Best Parental Control Software

By Luka Arežina January 18, 2021

The children of today have never known a time without the internet. Although this revolutionary technology has many wonderful uses and benefits, it also poses great dangers that can be harmful to children. 

At DataProt, we are huge advocates for online privacy, so technology designed to snoop on people raises our eyebrows. However, we understand the concerns parents have for their children’s wellbeing given that the internet is awash with harmful content. This is why we’re happy to advocate some of the best parental control software, as children are more susceptible to the internet’s dark side.

We checked every parental control software solution we reviewed to make sure that it doesn’t stealthily snoop on your children. We also recommend that you clearly explain to your kids why parental controls on the internet are necessary. 

Best Parental Control Software in 2021

  • Deep monitoring
  • Less time-consuming
  • Compatible with many devices
  • Expensive premium plan
Price Free for a limited period
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  • Easy setup
  • App blocking
  • Marvelous web filtering
  • Limited number of devices
Price $39.99/year
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  • Top-notch interface
  • Great on Android devices
  • Works well across different devices
  • Expensive paid versions
Price $54.95/year
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  • No limit on devices
  • Emphasis on education
  • Comprehensive package
  • Doesn’t work on Macs
Price $49.99/year
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  • Affordable
  • Robust alert system
  • Unlimited devices and profiles
  • The interface isn’t as sharp as what competing apps offer
Price $14.99/mo
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What is parental control software?

Parental control software monitors and restricts activity on devices your children have access to. Computers and web browsers sometimes offer some limited safe browsing options, but these can normally be bypassed by crafty children who can learn tech skills quickly. They also don’t include monitoring or alerts.

Realistically, you need to look at some of the best parental control software of 2020 to see how extra measures can be taken to help keep your child safe. These programs use advanced techniques to keep on top of your child’s internet use. Some would argue that this is a form of helicopter parenting, but the internet is full of dangerous and explicit content that can be damaging for children. It’s completely reasonable that you would want to protect your child from being exposed to these materials, and even if they’re upset with you now, they’ll surely thank you when they’re older.

Some of the best parental control software works at router level, but this targets the whole house’s WiFi. This means that you could also be blocked from viewing some content, and it also doesn’t prevent children from accessing forbidden content using their mobile data. The best coverage instead comes from parental control software that is installed directly onto the devices themselves and allows you to control the settings remotely. Let’s look at these apps in more detail.

1. Bark

" Best for social media "

  • Number of devices
    Up to 20
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Superb alert system
  • Unique algorithm

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Deep monitoring
  • Less time-consuming
  • Compatible with many devices
  • Expensive premium plan

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Deep monitoring
  • Less time-consuming
  • Compatible with many devices
  • Expensive premium plan
  • Number of devices
    Up to 20
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Superb alert system
  • Unique algorithm

Bark is the first of our picks on this list of the best parental control software. Just like a guard dog barks when danger or suspicion approaches, Bark gives off a warning when your child is at risk online. If you have no interest in being a helicopter parent but still want to keep your child safe online, Bark is a great option. It’s not overly intrusive; it simply gives you a warning when something’s not right, which could prompt you to talk to your child or perhaps take more serious action, depending on the situation. It’s this subtlety that makes Bark arguably the best parental control software for alerts.

It’s relatively simple to get started with Bark. The installation phase may be slightly tricky, but the site’s step-by-step guidance will help you get it up and running. Once you do, you’ll find that Bark puts a stronger emphasis on sending you alerts based on your child’s usage and perceived threats. The team at Bark stresses that parental control software should be transparent, so the website gives you an abundance of information on how to discuss this with your child. You can really tell that this app was designed with the help of psychologists.

Bark is our pick as the best parental control software for social media. It covers 24 social media platforms and its algorithm scans messages, only alerting you when there’s an issue at hand. 

There are three tiers of alerts for you to choose from: relaxed, moderate, and strict. The strict alert settings may become tiresome quickly, with the algorithm warning you of things that aren’t really issues at all. If you don’t want to be too intrusive on your child’s activities but are still concerned for their welfare, then Bark’s relaxed alert settings only warn you of serious issues.

Bark is one of the higher-priced options on the market, but you do get some of the best software for parental control in return. There are two packages available; Bark Jr – which usually costs $49 per year but at the time of writing this review was available free for a lifetime – and Bark Premium for $99 per year. 

Unlike alternative software, Bark also offers monthly subscriptions, although this raises the price significantly. A seven-day free trial is also available for both packages so you can put them to the test. 

