Moms and dads have the hard job of constantly balancing responsibilities at work and at home, and it’s easy for parents to let kids use digital devices more than they should. However, there are many reasons parents should consider restricting device usage, from teaching your kids good digital habits to protecting them from harmful content online. That’s where the best parental control app comes in.
Key Takeaways: Best Parental Control Apps
- A parental control app can help you manage your kids’ digital habits at home and keep kids safe online.
- It’s easier to choose the parental control app that’s right for you if you know what the apps specialize in. We will suggest apps based on their strengths.
- Qustodio is the best parental control app overall because it offers a range of useful features with reasonably priced plans.
- Bark, our best budget option, provides a comprehensive yet cost-effective solution for parents seeking to monitor their children’s online activity.
As younger kids are getting exposed to all kinds of content in the digital space, it’s increasingly important to start thinking about what videos they’re watching, what games they’re playing and what apps they’re using to socialize with their friends.
A parental control app lets you keep an eye on what your child is doing and how long they spend on their device. Before your kids become too dependent on their devices, we’ve compiled a list of the best parental control apps for you to consider.
Most parental control apps support iOS, Android and even your child’s computer; it’s just the features that can vary. We looked at some of the most popular parental monitoring apps and narrowed the list down to the top seven.
Google Family Link, Life360 and MMGuardian are just some of the parental control apps that offer advanced tracking features. Your choice depends on what other features you’d like to have.
The best parental control app overall is Qustodio. It provides all the practical features you’ll need to monitor and manage your child’s mobile phone.
If you need to protect a number of devices with parental controls, Bark is the better choice, since all of its plans cover unlimited devices.
While Bark wins the title of best app for those on a budget, Life360 is our top pick as the best app for older kids. They’re both good parenting phone apps.
What Makes the Best Parental Control App?
To select the best parental control apps on the web, we’ve considered each app’s features, pricing, availability of support as well as their pros and cons. Choosing the best parental control app depends on what you need it most for. Our choices are based on several features we think are crucial for any parent who wants to set a fair amount of restriction for their kids.
- Qustodio — Best parental control app overall
- OurPact — Best app for iOS devices
- MMGuardian — Best app for Android gadgets
- Google Family Link — Best free parental control app
- Bark — Best budget app with unlimited devices
- Life360 — Best app for older kids, with driving safety features
- Net Nanny — Best app for younger kids
First, we considered blocking features and app, web and social media monitoring. This ensures that the apps and websites your kids interact with are appropriate for their age.
Then there’s location tracking and geofencing. Location tracking allows you to see where your kids are all the time and not worry about them. Geofencing can send you a notification each time your child leaves the virtual fence you’ve specified. You can also be notified when your child arrives at a predetermined location, such as school.
Next, screen time is a crucial parental control feature if you want to manage the amount of time your kids spend on their devices. Some parental control software also includes device usage reports that show which apps or sites your child visits and how much time they spent there.
We’ve also weighed in on pricing. The best parental control apps should have clear and detailed pricing readily available on their website. They should also have a reasonable window for free trials and refunds.
The 7 Best Parental Control Apps
Below, we’ve listed the top parental control options we think are the most worthy of your attention. The apps below have won a specific category based on their features, pricing, support, and strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to compare parental control apps according to your needs. We’ll start with our best parental control app overall, Qustodio.
1. Qustodio: Best Parental Control App Overall
More details about Qustodio:
- Pricing: Free; $54.95 per year
- Free Plan: Single device
- Website: qustodio.com
- Free plan & 30-day trial
- Platforms for most OSes
- Variety of features
- Some iOS features require a Mac
- No 24/7 live chat
Qustodio wins the overall category because it is packed with the most important features you’d want to protect children of any age. It’s also available on most operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Kindle.
With the ability to filter content and apps, Qustodio can block specific apps, games and websites to prevent your child from being exposed to inappropriate content. The app also gives you the option to block and monitor calls and messages on your child’s Android phone.
You can limit the number of hours your child spends on a specific app to ensure a healthy balance between study time, family time and free time. You can also find a web-based dashboard where you can check detailed reports of your child’s app usage and activities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
If you want to know where your child is at all times, Qustodio’s family locator feature is equipped with a map that will let you track where they are and where they’ve been. The app is also equipped with geofencing technology. Once you enable your places within the family locator, you can set it to notify you when your child enters or leaves a specific area.
|Basic||$54.95||Up to 5 devices,|
Screen time limits with internet pause,
Everything in Basic,
App time limits,
Calls & messages monitoring
2. OurPact: Best App for iOS
More details about OurPact:
- Pricing: $6.99 per month
- Free plan: Single device, 14-day free trial
- Website: ourpact.com
- Free Premium trial
- Block texts on iMessage
- No refunds
- No call blocking
- Limited web filtering
There are many reasons to like OurPact. It offers many of the basic functions other parental control apps have — such as app monitoring, location tracking and website blocking – but it also includes many other unique features parents would find incredibly useful.
