The Best 10 Apps for Parents to Monitor Kids’ Mobile Use
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Modern parents face some never before seen issues as kids as young as five and six now have their own cell phones and tablets. My son begged for a phone for years before we finally agreed to allow him one at ten-and-a-half because he would be spending short periods of time home alone or at baseball practice, and we don’t own a house phone.
Like us, many parents allow their child or teen a phone as a form of security and communication when they can’t be with them. However, one of the biggest concerns parents face when allowing their children to have mobile devices is monitoring the content. We wonder, “Is my child accessing inappropriate videos or sites, and if so, how do I stop them?”
Additionally, we are concerned about who they are talking to, when, and whether they understand the dangers of online predators.
Before your child sets off with their new device, discuss online safety. Here are some safety tips for discussing (often) with your child.
- Never give out their phone number without a parent’s permission
- Never give their real name or address to a stranger or someone online
- If someone says something inappropriate or that makes you feel uncomfortable, tell an adult
- Do not click on links strangers send you
- Do not send photos of yourself to people you don’t know
Tracking Your Child’s Phone
If your child is walking home alone or taking the bus to an empty house, you can track their phone’s location. That way, if they forget to text you that they’ve made it home safe, you can check-in.
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
Another way to locate your child is 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 shortcut in iMessage:
- Go to a text message thread with you and your child
- Click the ⓘ button at the top right of the screen
If you are concerned about the amount of time your kid is spending on their phone, you can track that too!
- On your kid's phone, navigate to Settings
- Tap Turn On Screen Time
- Tap Set Up as Parent
iPhoneFAQ offers tips and advice on setting up time limits and restricting mature content.
Your main concern: Keeping your kids safe by monitoring social media use, messages, and content while staying discreet and in the background.
mSpy is the leading monitoring app in the business and has been on the market for over ten years; and is our number one pick! mSpy works 100% in the background, so your child or teen will not know when and if you’re monitoring them.
mSpy can scan text messages, emails, and messaging apps to look for potentially harmful messages or inappropriate content or pictures. Additionally, this easy to install app also can show you any videos or photos your child takes on their phone in order for you to scan the content when needed.
mSpy refreshes every five minutes, so you are always up to date on what your child is doing and the content they are viewing. In addition, the built-in GPS allows you to track their movements so you know if they’re truly at the mall like they said! It also allows you to set safe zones, so you know when your child enters or leaves an area such as school or grandma’s house.
mSpy gives parents the peace of mind they need to know that their kids are safe from cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and dangerous or unsavory peers or contacts, all while maintaining discretion and allowing your child the independence of having their own device.
Other fantastic mSpy features are its remote device tracking capabilities and remote control, so you can block apps, websites, and even callers. Control really is in your hands!
With mSpy’s ability to track all areas of online use, their 24/7 support in multiple languages, and their affordable plans, it is little wonder why they are America’s #1 family tracking app.
Your main concern: Web browsing and social media safety.
Qustodio promotes themselves as the internet’s best free parental control app. 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, text messaging, 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, and they are an approved app by industry leaders such as Softonic and Softpedia.
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. It is known as an all-in-one worry-free app. 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. MamaBear was recognized as a “Best Parenting App” Mumii Family Awards for 2017.
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 monitor 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. Screen Time Parental Control App is a winner of the 2019 National Parenting Product Awards.
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 of 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. They monitor 30+ of the most popular apps and social media platforms. 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. Impressively, Bark promotes the fact that it has helped prevent 16 school shootings and that it has detected 124,000 severe self-harm situations.
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.