Bark Jr is aimed at younger children and offers screen time management, web filtering, and location check-in. If you want a further overview of your child’s activities, then the Premium package offers you the best parental control computer software. It gives you advanced monitoring alerts for issues such as cyberbullying that could be a direct threat to your child, as well as an in-depth analysis of the websites and applications they’ve been using. A subscription to Bark allows you to implement its software across unlimited devices for an unlimited number of children, which is a green light for us.

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2. Net Nanny

" Best for iOS "

  • Number of devices
    Up to 20
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Excellent app advisor
  • Brilliant for mobile

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy setup
  • App blocking
  • Marvelous web filtering
  • Limited number of devices

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy setup
  • App blocking
  • Marvelous web filtering
  • Limited number of devices
  • Number of devices
    Up to 20
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Excellent app advisor
  • Brilliant for mobile

Net Nanny was one of the early innovators of parental control technology, having been formed in 1995. It also has a reputation for being the best parental control software for iOS devices. 

Installation is fairly straightforward. You’ll need to sign up and put in payment details before this, though. Once the app has been installed and you open it, you’ll have access to the control panels. The next step is to download it onto your child’s devices, after which you can adjust the protection settings and notifications. You can lock the app on your child’s device so that they can’t access it without the passcode. If they uninstall it, you’ll receive a notification. 

Net Nanny isn’t the easiest parental control software to get to a grip on. The dashboard seems a bit overwhelming to begin with, and it may take you a little while to get to the hang of. Once you do, we’re sure that you’ll find it to be one of the best internet parental control software options out there. 

You’ll be happy with the strong variety of parental controls available, including blocking adult content, pornography, and harmful videos. On top of this, you can also see which apps are downloaded on your child’s device and use Net Nanny’s App Advisor to receive brief descriptions of these apps, so you know whether they’re harmful and worth blocking. 

Net Nanny pricing is on the higher side, but for your money you’ll get arguably the best parental control software for Android and iOS systems, the two of which have almost identical layouts. To get the program on one desktop device costs $39.99 for an annual subscription, which is a bit steep and neglects mobile phones. To get Net Nanny on up to five devices, including mobile phones and Kindle Fire, costs $54.99 per year, which represents much better value than the single desktop package.

If you have a big family or your kids are a little bit tech mad, then $89.99 will cover up to 20 devices. One thing we like about Net Nanny’s subscription plans is that you’ll receive access to all of its features, so despite the high price tag, you’ll get a wealth of features to keep your family safe. If you’re looking for comprehensive monitoring for your children, then Net Nanny is our pick for the overall best parental control software for the internet.

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3. Qustodio

" Best for use across multiple platform "

  • Number of devices
    Up to 15
  • Geofencing
    Yes
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Panic alerts
  • Good free version

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Top-notch interface
  • Great on Android devices
  • Works well across different devices
  • Expensive paid versions

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Top-notch interface
  • Great on Android devices
  • Works well across different devices
  • Expensive paid versions
  • Number of devices
    Up to 15
  • Geofencing
    Yes
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Panic alerts
  • Good free version

Qustodio is another excellent multi-platform parental control software. Installation is straightforward and the interface is clean. Qustodio has an exciting range of features that pretty much puts it at the top of the tree in this area. 

The geofencing feature is useful if you have a child who is a bit too keen on adventure. This feature allows you to draw out a boundary on a map, and if your child leaves that boundary, then you’ll receive a notification. It’s the kind of above-and-beyond feature that makes Qustodio arguably the best parental control and monitoring software on the market. 

Geofencing is particularly useful if you live near some sketchy areas or construction sites where your danger-prone child may like to explore. It’s not just a circular radius from your home but a customizable boundary, meaning that you can target particularly risky areas. Unfortunately, Qustodio’s geofencing doesn’t work on iOS devices, but it’s part of the app’s strong parental controls for Android. 

Another unique feature of Qustodio is the panic button feature, which allows your child to send out a signal to selected adults if they find themselves in some form of danger. This bonus feature extends beyond internet monitoring; in fact, it’s more of a physical child protection feature than anything else. We love the fact that Qustodio is not only possibly the best free software for parental control for internet access, but also offers real-life protection in the physical world. 

Qustodio comes with a free version, as well as a paid version. The free version is competent, but you’ll only get access to one device. Monitoring, time restrictions, social media checks, and safe web filtering are included in the free package, which is a truly generous offer, and much more than we’d expect for free. 

