Parental control apps can come in handy for monitoring and managing what your children do with their smartphones and tablets online, and even for finding out where the kids might have strayed in their physical neighborhood. Many families, though, are not using these valuable software tools.
Surprisingly many parents admit to having banned their children's internet access entirely, at some point. But these apps enable parents to block access to potentially harmful sites and activities, while at the same time letting kids continue to enjoy what's safe and fun on the web.
Parental control apps are usually available for both iOS and Android, although you might encounter differences in the apps' feature sets for those devices that run on each operating system. Also, some apps work in conjunction with existing mobile browsers, while others replace browsers.
Pricing tends to be subscription-based. Parents can track their children's online activities and block sites through either a mobile app or a web-enabled PC console.
Here are four of the most popular parental control apps, along with some of their standout features.
Norton Family Premier
Norton Family Premier, an app from internet security specialist Symantec, combines location mapping with more-conventional parental controls.
The Location Supervision feature tracks the location of a device and pinpoints it on a map. This convenient tool can help a child find a lost or stolen phone or tablet—and it can show parents whether a kid carrying such a device has made it to school yet in the morning!
The Norton app demonstrates how an app's capabilities can vary depending on the platform. Currently, the Android version of the app can report on search terms that the child has been using, whereas the iOS edition can't. The subscription rate is $50 for one year.
Qustodio Family Protection
Qustodio runs on Android and iOS phones and tablets, and on Kindle and Nook e-readers. Aside from tracking kids' activities and forbidding access to inappropriate sites, the tool lets parents set time limits for youngsters.
A new Advanced Monitoring for Facebook feature displays a kid's social networking activity on—where else?—Facebook!
Versions of the Qustodio Premium subscription are available for families with five or fewer devices ($50 per year), ten or fewer devices ($88 per year), and fifteen or fewer devices ($126 per year).
Net Nanny is an app that replaces the device's default mobile browser. In fact, once you've installed Net Nanny, a kid can't launch other browsers on the device.
The app can perform impressively granular website filtering, with 18 different filtering categories plus the option to set custom filters.
If they prefer, parents can merely "warn" a kid against a site, instead of either banning it totally or allowing it.
Through an innovative feature called "profanity masking," the software replaces swear words with strings of symbols such as @#$%. That way, the kid can still use an otherwise appropriate website despite any profanity in the comments or elsewhere.
Annual subscriptions to Net Nanny range from $40 per year for one device to $70 per year for up to seven devices to $90 per year for up to ten devices.
Mobicip operates in place of either the Safari browser (on an iOS device) or the default browser (on an Android device). Parents can set age-based website filtering at Elementary, Middle, or High School level, or at "No Filtering – Reports Only."
The app's filtering engine scans YouTube videos, too, and filters them according to titles, keywords, or descriptions. On the security side, the app encrypts all internet traffic at potentially hazardous unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots.
The Basic version of Mobicip is free; the Premium version runs $40 per year and covers up to five devices.
Photo credits: Apple, Pexels.com.