If getting parental control coverage installed on each of your family's devices starts to seem too difficult, consider a whole-network solution, such as Circle With Disney or Open DNS. These systems perform content filtering at the router level, so your settings affect every device on the network. Naturally, you don't get the same fine level of control and detailed monitoring that you get with a local agent on each device, but this is a much broader solution.
At the very least, a good parental control tool features content filtering—the ability to block access to websites matching categories such as hate, violence, and porn. This type of filtering only really works if it's browser-independent and works with secure HTTPS sites. With no HTTPS filtering, a smart teen could bypass the system using a secure anonymizing proxy website or even a different web browser in some cases. Most also have the option to permanently enable SafeSearch.
Of course, the most capable solutions also keep a detailed log of your child's web activity. Access scheduling is another very common feature. Some applications let parents set a weekly schedule for device usage, some control internet use in general, and others offer a combination of the two. A daily or weekly cap on internet usage can also be handy, especially if it applies to all your kids' devices.
The best services apply these two ideas to individual desktop and mobile applications as well. Qustodio, for example, can block apps entirely and set time usage limits. This is particularly useful for children who have a habit of playing games or using social media apps when they should be doing homework. As kids get older, content filtering may start to seem pointless. Hey, you let them watch Game of Thrones , right?
The 6 Best Parental Control Apps for Windows
At some point, you start to worry more about their interaction with the wider world. Sure, if their friends come over in person, you can at least meet them, but what about friends on social media and other contacts your child never mentions? Who are they, really, and what are your kids discussing with them? Although some supervision is acceptable, you still need to respect your child's basic right to privacy and encourage open discussion, rather than using parental control software as spyware.
Many services let you monitor contacts and messages and keep an eye out for potentially dangerous or unsanctioned situations. You can even block new contacts or view message content with some parental control software. Keep in mind that this primarily applies to SMS texts; messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Snapchat typically do not fall under the same scope. Social media tracking can also provide a glimpse into your child's social life, though many services now only monitor Facebook. This kind of oversight usually requires that you either know your child's login credentials or convince them to log in and install the tracker's app.
Disabling this kind of data collection is a snap for the child, so here, more than ever, you need to be on the same page. Most kids are on mobile devices at least some of the time, and many are almost exclusively accessing the internet on their phones. Fortunately, many parental control services offer a companion app that lets you view your child's activity, set basic rules, and view notifications as they arrive—NetNanny is a particularly noteworthy example.
This kind of companion app is particularly useful for responding to access or time-extension requests on the go. Otherwise, you manage everything online, where you have fine control over activity reports and restrictions. Any changes you make should propagate to your children's devices when they connect to the internet. When your child tries to visit a blocked site, makes a post using iffy language, or otherwise bends the rules it sends you a notification to your preferred channel, such as via the app, web, email, text, or some combination of those options.
When you get beyond the basics, parental control systems start to diverge, with many advanced features to help them stand out from the crowd. Among these standout features are the ability to track your child's YouTube and Hulu viewing history, check your child's location, or even remotely lock down a device to force them to divert their attention. You'll also find advanced versions of standard features. For example, the best content filters don't just use a database of categories. They analyze page content in real time so that, for example, they can allow access to a short-story site but block the erotica.
In order to make an informed choice for your own family, check out our full reviews of these parental control solutions. If you have any suggestions for software to try or just want to sound off about a particularly positive or negative experience, please add your comments and join the discussion. Time scheduler for internet, device, and application usage. Social monitoring only tracks Facebook. Supports Windows, Mac, Android.
Web-based configuration and reporting. Cross-platform internet time allowance.
App control for Android. Lacks advanced time management control. No limit on devices or child profiles. Flexible control of device and app usage. Content filtering limited to specific browsers. Social monitoring only covers Facebook and VK.
The Best Parental Control Software of 2018
Settings apply across all devices. No limit on number of PC, phones, tablets, or children protected. Does not work on Macs. No Free version anymore. Web extension is easily disabled.
Monitor and Track Your Child's Computer Activity
Lackluster social media tracking. Norton Family's top-notch web interface and wealth of features make it easy for parents to track and manage their children's activity across their many devices, though it doesn't work on Macs. Manages every device on your home network. Can cut off Internet access at bedtime. Pause button for the Internet.
Circle Go subscription surprisingly expensive. Matching names to devices can be difficult. Can cause alarming error messages in the browser. Parental control and monitoring for every device on your network. Device-specific Internet time scheduling. Reports all sites visited and blocked. Optional daily activity email. Reports can't identify activity by specific users. Content filter missed some porn sites and secure anonymizing proxies. Performance as a router lags behind competing Online configuration and management. Can apply child profiles to multiple devices and user accounts. App control on Android.
Testing turned up some communication problems and delays between online console and local app. Initial configuration slightly awkward. No real-time parental notifications. In testing, we hit a few communication problems, but overall it's a good choice for the modern multi-device family. To manage the account, click Manage Family Settings Online. Qustodio is arguably the best third-party parental control app. It has a free version and a premium version, though the free version is comprehensive enough for most users. But do you know who's watching them?
These seven industries are keeping a close eye on your posts. Read More , location tracking, call tracking and blocking, SMS tracking and blocking, and an expanded dashboard. Depending on the plan you choose, you can manage up to 15 devices. Using Qustodio is simple: You can manage the individual settings from the web portal.
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The software is also available on Mac, Android, iOS, and Kindle, meaning your kids will be protected regardless of which device they are using. The award-winning KidsWatch has three core features: All the features can be adjusted on a child-by-child basis. It includes data about which sites they visited and which programs they used.
It even saves their chat dialogues.
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According to its website, it will restrict access to anything concerning proxies, anonymizers, sexuality, or pornography. If network-wide filtering is too extreme, it can still work on a per device basis. Parental controls are just one of the many security benefits you can enjoy by changing your DNS server.
What security benefits does it bring? Can it really make your online activities more secure? Zoodles offers a unique twist on the concept of parental controls. Rather than being a management app, Zoodles is a browser for kids.