We recommend that you try the free version. It’s a good way to decide whether this really is the best parental control software for kids. If you like it, you can subscribe to the paid plan so you can protect multiple children across many devices. Or, if you only have one child and are only interested in protecting their primary device, then you can save yourself some money by sticking to the free plan.

Of course, the most advanced features come with the paid versions of the software. You’ll get control over apps and games, location tracking, the panic button feature for Android, calls and SMS monitoring for Android, and advanced Facebook monitoring. It’s a wonderful package, and in our opinion it’s the best multi-platform parental control software out there, particularly if your child has an Android phone so you can make use of all the features. 

Pricing is reasonably high, starting at $54.95 per year for five devices, $96.95 for 10 devices, and $137.95 for 15. If you don’t worry about the price and focus on what the subscription offers, you’ll see that Qustodio has the most varied set of features of any parental control software we’ve reviewed. On top of that, the whole range of features is included in all the paid packages.

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4. Norton Family

" Best for ease of use "

  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Can be paired with antivirus software
  • Excellent web filtering

Things we liked / disliked:

  • No limit on devices
  • Emphasis on education
  • Comprehensive package
  • Doesn’t work on Macs

Things we liked / disliked:

  • No limit on devices
  • Emphasis on education
  • Comprehensive package
  • Doesn’t work on Macs
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Geofencing
    No
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Can be paired with antivirus software
  • Excellent web filtering

The award for the best parental control software with antivirus protection can only go to Norton, one of the world’s premier antivirus companies. Those of you who have used Norton’s services will be familiar with the interface, which can feel a bit clunky but is manageable nevertheless. 

We’re going to start this review by looking at a new and interesting feature that Norton Family has put in place to help combat some of the challenges of remote learning, which has changed the way children learn during the COVID-19 pandemic. This feature allows you to set school hours for your children and only allow them to visit websites that their teachers have prescribed for them. It’s smart innovations like this that make Norton Family perhaps the best software for parental control.

Norton Family’s web filtering tools are about as strong as you can get, which is to be expected from this famous cybersecurity maestro. There is a range of customizable features that go far deeper than the majority of other parental control softwares. Three levels of supervision can be altered at your discretion: Low, which simply monitors activity; Moderate, which warns your child but allows them to continue; and High, which blocks the website.

The main drawback of Norton Family is that it doesn’t work on Macs, making it useless for many potential customers. However, you could argue that it is the best parental control software for Windows. 

The price is somewhat high if you don’t want to cover many devices, but the annual fee of $49.99 gives you the ability to protect an unlimited number of devices for all your children. There is no free version, but a 30-day free trial is available. 

If you’re on the hunt for some great antivirus software, you can get a combined deal with Norton that includes Norton Family for $54.99 for the first year and $109.99 per year afterward. From our perspective, this is the best parental control antivirus software deal currently on the market.

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5. Kaspersky Safe Kids

" Best for users on a budget "

  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Geofencing
    Yes
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Geofencing
  • Excellent reports

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Robust alert system
  • Unlimited devices and profiles
  • The interface isn’t as sharp as what competing apps offer

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Robust alert system
  • Unlimited devices and profiles
  • The interface isn’t as sharp as what competing apps offer
  • Number of devices
    Unlimited
  • Geofencing
    Yes
  • Social media monitoring
    Yes
  • Geofencing
  • Excellent reports

If you want to keep your child protected without breaking your budget, then Kaspersky Safe Kids is a great choice as one of the best parental control software programs.

Of course, you have to expect some downsides if you opt for software that is significantly cheaper than the competition. The first compromise you’ll be making is that the interface isn’t as fine-tuned as on some of the more expensive competitors’ products. It can be a bit confusing and the load times aren’t as sharp. Some of you won’t mind this too much, but we understand that many people become quickly frustrated when there’s the slightest inconvenience with technology they’ve paid for. 

The Kaspersky Safe Kids app performs well on Android but is perhaps not the best iOS parental control software; we’d recommend Net Nanny for that. For instance, there is no app monitoring on iOS devices, nor can you block usage to apps once a time limit has been exceeded. This is par for the course with iOS devices and parental control software, with many all of them struggling to work properly with iOS. 

If you’re concerned with your child’s usage of a mobile device, then control over Android devices is much easier. The other thing that is noticeably missing from Kaspersky Safe Kids is that there is no SOS option for your child. When it comes to overall monitoring, though, it ticks most of the boxes. 

