Best Parental-Control Apps 2018

Paul Wagenseil ·
Senior editor, security and privacy
Updated

Best Overall Parental-Control App
Norton Family Premier
  • Devices Supported
    10
  • Web Content Filters
    Yes
  • Overall Time Limit
    Yes
  • Time Limit for Specific Apps
    No
  • Location Tracking
    Yes
  • Geofencing
    No
Best Value
ESET Parental Control for Android
  • Devices Supported
    Unlimited Android devices
  • Web Content Filters
    Yes
  • Overall Time Limit
    Yes
  • Time Limit for Specific Apps
    Yes
  • Location Tracking
    Yes
  • Geofencing
    No
Good for Multidevice Homes
Qustodio
  • Devices Supported
    5 to 15
  • Web Content Filters
    Yes
  • Overall Time Limit
    Yes
  • Time Limit for Specific Apps
    Yes
  • Location Tracking
    Yes
  • Geofencing
    No

Digital dangers lurk everywhere in the smartphone age, and the internet never goes to sleep or stops demanding our attention. This can be particularly challenging for parents of kids armed with smartphones loaded with disappearing-message apps. These kids may really believe that their next texts, tweets or viral videos cannot wait until the next morning.

Parental-control apps for smartphones can help parents track their kids, see with whom the children are communicating, block kids from reaching objectionable or dangerous websites, and even help kids understand the value of limits in a digital world while preventing them from accessing adult content or texting with strangers.

No single parental-control service is perfect, but our testing found that Norton Family Premier delivered the best mix of web filtering, location tracking and app management, particularly when installed on Android devices. (The iPhone version of Norton Family Premier was limited by comparison, but still offered just enough web filtering to make it worthwhile.)

Norton's parental-control app beat out PhoneSheriff ($89 a year), which had been a good alternative on Android, particularly for monitoring texting. Parents with many kids to manage might appreciate the simple setup of ESET Parental Control for Android ($30 a year), which lets you control an unlimited number of devices.

Norton and ESET also make antivirus software, and many antivirus products have parental controls built in. To see how well those controls stack up against the stand-alone services, please read The Best (and Worst) Antivirus Software for Parents.

Note: Retina-X Studios, the maker of PhoneSheriff and MobileSpy, no longer takes new orders for either app following a break-in into company servers in March 2018. We've removed both apps from the carousel above.

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Author Bio


Paul Wagenseil, Senior editor, security and privacy

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. That's all he's going to tell you unless you meet him in person.