Best Parental Control Apps

Qustodio is our pick for best parental control app

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Between tablets, phones, and laptops, many kids have access to all corners of the internet starting at a very young age. Unfortunately, along with the educational, resourceful, and fun content online comes concerning and potentially dangerous apps, websites, and interactions. Thankfully, parental control apps give parents the ability to monitor and restrict what their children can do on their devices. 

Unlike a parental control router which allows parents to control what websites kids can and can’t access when they’re using their home wifi network, parental control apps let parents keep an eye on what their kids are doing on their devices no matter where they are. With everything from location tracking, call and text message monitoring, and even real-time alerts, the best parental control apps can give caregivers peace of mind whether their child is at home, school, or anywhere else. 

We know parents can become overwhelmed trying to find the best app for their family with so many different ones to choose from. So, we researched and ranked some of the best parental control apps out there to help you narrow down your options.

The 7 Best Parental Control Apps of 2022

Best Overall : Qustodio


Key Specs

Pricing: $54.95–$137.95 annually
iOS/Android:
Both 
Number of Devices:
1–15 (depending on the plan)

Why We Chose It

Qustodio checks all the boxes for what caregivers might want in a parental control app: content and app filters, device monitoring, screen time control, location tracking, call and text monitoring, real-time alerts, and multiple device linking options. To put it simply, all your bases will be covered.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Chromebook, and Kindle

  • Can support up to 15 devices

  • Designed for parental control and monitoring digital well-being

Cons
  • Somewhat pricey

While there are a lot of great parental control apps on the market, Qustodio ranks above the rest because it gives parents the ability to keep tabs on all of their kids’ devices no matter where they are. Parents can limit their child’s screen time with this app, as well as monitor how they’re spending time on their devices—including everything from browsing history to time spent on individual apps to YouTube views, and more. 

And that’s just scratching the surface of what this app can do. Qustodio can block inappropriate and potentially dangerous content and apps, send parents alerts when their child tries to access a blocked website, track device location, and monitor calls and SMS texts. Parents also get daily, weekly, and monthly activity reports on their children as well as real-time alerts when their child may be in a dangerous situation. 

Qustodio can link to phones and tablets with Android or iOS operating systems, Windows computers, Mac computers, Chromebooks, and Kindles. The app is free for one device, but if your child has multiple devices, you’ll need to purchase a plan. There are three options, ranging from five to 15 devices and starting at under $60. 

Best for Budget : Google Family Link


Google Family Link

Google Family Link

Key Specs

Pricing: Free
iOS/Android
: Both
Number of Devices
: Unlimted

Why We Chose It

Google Family Link is our pick for a budget-friendly parental control app because it allows you to monitor limitless users and devices, and it’s totally free to use.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • No limit to the number of profiles or devices you can link

  • Ability to remotely lock your child’s device if needed

  • Monitor your child’s activity in a less invasive way

Cons
  • It is not ad-free

  • Parental control settings and capabilities are limited once a child turns 13

Google Family Link is an excellent option for families who are looking for an app that is cost-effective and minimalistic. You’ll need to set your little one up with a Google account, and from there, this app offers the basics, like activity monitoring, app management, screen time limits (including the option to lock the device remotely), and location tracking.

However, it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles a lot of other parental control apps do, like in-depth reporting, website blocking, and real-time monitoring. Also, it’s best for younger kids, since control options become much more limited once a child reaches 13 years old, Google’s “age of consent” for individual accounts. 

It’s not a perfect app, but that might be a good thing because according to internet safety expert Katie L. Greer, parents shouldn’t rely on these types of apps to do all of the work anyway. “I really do recommend [parental control apps] as a good base, but always caution parents who install them not to walk away thinking their jobs are done,” she explains. “I think we have to acknowledge that there is no replacement for us being involved in our kids’ online activities.”

Greer also notes that most devices come with great built-in controls that parents can really benefit from, so Google Family Link may be a perfect, free) addition to those controls you already have. 

