10 Apps for Parents to Monitor Kids' Mobile Use
Kids and mobile devices can be a scary mix. Whether your toddler is just starting to use your family tablet or your teen has a new smartphone of her own, check out the wide variety of apps and software — free and paid — that you can use to monitor and limit her mobile activity. 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. And remember, new social media apps pop up all the time, so educate your kids about social media safety and "digital citizenship" from an early age.
How to Track Kids Using Your iPhone
If your kids are like most and carry their iPhone with them everywhere they go, you can easily track and monitor them using some of the features already built in to your Apple device.
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 short cut in Message:
- 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 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
According to iPhoneFAQ, "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.
Top 10 Apps for Parents to Monitor Kids Phone Usage
Your main concern: Web browsing and social media safety
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 messages, 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.
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. 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.
Your main concern: Limiting device use during dinnertime, study time, and bedtime
This free app allows you to instantly lock and unlock your child's Android device remotely from your own device so that you can enjoy more quality family time, or help your child focus on schoolwork or sleep. Note: The parent's device can be an Android or an iPhone/iPad/iPod, but the child's device must be an Android. You can choose from three modes: "Dinner Time" pauses any activity for up to two hours; "Take a Break" pauses any activity for up to 24 hours; and "Bed Time" pauses any activity for any given start and end time, while still allowing kids to access their alarm clock. The free version of DinnerTime works on up to two kids' devices, controlled by up to two parents' devices. DinnerTime Plus ($3.99) works on up to five kids' devices, and offers detailed reports on how long your kids have used their devices and which apps they have used the most, so you know exactly what's distracting them.
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 monitoring 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.
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. 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.
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.