One such feature is automatic screenshot captures. If you want to keep tabs on your child’s online activity, you can have the app either take screenshots automatically at regular intervals or within an on-demand basis. The OurPact app also comes with real-time GPS monitoring, geofencing and history tracking.
Another rare feature among parental control apps is blocking text messages on Apple’s iMessage. It’s worth noting that most parental control apps are designed for Android, so having this extra attention toward iOS is appreciated — making it one of the best parental control apps for iOS devices.
|Premium||$6.99 per month|
$69.99 per year*
|Unlimited schedules, |
Unlimited app rules,
Unlimited family locator,
Unlimited block texting,
Unlimited app alerts,
Up to 20 devices
|Premium+||$9.99 per month|
$99.99 per year*
|Everything in Premium & screenshot captures|
3. MMGuardian: Best App for Android
More details about MMGuardian:
- Pricing: $49.99 per year
- Free plan: None, 14-day free trial
- Website: mmguardian.com
- Extra Android features
- Call & text blocking feature
- Social media monitoring
- No geofencing
MMGuardian takes the spot as the best parental control app for Android. While it has many of the same features across devices, MMGuardian offers more features on Android, including usage reports, location and track, time limits, and blocking for calls and texts. Features across all devices include safety alerts, message reporting, inappropriate image alerts, app control, web filters and safe browsing.
The app lets you monitor texts and messages from various social media apps. You can also configure the app to send you alerts whenever it scans messages that are indicative of violence, cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and even inappropriate images, such as nudity. The photo that triggers the alert can also be viewed on the parent’s phone.
|Single Child Device||$4.99 per monthly|
$49.99 per year
|Family Plan||$9.99 per month|
$99.99 per year
4. Google Family Link: Best Free Parental Control App
More details about Google Family Link:
- Pricing: Free
- Free plan: Yes
- Website: families.google/familylink/
- Completely free
- Unlimited devices
- Supports iOS & Android
- Privacy concerns
- Ads may be shown
- Lacks advanced features
If you are looking for a free parental control app that’s packed with only the basic features, then Google Family Link might just be right for you. The app is completely free and allows the use of unlimited devices. Although it supports both Android and iOS mobile devices, it has more features for the Android app.
Parents can install Google Family Link on a web browser or any gadget of their choice, but kids and teens can be supervised when using Android devices only. The app that should be downloaded on devices for kids and teens is called Family Link parental controls.
Google Family Link lets you approve or block apps your child wants to download, set your child’s screen time limits, and locate your kids wherever they are.
Setting it up is also pretty straightforward; the instructions are as simple as setting up a Gmail account. Once you’ve set up the app on your child’s device, SafeSearch — a web-filter function available in Google Search and Images that filters out explicit content — is turned on by default.
In case you decide to use Google Family Link, know that Google has a poor reputation for privacy practices. The Family Link disclosure page states that when you allow your child to use their service, they may request your permission to collect, use or disclose your child’s information.
Some of the information they collect includes your child’s apps, browsers and devices, your child’s location and your children’s voice and audio information. They may also share these with third-party entities in a number of circumstances. Remember, no app is fully free from the goodness of their heart — there’s some benefit to them, and in this case it seems to be to access your personal information.
|Free||Screen time limits, |
App permissions & blocking,
Location tracking & alerts
5. Bark: Best Budget App
More details about Bark:
- Pricing: $49 per year
- Free plan: None, Seven-day free trial
- Website: bark.us
- Unlimited devices
- Multiple device types
- Monitors 30+ apps
- No geofencing
- No contact blocking
- Pricing plan is different for younger kids
No matter the size of your family, Bark is the best parental control app if you’re on a tight budget. The basic plan covers all you’ll need for younger kids such as screen time management, web content filtering, web and app blocking, and usage reports.
You also won’t have to keep an eye on your phone looking at a map all the time, since all you really need is location sharing. This geofencing feature will alert you when your child enters or exits a specific location you’ve set.
For parents who’d like to have more comprehensive insight into their kids’ activities, Bark’s premium plan takes it up a notch by including its text and email monitoring features. Bark is equipped with advanced machine learning to analyze the contents of a text message, email, photos and videos saved on your child’s device.