Best for Older Kids : Bark


Key Specs

Pricing: $5–$14/month
iOS/Android
: Both
Number of Devices
: Unlimited

Why We Chose It

Bark is a fantastic parental control app for kids of any age, but it stands out for its social media monitoring, which is especially useful for older kids.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Connects to more than 30 apps

  • Sends parents real-time alerts when kids may be in trouble online

  • Monitors for signs of cyberbullying

Cons
  • Expensive app at more than $165 annually

  • Only works on mobile devices

Bark is one of the more well-known parental control apps, and for good reason. It’s packed with features caregivers want to help them keep their kids safe. This includes content monitoring (everything from email to texts, social media, and more), screen time control, content blocking, and location sharing and tracking. The app also shares real-time alerts for when your child may be in danger—whether that danger is from someone online or their activity suggests signs of depression or suicidal thoughts. 

There are two plan options: Bark Junior, which is less expensive and made for younger kids (but does not offer a lot of the important features), and Bark Premium, which includes all of the bells and whistles. Admittedly, it is one of the more expensive parental control apps, but it also offers some of the best features. Plus, there is no limit to the number of kid profiles you can create or how many devices you can link to it. You can even try it out for free for seven days to make before officially signing up.

Best for Younger Kids : Canopy


Key Specs

Pricing: $7.99–15.99/month
iOS/Android
: Both
Number of Devices
: 3–10 (depending on the plan)

Why We Chose It

Canopy is an excellent option in general, but we love it for younger kids because it’s great at filtering and blocking explicit and potentially harmful content (including photos they take themselves).

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can block certain content within sites, so you don’t have to block the entire website

  • Analyzes websites in real-time, so new explicit content won’t sneak through the blocker

  • Parents can block apps or games 

Cons
  • No call or text monitoring 

  • Plans max out at 10 devices, which may not be ideal for large families

Unlike a lot of other apps, Canopy does not have call and text monitoring options, but that’s not typically what little kids are doing with their devices anyway. Instead, this app focuses on blocking potentially explicit or dangerous content, whether it’s through an everyday website or an app. 

For example, if a child downloads or takes a photo that the app recognizes could be inappropriate, it blocks them from accessing it until you review it (you’ll get an alert). Parents can also control what apps their child can and cannot access, block certain websites, and track their child’s location. Plus, it’s made so your child cannot disable or remove the app without you knowing. 

Canopy is a subscription service that is billed monthly. There are three tiers: Basic, Family, and Full House. Each tier offers the same features but limits the number of devices (three for basic, five for family, and 10 for full house). Tier prices range from $7.99 a month for Basic up to $15.99 a month for Full House.

Best for Real-Time Monitoring : NetNanny


Key Specs

Pricing: $39.99–$89.99/annually
iOS/Android
: Both 
Number of Devices
: 1–20 (depending on the plan)

Why We Chose It

We love NetNanny for real-time monitoring because, in addition to real-time location tracking, it also alerts parents any time their child tries to access a blocked or restricted site. Plus, it offers real-time monitoring in the app’s Family Feed.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • App is free for use with one laptop

  • Offers customization options

  • Works well with various social media platforms

Cons
  • Made for internet monitoring, not phone or text

  • Setting up custom internet filters can be tedious 

While summary reports about your child’s internet browsing are helpful, NetNanny gives parents a bit more insight with several real-time options. As with most parental control apps, NetNanny allows parents to track their child’s location in real time, but it doesn’t stop there. Caregivers can set their parental control settings to alert them every time their child tries to access a blocked or restricted website, and they can customize what content falls into the “blocked” or “restricted” categories. Additionally, NetNanny comes with an in-app family feed that parents can look at in real time to get updates on what their kids are doing online. 

