Best Parental Control Apps

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

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 2021 below.

The 5 Best Parental Control Apps of 2021

Best Parental Control Apps
Best Parental Control Apps

Best Overall : Net Nanny

Net Nanny

Net Nanny

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 Teens : Moment

Moment

 Moment

Parents who want to monitor their teenagers’ screen time without policing every activity they’re engaging in will appreciate Moment. Moment tracks how much kids are using their devices and tells you what apps they are using the most. It also logs how often they’re picking up their phones each day.

You can install it on all your devices—which means it can also help you track your own screen time use. It doesn’t restrict screen time, but does give you a detailed report. So it may be a good app to use with older kids if you’re looking to start a conversation about healthy media use.

Some users reported that the screen time reports were inaccurate. Others expressed concern that it drained the battery life of their phones. So you may want to take these things into consideration if you’re planning to get this app. 

Best for Younger Children : Qustodio

Qustodio

 Qustodio

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

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 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

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.

FAQs

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. 

A Word From Verywell

It’s never too early to look into parental control apps. Even toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from having safety devices that prevent them from accessing images and videos of inappropriate content.

And while it may not be a good idea to be overzealous about monitoring an older teenager’s online interactions, keeping an eye on what they’re doing with an app could help you start some important conversations about healthy habits.

Invest time into looking for the best strategies that will keep your kids safe on the internet while also promoting healthy media habits. With a little research, you’ll find an app that meets your family needs.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.