If you intend to monitor your children’s device activity in the modern age, you need a parental control service that works well on mobile platforms. Kids and mobile devices can be a scary mix. Whether your toddler is just starting to use your family tablet or iPad or your teen has a new smartphone of her own, check out the wide variety of apps and software that you can use to monitor and limit her mobile activity
Kids can get into all sorts of mischief on their mobile phones (or tablets), either on purpose or by accident. Maybe they spend too much time every day staring at a screen or use age-inappropriate sites and apps. In any case, a good parental control app can restore your sense of control and help you keep a cautious eye out for anything that can harm them.
Be sure to have open and ongoing conversations with your children about the importance of responsible device usage, so they don’t immediately scheme to get rid of whatever app you install or find some clever workarounds. Check out our article on what parents of connected kids need to know if you don’t know where to begin.
How to Monitor Your Kids’ Mobile Devices
Parental control apps can help you maintain control in a variety of ways. Some of the most common types of monitoring include web content filtering, app blocking, time management, and location tracking. We dive into more detail about these top features below. Keep in mind that some of the products we highlight are mobile-only solutions, meaning that they cannot monitor your child’s activities on Macs or PCs. If these platforms are your greatest concern, make sure to check out our roundup of the best parental control software.
Most parental control services work similarly. You install a monitoring app on every device you want to keep tabs on and manage settings and restrictions from either a web desktop or parent-focused mobile app. Changes you make on any devices take effect immediately. We appreciate those services that offer flexible device management.
If you would like to allow your kids to have some privacy and independence online, but worry about things like cyberbullying or too much screen time, these apps may help.
How to Track Kids Using Your iPhone
To track your child’s location, you can use a couple of the app’s features. To track your child’s location using Family Sharing, follow these steps.
- On your kid’s phone, navigate to Settings
- Tap Location Sharing
- Tap Share Your Location
You can also track your kids with the Find My Friends app. Instead of opening the Find My Friends app each time you want to check your child’s location, you can follow this shortcut in iMessage:
- Go to a text message thread with you and your child
- Click the ⓘ button at the top right of the screen
How to Track Your Child’s Screen Time Using Your iPhone
In order to monitor your child’s iphone, screen time, and usage, you will need access to their device. Follow these steps to see a full report:
- On your kid’s phone, navigate to Settings
- Tap Turn On Screen Time
- Tap Set Up as Parent
You can also set up Screen Time through Family Sharing so you can get weekly reports and set limits from your main family organizer device.
Outside of your phone, there are tons of apps out there that will help you monitor everything from your child’s social media usage and alerts to whether or not they are speeding while driving.
Here are the top 10 Parental Control Apps to Monitor Kids
Your main concern: Having the best parental control, screen time restriction, customizing various settings on a monitoring app to account for children of different ages, and receiving immediate notifications about unusual or dangerous activity.
FamiSafe is our number one pick and one of the most comprehensive apps for monitoring your child’s phone usage. With features for monitoring history and suspicious activity to enforcing screen time limits, FamiSafe has so much to offer for parents and is available on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire.
If you’re concerned about screen time and your kids’ time management skills, FamiSafe can track and limit screen time and add apps to a whitelist. Parents can learn how much time kids spend on their devices per day, week, or month, and they can see which apps they are spending the most time on. Armed with that information, parents can easily make comprehensive screen time rules at a touch, from blocking apps to setting a screen time schedule and limits. It is an extremely powerful tool for parents who are dealing with kids who are glued to their devices.
When it comes to iOS parental control, iOS and Android parents now have the ability to restrict individual apps and in-app purchases, monitor browsing history, and enable SafeSearch on kids’ iOS devices. The individual app restriction feature allows you to block certain apps or app categories. FamiSafe also has a content management feature that prevents in-app purchases in the App Store and blocks explicit content on Apple Books. Parents can monitor browsing history on main browsers and enable Google and Bing SafeSearch to automatically filter explicit search results.
Parents can also receive different types of alerts on their cell phones with important warnings like kids visiting suspicious sites, watching blocked YouTube videos, or installing unknown apps. This allows parents to avoid missing any of kids’ unusual or alarming online behaviors and find out about dangers immediately.
FamiSafe is perfect for parents who need to monitor multiple children at once. Parents can see the main online activities of several children on the parental dashboard and don’t need to switch between different devices.
With all of the customizable features, this is a perfect way to keep track of the needs of kids of different ages. Along with FamiSafe, you can help your kids form good digital habits, keep track of their whereabouts, and keep them safe from online danger. FamiSafe has protected over one million kids and counting, and is the ultimate online danger blocker.
Be sure to try FamiSafe for a FREE three-day trial on Google Play and App Store!
Your main concern: Web browsing and social media safety.
Qustodio promotes themselves as the internet’s best free parental control app. Qustodio software is available for Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Kindle devices and provides a comprehensive dashboard to help you monitor your child’s online activity. The free version allows you to keep tabs on your child’s web and search engine use, track her Facebook and Twitter logins, and set time controls, while Qustodio Premium also allows you to track her location, block certain games and apps, monitor calls and text messaging, and more. (Plans start at $44.95 per year for five children/five devices). PC Magazine named Qustodio Premium Parental Control 2015 an Editor’s Choice, and they are an approved app by industry leaders such as Softonic and Softpedia.
