At almost 2-years-old, my daughter is probably less tech-savvy than most of her toddler peers. She can press the home button on my phone, but she doesn't know how to swipe to make it work and her short attention span means she will barely sit through a Sesame Street music video, let alone an entire episode. But I know that won't always be the case, and pretty soon she'll be asking for her own phone and I'll be frantically searching for the best apps for monitoring your kid's phone usage.
In this day and age, I sometimes wish I wasn't a grown-ass woman and could have my parents monitor my phone usage. I would certainly be a more productive member of society, that's for sure. If technology has proved one thing, it's that we have little self-discipline when it comes to phones, apps, and the never-ending rabbit hole of having the world at our finger tips.
One thing to point out is that while these apps are great for keeping kids in check when it comes to what they're looking at online, or how long they're spending on their phones each day, apps won't solve the problem on their own. As Brian Hall wrote for Tom's Guide, which rated its own list of the best apps for parental control:
"Parental-control apps for mobile devices work best when they're part of a comprehensive approach to teaching your kids about behaving responsibly online. That means talking to your kids about what they should and shouldn't do with their mobile devices, clearly communicating how you expect them to act and making clear that you will be monitoring what they do with their phones."
So, perhaps in the time it takes to install one of these apps, consider how you're going to approach speaking to your child about their phone usage. And while you're at it, maybe make a few changes to your own phone usage as well. At the very least, it's good to have compassion for how tough it might be for your child to limit their phone use.
Net Nanny (Android)
Tom's Guide says Net Nany is an "excellent monitoring service that includes age-based profiles, a specialized browser that can mask swear words and some images, and probably the best web tool for managing and blocking smartphone apps." It can limit the overall amount of time your child spends on his or her device, and it will let you enter a password on your child's phone to allow them 30 minutes of time on a blocked app, which is helpful since Net Nanny doesn't allow you time limits for specific apps.
Qustodio Parental Control (Andriod)
Qustodio has some fantastic attributes, including a time scheduler for internet, device use, and apps. According to PCMag, it has a powerful social monitoring feature and includes location tracking, as well as call and text blocking. It also features a panic button for your child.
Like most of these apps, though, it only allows you to monitor your child's device from a web interface, meaning you can't use your own phone for monitoring.
Mobicip (Android & iOS)
Mobicip is one of the few devices that has a limited free version that comes with predetermined filters for certain websites.
Norton Family Control (Android & iOS)
Norton Family Control gets the highest marks from most review sites, in part because it's the only app that doesn't require you to log onto a computer in order to monitor your child's usage. You can include an unlimited number of apps on it, and it features location tracking, website filtering, overall device usage, and app usage limits.
The version for iOS is more limited than that for Android.
PhoneSheriff (Android & iOS)
ESET Parental Control (Android)
The set-up with ESET is purportedly a cinch, although the app doesn't include location tracking, information contacts, or social networks. But the app gets good marks for being easy to set up and easy to install website and time usage limits.
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