Only premium plans let you monitor texts and apps

Bark monitors text messages, email, and over 30 different social networks for potential safety concerns. It looks for activity that could indicate danger like online predators, adult content, sexual content, drug use, cyberbullying, and suicidal thoughts. Bark's location-sharing feature includes alerts when your child arrives at or leaves a specific place.

Bark searches through texts, photos, and videos and sends alerts to parents about any concerning interactions. You’ll receive automatic alerts via email and text messages when there are potential risks.

One of the best features of Bark is that you’ll receive recommendations from child psychologists about how to respond to issues when they arise.

You’ll also have access to a dashboard that provides you a snapshot of your child’s internet use. You’ll learn how much time they’re spending online, which sites they’re using, as well as how many potential threats were detected.

Bark comes with a 7-day free trial, so you can see if you like it before you purchase.

Best for Location Tracking : FamilyTime


FamilyTime

FamilyTime

Key Specs

  • Pricing: From $27 to $69 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Number of Devices: Unlimited 

Why We Chose It:

Pros
  • Access to your kids’ real-time location

  • Alert systems for emergencies and non emergencies

  • Notifications of kids’ departure or arrival at certain places

  • Speed limit tracking for teens 

  • Unlimited number of devices

  • Free trial

Cons
  • Some features are new or still in development

  • Kids can easily remove the app

  • Not available for Windows

FamilyTime allows you to create a geo-fence, and you’ll get instant alerts when your kids enter or leave geo-fenced places.

FamilyTime offers the same basic features you’d expect from a good parental control app—it blocks pornography, allows kids to conduct safe searches only, and filters out inappropriate content. It also lets you establish time limits on devices, and it can lock screens during certain times like at bedtime or during homework time.

But one of the best features is its locator function. It provides you with a detailed location history of all the places your kids have visited during a given time. You can also locate your kids in real-time with a map that gives you location details.

And you can use their advanced geo-fencing feature that allows you to establish boundaries for your kids. When they step foot outside the boundary lines, you’ll be notified in real-time. Whether you use this feature to get a notification when they arrive home from school or you want to prevent them from going into a dangerous part of town, this feature keeps you posted 24/7.

Many reviewers appreciated that this app offers chat support. But many other reviewers experienced glitches that prevented certain functions from working properly.

Best for Managing Screen Time : OurPact


OurPact

Key Specs

  • Pricing: Free or from $7 to $10 per month for premium
  • iOS/Android: Both  
  • Number of Devices: Up to 20 

Why We Chose It: OurPact offers two different time management features: Schedule and Allowance. Schedule allows you to select time frames when you don’t want your child to use their phone at all (like in school), while Allowance lets them choose (with your approval) the amount of time they can spend on their device each day.

Pros
  • Can set rules for educational vs. entertainment apps

  • Can turn off texting at specific times

  • Monitors up to 20 devices

  • Offers a free trial

Cons
  • Limited features available on free version

  • Unable to monitor calls or texts

No matter how old you are, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending hours on your device. OurPact’s app is a great tool to help parents set healthy boundaries with their kids’ online activity habits. You can limit when and how long they can use their phone, as well as let them learn how to manage their online time independently. 

In addition to the basics, like blocking apps, filtering out inappropriate web content, and tracking your child’s location, OurPact includes some unique customizations when it comes to parental control. You can fully block an app or only allow it on a schedule (for example, if you only want your child on Instagram on the weekends), and you can do the same with calls and texts to limit distractions. You can also give your child a screen time allowance, which lets them figure out how to spend their online time within a window you give them.

There are four plans to choose from, including a free plan, OurPact Plus, OurPact Premium, and OurPact Premium+. The free plan lets you monitor only one device with very few blocking features. For $2 per month, OurPact Plus lets you manage up to 10 devices, block apps, and create screen time restriction schedules. The next step up, OurPact Premium, allows you to manage up to 20 devices along with all the location, screen time, and blocking features for $7 a month. If you want the best value, the premium+ plan, which costs $10 a month, provides the same benefits as the premium plan but also enables you to get screenshots of your child’s device.

Best Budget : Norton Family


Norton Family

Key Specs

  • Pricing: $50 per year 
  • iOS/Android: Both  
  • Number of Devices: Unlimited

Why We Chose It: For about $4 a month, the Norton Family parental control app gives you all the tools you need to monitor your child’s devices without spending a pretty penny. Note: It’s not compatible on Mac computers.