Net Nanny Family Protect Pass
Your main concern: Filtering web content and setting Internet time limits for multiple kids/devices
If you have multiple children and devices to keep track of, ContentWatch Net Nanny 7 with the Family Protection Pass ($79.99 per year) is a handy tool. This software system can be installed on up to 10 different PC, Mac, or Android devices (note: the software is not supported by Windows XP, and you need to purchase a separate product for Net Nanny to work on iOS devices). The software allows you to create different profiles/log-ins for each of your children, and automatically filters web content for each user based on whether they fit the Child, Pre-Teen, Teen, or Adult profile. It allows you to “mask” profanity on web pages — which can be useful if, for example, your child needs to read a news article for a school assignment but the comments section is loaded with swear words. You can set Internet time allowances for each child using a weekly grid divided into 30-minute time blocks, so it’s easy to prevent Web access during homework time or bedtime. The Family Protection Pass also comes with a free, one-year license for Net Nanny Social ($19.99 value), which can help you monitor your child’s activity on social media sites. PC Magazine named ContentWatch Net Nanny 7 an Editor’s Pick for parent-control software.
Your main concern: Social media safety and location tracking
This app has so many useful features including social media monitoring, location tracking and alerts, and more. It is known as an all-in-one worry-free app. Social media monitoring is one of the most helpful features. With MamaBear you can monitor Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook activity to know when they have new tags, check-ins, or upload photos. You can also be aware when inappropriate language or indication of bullying are posted to their profiles by building your restricted words list. You can also get notifications when your teen drives or rides over a speed limit you set. There are several plan options including a free version. MamaBear was recognized as a “Best Parenting App” Mumii Family Awards for 2017.
Your main concern: The time your little ones spend on their screens
Screen Time is committed to letting kids be kids, and exploring the realm of childhood, outside their screens. Screen Time lets parents remotely monitor the amount of screen time kids spend on their mobile devices. Screen Time lets you set daily time limits, assign tasks to your kids to complete like homework, see which apps your child uses the most, and more. Our favorite feature? Instant pause, allowing parents to instantly pause their child’s devices. Screen Time Parental Control App is a winner of the 2019 National Parenting Product Awards.
Your main concern: Finding kid-friendly YouTube videos, and blocking ads and links
Animal videos! Skateboarding demos! Retro cartoons! YouTube is an obvious source of free entertainment for kids — but it doesn’t always feel like a safe choice. Pesky pop-up ads and links to “related” videos (possible unrelated adult content) can take the fun out of this mecca of free entertainment. That’s why YouTube introduced their whitelisted version of the app with kid-friendly only content, YouTube Kids. There’s also a whole suite of parental controls, so you can tailor the experience to your family’s needs. You can create custom kid profiles, block channels or videos, keep tabs on their watch history, turn search on or off, set a timer to limit kids’ screen time, report videos, and more.
Your main concern: Your teen’s driving safety
Bouncie is an app and OBD connected car experience that is designed to stop distracted driving by sending you notifications in real-time when your child is engaging in risky behavior. For example, the app lets you know if your child is exceeding a speed limit that you set, hard-braking, alerts you off their location while driving and when parked, and more.
Your main concern: Your child ignoring your calls
Want to send a strong message when your child repeatedly ignores your texts and phone calls? RespondASAP freezes the child’s phone by taking over the kid’s screen and sounding an alarm. This forces the child to call the parent back in order to unlock their phone. It’s a better option than taking your child’s phone away because he’ll still be able to make emergency phone calls to you or 911 even when his phone is otherwise locked. The app is currently only available on Android devices but will be available on iPhones soon.
Your main concern: Cyberbullying and online safety monitoring
According to their Cyberbully Prevention page, Bark analyzes all of your children’s online activities to help detect cyberbullying, taking into account context and an individual’s digital history to determine true threats. They monitor 30+ of the most popular apps and social media platforms. We notify parents and children of both victims and bullies that use Bark, and provide action-based recommendations. Often the solution is simple: block the bully online. In some instances, it’s serious enough to start documenting the abuse in case you need to take legal action. Impressively, Bark promotes the fact that it is helped to prevent 16 school shootings and that it has detected 124,000 severe self-harm situations.
Your main concern: Making your child more aware of her smartphone obsession
Let’s face it: Teens are addicted to their smartphones. While you’ll probably never completely cure your child of her obsession, you can help her find a healthier balance. Checky is a free app that keeps a tally of how many times a day a user has checked her phone. (Hint: This might be a good app for Mom and Dad, too!) You can compare just how “Checky” you were today vs. yesterday, or share and compare your stats with your friends and family members. Moment (available for iPhone) and Break Free (available for Android and soon iOS, too) are similar apps aimed at supporting healthier smartphone habits.
Talk to Your Kids
Although the range of features that parental control software supports is impressive, no system is perfect. If your children want to get around the limitations you impose, they will likely be able to do so either by using unmonitored devices or finding ways to wipe their devices clean of the controlling apps. Thus, it’s worthwhile to take the time to talk with your child about why you have installed monitoring software in the first place. After all, digital safety and security are worthwhile topics for everyone. It’s better to approach these conversations honestly, rather than have them find out on their own and stop trusting you. Especially for older children, it’s also important to listen to your child’s specific privacy concerns, rather than just setting rules and restrictions that may otherwise be seen as arbitrary.