There are plenty of other useful controls, too, including internet filters, screen time management, app blocking, and digital well-being reports. While you can’t use the app to monitor your child’s calls or texts, NetNanny’s filter does work well with social media sites (including TikTok) and YouTube.

This app pairs with devices with Android or iOS operating systems, Macs, Windows, and Kindle Fire. NetNanny’s pricing structure is based on a number of devices: The first tier is $39.99 annually and covers one desktop; the second covers five devices (PC, Mac, and Mobile) for $54.99 annually; and the top tier covers 20 devices (PC, tablet, and mobile) for $89.99 a year. 

Best for Time Monitoring : FamilyTime


Family Time logo

Family Time 

Key Specs

Pricing: $2.25–$5.75/month
iOS/Android
: Both
Number of Devices
: 1–5 (depending on the plan)

Why We Chose It

FamilyTime not only offers screen time limits, but it also lets parents create internet use schedules and encourages kids to “save” some of their minutes in a time bank (which parents can then offer up as “fun time” later). It also gives parents the option to lock their child’s device remotely whenever necessary. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Variety of custom options to fit their family needs

  • Kids can save and bank time to use on another day (with parent permission)

  • App includes internet filters, app blockers, and a panic alert system

Cons
  • Device linking is limited

  • With so many features, some parents might find it overwhelming

If you’re looking for a parental control app that will help you manage your child’s screen time, you can’t go wrong with FamilyTime. Parents can use the app to do everything from setting screen time limits to creating internet time blocks to “pausing” (freezing) their child’s phone remotely.

We particularly love how the app encourages kids to sign off early to save up and bank some of their minutes to use at a later time as “fun time” (which parents also have full control over). The app works with devices with Android or iOS operating systems, and you can link up to five devices to an account. 

As great as all of the time management features are on their own, the app does offer additional features. You can block apps, create website and internet filters, and set up alerts for when certain people contact your child. There’s also an SOS/Panic button that kids can push that will alert their caregiver when they think they’re in danger, and parents will know where to find them thanks to location tracking. Finally, if you have a teen who drives, this app also lets you monitor their speed and will alert you any time they drive faster than a speed limit you set. 

Best for Location Tracking : Life360


Key Specs

Pricing: Free to $24.99/mo
iOS/Android
: Both
Number of Devices
: Unlimited

Why We Chose It

Life360 is fully designed for tracking your family’s location and keeping them safe, whether they’re walking, driving, or online. It’s not a traditional parental control app, but in terms of location safety, it can’t be beat.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Every plan offers SOS alerts, crash detection, and digital data safety breach alerts

  • Parents can get alerts any time their child reaches certain destinations

  • Great for parents of teen drivers


Cons
  • Pricey

  • Features are mostly limited to location monitoring

Life360 is by far the best app for parents most concerned with tracking their child’s whereabouts. While it doesn’t offer any internet, call, text, or app monitoring, it keeps track of your child’s location, gives you alerts when they reach a specific location, and keeps an eye on your teen’s driving (and helps keep them safe in the event of a crash). 

There are three membership options: Free, Gold for $14.99 per month, and Platinum for $24.99 per month. Each membership tier has special features, and you get a little more with each step. Features include up to 30 days of location history, location/place alerts, SOS alerts, family and individual driver reports, roadside assistance, emergency dispatch, towing, crime reports, digital safety protection (such as identity theft), travel support, stolen phone protection, and more.

Regardless of the plan, though, you can add an unlimited number of family members to your circle. Simply download the app to your kid’s device, and you can start tracking them. 

Final Verdict

We love all of the parental control apps on this list, but if you’re looking for something that does it all, you can’t go wrong with Questodio thanks to its many features and plan flexibility. If you’d prefer a free option, Google Family Link offers the best basic monitoring without any bells and whistles.