Kaspersky Safe Kids wins our award for being the best value for money by a country mile. It costs just $14.99 per year for a subscription, making it an easy choice for people who are on a budget and looking for some of the best software for parental control. With the subscription, you’ll receive an unlimited number of accounts for an unlimited number of kids, which is truly excellent. 

A free version of Kaspersky Safe Kids is also available. With this, however, you won’t receive some features such as location tracking, social media monitoring, YouTube history checks, or instant alerts for any misadventures on your child’s device. With the free version, you’ll also receive a week-long free trial of the full version to test whether its features are worth its humble price tag. 

Although Kaspersky is among the best free parental control software, going for the paid package is still a fairly safe investment. Even if you do end up regretting the purchase, $14.99 definitely isn’t a huge price to pay for taking care of your child’s welfare. That’s why we’d say Kaspersky is definitely worth a try. 

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Methodology

When choosing any type of software, you should base your decisions on a set of guidelines describing what to look out for. You don’t want to sign up for subpar or overly intrusive providers; you only want the best-rated parental control software. Here’s our methodology for researching and reviewing parental control software.

Ease of use

When it comes to your children’s safety, you don’t want to be messing around with unimportant stuff. You want to get straight to the point. That’s why you need to examine the functionality of the parental control software and question whether it is straightforward enough to use comfortably.

We understand that not all parents are tech-savvy; most just want something that will give results that are to the point. We took this into account in our reviews, examining the program’s ease of use and interface so you don’t end up with software that is too complicated for you. For it to be the best parental control software, you need to be able to use it.

Installing the software across various devices should also be a straightforward task. On top of that, you need to know whether the app’s central control dashboard is good enough to help you monitor each device your child or children might use. You should question how much it lets you view and whether it actually gives you the level of control you seek.

Web filtering

Web filtering is part of the bread and butter of parental control software. You should have access to controls that give you options as to which sort of content you don’t want your child to come across. There are many things online that can be harmful to children, such as pornography, violence, cyberbullying, and predators. The best parental control software can help to block these threats and alert you if your child is trying to access them or has been approached by them.

Time management

Many great parental control programs offer time management restrictions as part of their packages. Screen addiction has become prevalent in recent years, and we understand the angst that many parents have because of this. The long-term consequences, if any, are relatively unknown, so it’s understandable that parents want their children to spend a bit more time in the “real world” than on their devices. This is one of the great aspects of parental control software, as it can not only limit children’s time on devices, but it can teach them to create healthy and disciplined habits.

Pricing

Of course, you’ll also need to evaluate parental control software pricing before making a decision. You need to consider what features you need and whether the package you’re looking at contains all of them.

Pricing also depends on how many devices the plan covers. Many kids these days have multiple devices, such as smartphones, laptops, games consoles, and tablets. Some offer a blanket that covers many appliances, while others charge per device. Take into consideration how many children you need to protect and how many devices they each have. From here, you can calculate what the most suitable type of coverage is for you and your children.

FAQ

What is the best parental control software for Mac?

Many parental control softwares have issues with integrating well on Macs and other Apple products, which is why you have to be vigilant to make sure that you don’t subscribe to a software that is incompatible with your child’s devices. Bark, Net Nanny, and Qustodio are all compatible with Mac and iOS, so they’re worth testing.

How can I restrict my child online?

The online world is filled with harmful content, and with children having the curious minds that they do, some form of restriction is sometimes necessary to keep them safe. The best parental internet control software gives parents the ability to put safeguards in place to block their children from accessing certain content. They can also limit screen time and give you notifications when your kids try to access blocked content. 

What can parental controls see?

This is dependent on the software that you subscribe to. Some offer you deep monitoring of most of what your children get up to, while others just show you when something is a threat. We recommend that you don’t try to be too eagle-eyed and make sure you’re transparent with your children about what you can see. Children are likely to be resistant to monitoring that’s overbearing, and it can build a relationship of mistrust, so make sure that they’re aware of why you’re monitoring them. 

Which parental control software is the best?

The differences between the best parental control softwares aren’t too vast. Every product we’ve reviewed has been tested to ensure that it does what you’d expect it to do. Beyond that, it’s up to you to decide whether the features match up to the price. 

For instance, if you wish to have geofencing incorporated as part of the package, then we recommend Kaspersky Safe Kids or Qustodio. You need to check that the software works on your children’s devices, as some of these apps don’t perform strongly on Macs or iPhones, while Norton Family doesn’t work on Apple products at all. Thus, what you consider the best parental control software tends to vary depending on the devices your children use.