Net Nanny takes a slightly different approach and applies these time limits to internet usage. Still others, such as Qustodio, offers a mix; you can set up usage schedules for specific apps and device usage, as well as specifying a total time allotment for your child that applies across every piece of hardware they use to access the internet.
A mobile parental control app should at the very least be able to keep track of a child's current location and some historical location data, too. It's also important for them to offer some level of control over notifications and the frequency of location reporting, to avoid bombarding the parent with useless data. Both Qustodio and Norton Family offer these features. Some services, including Locategy, Boomerang, and FamilyTime, go one step further, letting you construct geofences around a location.
For the uninitiated, geofences are digital boundaries around a physical location that help parents keep track of when a child arrives at or leaves a given location.
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Kaspersky Safe Kids even lets you add a dimension of time to a geofence, so you can easily make sure a child stays where they are supposed to be throughout the day. Boomerang offers a unique feature, in that you can draw custom geofences on a map; others just create a circular radius around a point you define. The best parental control applications let you record and monitor who your child communicates with and what they talk about in said conversations.
Keep in mind that this capability is almost exclusively limited to Android. The implementation of this feature varies from service to service, of course. FamilyTime Premium, for example, copies a child's entire SMS history and call log for parents to review. Norton and Boomerang take a less invasive approach and let you specify which conversations to monitor and log.
Still others, like Locategy, only display the phone's call log. The best parental control software also lets you manage your child's social media activity, though in most cases this is limited to Facebook. Net Nanny used to offer a service dedicated to tracking social media accounts, but it is no longer available at the time of this writing. One last feature worth mentioning is an SOS button. When a child presses this button, it sends out an alert to the parent and any other trusted contacts.
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The notification includes time and location information and will in some cases keep broadcasting said data until either the child deactivates the alarm or the parent disables it from their own account. This works regardless of platform and even if a child has run out of their allotted time. Parents who are worried about always being reachable to their kids in case of emergencies should consider Qustodio and Locategy for this reason. Although the range of features that parental control software supports is impressive, no system is perfect.
If your children want to get around the limitations you impose, they will likely be able to do so either by using unmonitored devices or finding ways to wipe their devices clean of the controlling apps. Thus, it's worthwhile to take the time to talk with your child about why you have installed monitoring software in the first place. After all, digital safety and security are worthwhile topics for everyone. It's better to approach these conversations honestly, rather than have them find out on their own and stop trusting you.
Especially for older children, it's also important to listen to your child's specific privacy concerns, rather than just setting rules and restrictions that may otherwise be seen as arbitrary. Time scheduler for internet, device, and application usage.
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Location tracking. Cons: Very expensive. Social monitoring only tracks Facebook. Dated web portal. Some iOS limitations. Pros: Affordable. No limit on devices or child profiles. Flexible control of device and app usage.
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Robust web filtering. Extensive alert system. Cons: Several iOS limitations. Content filtering limited to specific browsers. Social monitoring only covers Facebook and VK. Sluggish web interface. Excellent web dashboard.
Settings apply across all devices. No limit on number of PC, phones, tablets, or children protected. Tracks child's location. Cons: Does not work on Macs. No Free version anymore. Web extension is easily disabled. Platform-dependent features.
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Lackluster social media tracking. Bottom Line: Norton Family's top-notch web interface and wealth of features make it easy for parents to track and manage their children's activity across their many devices, though it doesn't work on Macs. Pros: Supports Windows, Mac, Android. Web-based configuration and reporting. Powerful filtering. Cross-platform internet time allowance.
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App control for Android. Cons: No new updates. No location tracking. Lacks advanced time management control. Limited iOS features.
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Pros: Good app and device usage controls. Useful web filters. Supports geofencing. Call and SMS supervision on Android. Cons: Expensive. Some limitations on iOS. Must configure each device separately. Requires proprietary browser. It's mobile-only, though, so you can't use it to monitor Macs or PCs. Pros: Excellent iOS app design.
Accurate and well-implemented location tracking. App blocking and usage schedules. Free version available. Cons: No support for Macs and PCs. Lacks call and SMS blocking. No social media monitoring.