Compare the Best Parental Control Apps

Company Pricing iOS/ Android Number of Devices Screen Time Limits Location Tracking
Questodio
Best Overall
$96.95/year (multiple plan options) Both 1-15 (depending on the plan) Yes Yes
Google Family Link
Best Budget
Free Both Unlimited Yes Yes
Bark
Best for Older Kids
$14/mo. (multiple plan options) Both Unlimited Yes Yes
Canopy
Best for Younger Kids
$9.99/mo. (multiple plan options) Both 3-10 (depending on the plan) Yes Yes
NetNanny
Best for Real-Time Monitoring
$54.99/year (multiple plan options) Both 1-20 (depending on the plan) Yes Yes
FamilyTime
Best for Time Monitoring
$69/year (multiple plan options) Both 1-5 (depending on the plan) Yes Yes
Life360
Best for Location Tracking
$14.99/mo. (multiple plan options) Both Unlimited No Yes

Guide to Choosing the Best Parental Control App

What Is a Parental Control App?

A parental control app can be downloaded to a caregiver’s phone or tablet (and usually also to their child’s device) that allows them to monitor, track, block, and limit activity on their child’s computer, phone, laptop, and/or tablet. These apps are different from and in addition to the general controls that are already built into a monitoring device’s hardware. 

According to Greer, it’s never too early to start teaching your kid internet safety—and parental control apps are a good way to do it. “I think starting off early with these apps is really the way to go,” she says, “It helps define and set some good boundaries, and I think doing so out of the gate really is helpful for parents and kids alike.”

What Should I Look For in a Parental Control App?

Greer stresses that parents know their child best, so there is no single thing a caregiver should look for in an app because every situation is different. “I always like to reinforce to parents that they are the experts of their families.” She recommends starting with the controls that are already built into your child’s devices and building out from there as needed, looking for apps that will fill in the gaps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are There Any Negative Aspects of Using a Parental Control App?

    Greer points out that, unlike the controls that come already installed on your child’s device, many paid and free apps may share data. “Some sell information to third parties; others aren’t entirely open about how they secure the information they collect,” she says. 


    Another negative to parental control apps is the potential effect they can have on your relationship with your child—particularly as they get older. Kids might feel like their freedom and privacy are limited, which can lead to rebellion and a lack of trust. However, this can be worked through together as a family.

  • Can I Monitor My Child’s Text Messages With a Parental Control App?

    Some apps do offer this feature, but not all. You’ll need to pay close attention to what each parental control app does as you research. Also, keep in mind that iMessage (through Apple devices) and messaging apps like WhatsApp are not SMS texts, so you may have to do some deep dives to find out if you can track these things on your app of choice.

  • Are Parental Control Apps Safe?

    As Greer mentioned, some parental control apps might appear safe on the surface, but once you read through the terms and conditions, you might find that your child’s data can be stored or sold to third parties. However, that is not the case for all of them, so do your due diligence by combing through all of the fine print before downloading an app.

  • How Much Do Parental Control Apps Cost?

    The cost depends on the app. Prices range from totally free to under $10 a month to $150+ annually. Many parental control apps also offer a few different plan options, giving parents a bit more freedom and flexibility in choosing what’s best for their budget. 

  • Which Is the Best Free Parental Control App?

    We like Google Family Link. Keep in mind, though, that free apps often come with ads and are more likely to collect information to sell to third parties (since that’s how they make money).

Methodology

We looked at more than a dozen highly reviewed parental control apps to create this list. To help narrow down the options, we considered each app’s pricing and plan options as well as user feedback and reviews. We also ranked the apps based on the features that caregivers want most including real-time alerts, monitoring of calls, text messages, and email, content blocking, location tracking, and screen time management.

By Ashley Ziegler
​Ashley Ziegler is a lifestyle writer specializing in motherhood, family health, and consumer products. She has written for Romper, Moms.com, and more. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Purdue University and her Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Allison "Ally" Hirschlag

Ally is an expert in health, science, sustainability, wellness, mental health, and parenting. She has written for publications including The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.

Learn about our editorial process