Pros
  • Budget-friendly annual price

  • Manage as many devices as you need

  • Has a comprehensive dashboard

  • Supervise activity and restrict content as needed

  • Provides website filtering to block inappropriate content 

  • Features geofencing tools

  • Free 30-day trial

Cons
  • Can’t be used on Mac computers

  • No monthly subscription, only annual

  • Unable to block apps on PCs

  • Doesn’t track social media sites

If you’re looking for a low-cost parental control app, Norton Family is a great choice at just $50 a year. It’s a full-service option, allowing parents to be both aware and in control of their child’s online activities. Although you don’t need a Windows desktop to use Norton Family (it has apps available for both iOS and Android), it definitely streamlines your oversight. If you do use Windows, you can monitor and track your child’s internet usage and online activity across multiple devices including their desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet.

Like other quality parental control programs, Norton Family lets you set screen time limits, track locations, block inappropriate apps and websites, and view your child’s online activity. The app also sends alerts about attempted visits to blocked sites, enables access to YouTube videos your child has watched, and has a centralized parent portal where you can manage the devices.

The best part? You can try the app for free for 30 days.

Final Verdict

You can’t beat what Net Nanny has to offer: It’s a full-service parental control app, checking all the boxes parents want most, for a reasonable annual cost. Net Nanny monitors app usage, limits screen time, and blocks inappropriate content across the internet, all while keeping you in the loop about what your family has been up to online via alerts, a parent dashboard, and a family feed.

If you’re more focused on location tracking, FamilyTime is a budget-friendly way to keep tabs on your kids, while also offering some screen time limits and app blocking perks. If you’re a Windows family, Norton Family offers the best of both worlds by allowing you to monitor iOS and Android devices as well as a Windows desktop computer.  

Compare Apps

Company Pricing iOS/ Android Number of Devices Screen Time Limits Location Tracking
Net Nanny Best Overall From $40 to $129 per year  Both 1, 5, or 20 Yes Yes
Canopy Best for Older Kids From $8 to $16 per month Both Up to 10 No Yes
Qustodio Best for Younger Children From $55 to $138 per year Both 5, 10, or 15 Yes Yes
Bark Best for Overall Monitoring From $49 to $99 per year  Both Unlimited Yes Yes
FamilyTime Best for Location Tracking From $27 to $69 per year Both Unlimited Yes  Yes 
OurPact Best for Managing Screen Time Free or from $7 to $10 per month  Both Up to 20 Yes Yes
Norton Family Best Budget $50 per year Both Unlimited Yes Yes
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What Are Parental Control Apps?

    Parental control apps are used to keep an eye on kids both online and offline and can help you find out what they’re doing on their smartphones and tablets. The apps can track your kids’ physical locations, set limits on screen time, monitor phone and app usage, block them from viewing and using certain websites and apps, and allow you to see who they’re communicating with online.

  • How Do Parental Control Apps Work?

    Parental control apps work in several different ways, depending on the type of app. Some apps are content filters, which limit access to inappropriate content or specific websites and apps. Others control the usage of your child’s phone or tablet by setting time limits or restricting phone usage after a certain time.

    Some apps monitor your kids’ physical locations, text messages, social networks, emails, and other activities. For apps that monitor social media, you’ll need your kids’ account names and passwords. Monitoring apps may search through texts, social media posts, photos, and videos and send alerts to parents about any potential dangers.

  • How Much Do Parental Control Apps Cost?

    Although some parental control apps have a free version, most require a monthly or annual subscription to access the most helpful features. Prices can range from approximately $5 to $10 per month, depending on the type of services and the number of devices you want to monitor. 

Methodology

Our biggest concern when researching parental control apps was finding ones that helped keep kids safe without feeling too invasive. We considered the ease of use for parents to achieve whatever their goals happen to be—whether it’s location tracking, screen time limits, content blocking, or a combination of everything—and ensured it would be a simple process to change, update, increase, or decrease your child’s access as needed.

We looked for apps designed to block unsafe or graphic content and help kids establish a healthy balance of screen time and off-screen time. Finally, we also considered customization, focusing on apps that offered multiple plans for different amounts of devices with tiered price options.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Common Sense Media. Zero to eight: children's media use in America, 2013. 2013. 

  2. Rideout V. The Common Sense Census: media use by kids age zero to eight. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media; 2017.