Are Parental Control Apps Legal?

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Modern parents use parental control apps to protect their children’s well-being while using the internet.

The Beau Biden Foundation reports that there are almost 500,000 active online predators daily. Online Predators often target children ages 12 to 15 for grooming and manipulation. 

Accessing your kids’ devices through spy apps may help you track their safety online. These apps can help prevent cyberbullying, child identity theft, and other threats of cyber attacks

In a Kaspersky-commissioned survey, 48% of parents use parental control apps, while 45% check their kids’ internet browsing history frequently. Yet, one may ask: Are parental control apps legal? 

In this article, discover whether parental control apps are legal, their pros and cons, and the best parental control apps on the market today. 

Legal Issues of Parental Control Apps

Parental control apps can be legal or illegal, depending on how you use them. 

Parents are allowed to monitor their minor child’s online activities. However, it’s different if the child is already an adult. 

The Cornell Law School notes that state laws set the legal age and can differ from one state to another. 

Most states in America have put their legal age to 18. The legal age is when a person gains control of their actions. They become responsible for decision-making.

Unconsented parental control apps usage on adults’ devices may lead to legal liabilities. Even if you are monitoring your own child. 

Laws on Parental Control Apps

It is possible to invade someone’s privacy when using parental control apps. The following laws cover these types of situations: 

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that USA’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires operators of online services to notify the parents of any use, collection, or sharing of the kids’ personal information. 

These services refer to websites or apps that focus on children below 13.

The operators are expected to observe the following actions:

  1. Get parents’ authorization before doing anything with the kid’s information 
  2. Secure the information they gathered from children
  3. Allow the parents to refuse or allow the operators’ future or further collection of personal information from the child
  4. Allow the parents to decide whether to delete the child’s personal information if they want to

Any violation of this federal law may cause the operators to pay $50,120 per violation. 

Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) 

The US Department of Justice explains ECPA is a federal law that protects oral, wire, and electronic communications. It doesn’t allow the intentional sharing and use of private information without the owner’s consent. 

It applies to telephone conversations, email, and electronically stored data. Anyone who violates ECPA will have a fine of up to $250,000 and face up to five years of jail time.

In the 1998 case of Pollock v. Pollock, the court used the idea of “vicarious consent” to say that it was okay to listen in on a talk between a child and an adult. Conversations can be recorded if one of the people in the chat agrees with them. 

In this situation, vicarious consent happens when a parent agrees to wiretap on behalf of their child. This is only justifiable when the parent’s spying is done out of genuine worry for the child’s well-being. 

If a parent is looking out for their child’s best interests, judges should find that snooping is justified and legal because the parent is agreeing to their own snooping.

Pros and Cons of Parental Control Apps

Pew Research Center’s survey show 93% of parents with at least one child below 18 years old say that they and their guardians have a huge responsibility to ensure their kids’ digital safety. Knowing the pros and cons of these apps can help you with that.


Parental control apps are becoming more popular as children grow more tech-savvy. The following are some of the pros of using parental control apps to monitor your child’s online behavior: 

1. Block inappropriate content from the kids like:

  • Pornography 
  • Gore or murder content
  • Content about weapons or drugs
  • Ghosts or jump scare content 
  • Hate speech or bad words
  • Specific websites and platforms 

2. Monitor kids’ activities such as:

  • Browsing patterns or history
  • Communication by email and text
  • Whereabouts through GPS location features 
  • Screen time 
  • Unauthorized spending

3. Protect your kids from:

  • Identity theft 
  • Frauds or scams
  • Online predators 
  • Cyberbullying 
  • Screen addiction 

Parents can use parental control apps to check for symptoms of identity theft, scamming, and other online threats.

According to the Pew Research Center survey, 75% of parents monitor the websites or mobile apps their child visits. 


There are downsides when using parental control apps that you may consider. One is that it might negatively affect your parent-child relationship because of the possible rise of trust issues. 

Another disadvantage of using these apps is that they can be pricey. Different apps also have different price ranges, depending on the features they offer. may have expensive rates depending on the package.

Popular Parental Control Apps 

With advanced technology, youngsters become more exposed online. There are popular parental control apps in the market to cater to concerns about online safety. 

The following are some of the most trusted apps in the market today: 


mSpy is designed for parental control purposes and enables remote tracking of children’s online activities. It is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems and offers parents a transparent view of their child’s smartphone usage. 

This tracking tool has the ability to monitor the following:

  • Calls 
  • Text messages
  • Photos
  • Keystrokes
  • Internet use
  • Social media platforms

mSpy’s location tracking and real-time updates features can be helpful. The app aims to protect and secure your and your child’s information. 

KidsGuard Pro

ClevGuard’s KidsGuard Pro app lets parents view their kids’ mobile devices. It scans a kid’s phone and reports contacts, messages, social media applications, and more, like many free and commercial spy apps.

With KidsGuard Pro, you can do these features: 

  • Check locations
  • Set geofencing
  • Track text messages and calls
  • Access gallery and browsing history
  • Screenshots
  • Keystroke recorder

This app is worth every penny if you want a powerful Android location tracker without root access.

Net Nanny 

NetNanny is a powerful filtering tool that lets parents control what kind of material from the internet gets into their homes. It has maximum security and monitoring functions that are already set up, but you can easily change them to fit the needs of your family.

With modern web-filtering technology, Net Nanny, these are the features that this app is known for:

  • Analyzes the pages apart from blocking pages with customized filters
  • Track location and show location history
  • Block apps from your kid’s phone
  • Content screening on social media apps and services 

As its website suggests, this app aims to monitor, limit, and protect. 


Bark is a parental control app that gives privacy while alerting them to suspicious activities. This spy app is known to be helpful to parents and caregivers. 

Bark allows you to:

  • Check emails, texts, and social media platforms
  • Control screen time
  • Block contents
  • Track and share location. 

Bark’s real-time notifications can be helpful for you. This danger may come from online interactions or other activities that hint at mental health issues.

These parental control apps are only some of the many available apps in the market. You can choose the best for you, your kids, and your family dynamics. 

Final Note

Protecting your juvenile child against online threats is legal; it is a responsibility. Using parental control apps can help you do this. 

If your child becomes an adult, you must ask for consent before using a parental control app on their devices. Using these apps on adults without their permission is illegal.

Specific apps such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Disney Plus, also have parental control built inside the app that a parent can use.

Other options exist, such as parental controls on Android and iPhone. These are for your kids’ digital space safety without installing extra apps.

The FTC explains that children rely on their parents for help on issues that matter to them. Beyond these parental control apps and websites, talking to your kids may be one of the best ways to protect them online.

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