Parental Control Apps
With all the dangers in the digital world, how can we protect our teens? More and more parents are turning to parental control apps to manage their teen’s smartphone use.
Using Parental Control Apps to Help Your Teen
Parental control apps shouldn’t be used to spy on your teen. Sneaky behavior like that is not an effective way to teach your teen how to behave responsibly online and can also damage the trust in your relationship. Instead, communicate openly with your teen alongside your parental control app. Strike a balance with your teen between parental supervision and their growing need for independence. Let them know the harmful ways that smartphones can be used and how they can use their smartphones safely.
iPhones and Androids
Note that since iPhones impose limits on what third-party apps are able to control, parental control apps cannot monitor texts, limit how long teens use their phones or block specific contacts on iPhones. Androids, on the other hand, allow for more control over your teen’s phone. Either way, there are a lot of great apps available. Here are the pros and cons of some of the more popular parental control apps:
Norton Family Premier
- Great location tracking features
- Easy-to-configure restrictions and profiles
- Robust web content filters
- Limited message monitoring
- Can’t place time limits on specific apps
Price: Norton Family Premier costs $50 per year and can be used for ten devices. If you purchase Norton’s most expensive antivirus suite, Norton Security Premium, Norton Family Premier comes with it for free. Norton Security Premium costs $90 per year, but it’s often discounted for as little as $60. At that price, getting Norton Family Premier and Norton’s antivirus protection for $10 more is a great deal.
- Extensive time-limit controls
- Keeps record of browsing and texting even when teen deletes their history
- Strong location features, including geofencing and a panic button for alerting contacts to teen’s whereabouts
- Difficult to install
- Blocking websites is cumbersome and filters can be hit-or-miss.
Price: For three devices, PhoneSheriff costs $90 a year or $50 for six months.
ESET Parental Control for Android
- Easy to set up web filters and time limits
- Strong app-management tools
- Fast location tracking
- Doesn’t log location history
- No tools for monitoring social networks or contacts
- Time limits lack precise control over individual apps
- Made for Androids, not iPhones
Price: For an unlimited number of Android devices, you can pay $30 for a year subscription or $45 for a two year subscription.
- Intuitive user interface makes it easy to block apps and set time filters
- Age-based profiles speed up setup
- Mobile browser can mask profanity on non-restricted sites
- No geofencing
- Can’t set time limits on specific uses
Price: Net Nanny costs $60 a year for up to five devices.
My Mobile Watchdog
- Easy to review web browsing history
- Simple installation process
- Temporary blocking feature
- No geofencing
- Cumbersome app-management tools
- Cluttered activity log
Price: For five devices, My Mobile Watchdog is $15 per month or $100 per year.
Mobile Spy Basic Version 7
- Extensive logging capabilities
- Alerts for when a particular number calls your teen’s phone or when the device leaves an approved area
- Challenging installation process
- Can’t block specific callers
- Can’t set time limits on apps
Price: Mobile Spy Basic Version 7 costs $100 a year for three devices.
Circle allows you to pair with your home Wi-Fi and manage every device connected to your network, both wireless and wired, without ever needing to put software on them.
- Covers all devices connected to the Wi-Fi network without needing to install controls on each individual device
- Easy Set-up
- Set time limits by the person, app, or category
- Can cut off Internet access at bedtime
- Pause option for the internet
- Identifying devices correctly during setup can be time-consuming
- Texting and calling don’t turn off during bedtime hours
- Can cause alarming error messages in the browser
- It isn’t compatible with all routers
- Without a subscription, parental controls/filtering do not apply if you’re away from your home network
Price: $99 for the circle device, although once your kids leave your home wireless network or switch over to cellular data instead of Wi-fi they will no longer be covered to the settings you set up. Circle does offer a subscription-based service, Circle Go, that takes all the settings you set up for your family members at home and can extend them to any network, including 3G/4G LTE.