You can take things even further by purchasing the Bark Phone — a Samsung phone with a built-in Bark app. It’s equipped with location tracking and contact blocking features, and also restricts kids from deleting text messages.
|Bark Jr.||$5 per month|
$49 per year
|Unlimited devices, |
Screen time management,
|Bark Premium||$14 per month|
$99 per year
|Everything in Bark Jr. |
Text & app monitoring,
Content monitoring & alerts
6. Life360: Best App for Older Kids
More details about Life360:
- Pricing: Free; $49.99 per year
- Free plan: Free membership option, Seven-day free trial
- Website: life360.com
- Free plan available
- Driving reports available
- Roadside assistance & towing
- No app or internet monitor
- Some features are geo-blocked
- No screen time features
Life360 positions itself as an app with a single purpose: locating your family and friends wherever they are. While it doesn’t come with a lot of features that would make you actually call it a parental control app, it’s perfect for older kids (and adults) who are always out and about.
With Life360, you can create “circles,” add your family members and track them wherever they are in real time. Its safe driving feature gives you access to crash detection and emergency dispatch tools that can sense vehicle impacts under certain conditions.
You can download Life360 on both Android and iOS devices, but make sure that you are only logged in to the app on one device; otherwise, it can give you and other members inaccurate location and alerts.
|Free||Free||Two place alerts, |
Two-day location history,
Family driving report,
Data breach alerts
|Gold||$14.99 per month|
$99 per year
|Everything in Free, |
30-day location history,
Unlimited place alerts,
Individual driver reports,
5 miles free towing,
ID theft protection,
$25,000 stolen funds reimbursement,
$250 stolen phone protection
|Premium||$24.99 per month|
$299.99 per year
|Everything in Gold, |
50 miles free towing,
$1 million stolen funds reimbursement,
$500 stolen phone protection,
7. Net Nanny: Best App for Younger Kids
More details about Net Nanny:
- Pricing: $54.99 per year for five devices
- Free plan: None, 14 day free trial
- Website: netnanny.com
- Screen time management
- Web & app blocker available
- Location tracking available
- No free plan
- No monthly plans
When you need a companion to look after younger kids, Net Nanny might be the solution for you. It has almost all the features you can think of to protect and manage your kids’ time: screen time management, website and app blocker, location tracker, parent dashboard and app monitoring.
The YouTube monitoring feature allows you to see the videos your kids have watched and when they watched them. You’ll be able to see your child’s activity whether you’re using a PC or a smartphone — perfect for parents who are almost always working on their desktops.
Net Nanny also has a web filtering feature that allows you to block, alert or allow content categories such as anime, drugs, nudity, suicide, weapons and gambling, among others. While the app doesn’t have a free plan available, you can try out the full version of their software for free for 14 days.
|$39.99 per year||1 Desktop (PC/macOS)|
|$54.99 per year||5 Devices|
|$89.99 per year||20 Devices|
Other Parental Control Apps to Consider
There are two other noteworthy apps to consider if you’re on the hunt for a good parental control solution for your family.
Canopy prides itself as the only parental control service with a real-time smart web filtering function. You can take advantage of the app’s machine learning technology as it scans and automatically blocks inappropriate images and videos on websites. You don’t have to block the entire site; you can simply choose to filter out suggestive content.
Another one worth mentioning is Norton Family. The company has been known in the cybersecurity space since the 1990s, and since then it has evolved to offer a number of solutions and recently merged with Avast.
Norton Family has a school time feature that can help keep your child focused by allowing them to use sites required by the school and blocking others. The app has a 30-day free trial and costs nothing if you’re already a user of Norton 360 Deluxe and Norton 360 Premium.
Final Thoughts: Parental Control Software for Kids
Choosing a good parental control app depends on your needs and preferences, but we hope that the list above gives you an idea on what some of them specialize in. Qustodio is the best parental control app overall because it offers the most features at a reasonable price. It has a free version and a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with their product.
However, there are other options you can consider based on your use case. OurPact is our top pick for iOS devices, and we like MMGuardian for Android.
If you have limited resources, you can consider getting a free app such as the Google Family Link or Bark, since it allows an unlimited number of devices on both of its plans. You can use Life360 to simply check on your kids’ location all the time, and Net Nanny for younger kids who need more monitoring and management throughout the day.
Have you used any of the parental control apps above? Are there any parental control settings you feel are missing? If so, feel free to share your thoughts and other apps you think deserve a spot on this list in the comments section below! Thank you for reading!