Cons: No support for Macs and PCs. Lacks call and SMS blocking. No social media monitoring. Web filtering only works on specific browsers. Bottom Line: Locategy's parental control app for Android and iOS keeps track of your kid's activities and location, but some design elements could use a refresh and the web filtering capabilities only work with a few browsers.
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, in addition to the desktop. 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. Parental control apps can help you maintain control in a variety of ways.
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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. Most parental control apps require you to pay for an annual subscription based on the number of devices you monitor. Circle Home Plus requires a hardware device and, eventually, a premium subscription to get its full capabilities.
That said, there are some exceptions. Some services, like Locategy, operate on a freemium model, albeit with some limitations that don't apply to the premium edition. Others, like Kaspersky Safe Kids and Norton Family, do not restrict the number of devices that you can monitor. Note that parental control software tends to be more powerful on Android than on iOS, since Apple locks down app permissions and device access.
Most parental control apps for iPhones require you to install a mobile device management MDM profile in order for all of the features especially those related to app management and time restrictions to function correctly. For monitoring iOS devices, consider using Apple's Screen Time tools, which rival the for-pay offerings of standalone competitors. Apple's built-in and free solution is account-based, meaning that it keeps track of data across all of a child's Apple devices. Apple already included a good range of app-blocking and web-filtering options within the Restrictions section of its main settings app.
The hallmark feature of any parental control app is its ability to prevent kids from accessing inappropriate or dangerous websites.
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Many apps bundle a proprietary browser that makes it easier for the services to manage, track, and control browsing activity. This makes more sense than trying to reverse engineer support for every conceivable mobile browser. As such, most of these apps instruct you to block every other browser or restrict your child from installing any other apps at all.
Some parental control utilities don't force your child to use a proprietary browser on iOS devices. Rather, they leverage VPN technology, running internet connections through a local app to enable content filtering. You'll see the VPN icon when such a utility is active. Note that this doesn't mean the child's connection is secured by a full-scale virtual private network, nor that the device's IP address is masked. Most of these browsers operate similarly in that they block access to websites that fall under banned categories, including all the biggest offenders, such as file sharing, gambling, pornography, and violence.
The best examples have no trouble picking up on HTTPS -encrypted traffic and blocking access to anonymizing proxies.
Some apps, such as Net Nanny, let you create custom web-filtering categories, and the vast majority let you add specific rules for custom domains. The quality of web history reporting also varies from service to service. One area in which most mobile parental control solutions excel is in their ability to prevent children from using certain apps. This can come in handy for parents looking to prevent their kids from using social media apps, messaging services that are difficult to monitor, or browsers that get around the defined web filters.
Still, it can be difficult to keep track of every new app that your child installs. Better yet are those services, such as Boomerang, that automatically block new apps your child installs until you explicitly approve them. Mobicip gives you the option to whitelist only the apps you want your child to be able to use. App blocking works differently on iOS. You can block access to system apps such as Safari, Camera, and Siri, if you wish. You can also disable the iTunes Store and App Store, and ban in-app purchases.
Some parental control apps can ever remove app icons completely from the home screen, so there's no chance your kid can access them. Time restrictions are another major feature of parental control apps. Some services, like Norton Family Premier and FamilyTime, let you specify how many total hours or minutes a day your child can spend on any given device as well as a schedule for when it is ok to use it. Qustodio lets you set up schedules for specific apps and device usage, as well as specifying a total time allotment for your child that applies across every piece of hardware they use to access the internet.
A mobile parental control app should at the very least be able to keep track of a child's current location and some historical location data, too. It's also important for them to offer some level of control over notifications and the frequency of location reporting, to avoid bombarding the parent with useless data. Both Qustodio and Norton Family offer these features.
Some services, including Locategy, Boomerang, and FamilyTime, go one step further, letting you construct geofences around a location. For the uninitiated, geofences are digital boundaries around a physical location that help parents keep track of when a child arrives at or leaves a given location. Kaspersky Safe Kids even lets you add a dimension of time to a geofence, so you can easily make sure a child stays where they are supposed to be throughout the day. Boomerang offers a unique feature, in that you can draw custom geofences on a map; others just create a circular radius around a point you define.
One last feature worth mentioning is an SOS button.
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When a child presses this button, it sends out an alert to the parent and any other trusted contacts. The notification includes time and location information and will in some cases keep broadcasting said data until either the child deactivates the alarm or the parent disables it from their own account. This works regardless of platform and even if a child has run out of their allotted time. Parents who are worried about always being reachable to their kids in case of emergencies should consider Qustodio and Locategy for this reason.
As a precaution, many services always allow access to the phone app in case of an emergency. 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. Protect your privacy Keep intruders out of your business, both online and on your device.
Block all potential threats. Block all potential threats Prevent viruses and other malware from infecting your Android device. Perform regular scans to detect threats and vulnerabilities Detect malicious apps before you install them Protect against malware-infected links on the web. Verify the security of any Wi-Fi network Why use an antivirus on your Android? Others Banking trojan — Steals your banking credentials to gain access to your account Rooter — Acquires privileged access to take over and control your device Fake apps — Malware that disguises itself as a real app to trick you into downloading it Trojan clicker — Secretly clicks on webpages and eats up your data resources Spyware — Infects your device to gather and transfer information about you SMS Trojan — Uses your device to secretly send premium SMS messages.
Secure your data remotely. Secure your data remotely Remote control lets you stop thieves from accessing your data and helps you recover your device if it becomes lost or stolen. Enhance performance. Enhance performance Keep your Android device running as good as new.
Free up storage space by cleaning out junk Speed up your device with RAM Boost Extend battery life by adjusting power-consuming Android settings. Take control of your digital habits. Take control of your digital habits Gain insights into how you use your apps and data See which apps you spend the most time on Learn which apps are better off used on a Wi-Fi connection Easily check app permissions to understand how apps access your phone. There are number of companies who are making this software. But when the matter comes to the quality, nothing can beat Nokia.
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