11 Parental Control and Monitoring Apps We Recommend in 2023

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Best Parental Control and Monitoring

PARENTS/Design by Amelia Manley

Children of all ages use tablets, phones, computers, and other devices to play games, do homework and watch videos. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average child spends seven hours a day in front of screens. That's more than twice the amount of screen time recommended by the AAP.

And while technology can be a good educational resource for school-aged children, it can also be challenging to find a balance. Parental control and monitoring apps can help you manage and supervise your child's screen time. These apps can also block certain content, set limits on app usage, and help you see what your child is doing online. Our team researched over 35 parental control apps and rated each based on the number of monitoring options, cost, ease of use, and user reviews. Here are our top picks for the best parental control and monitoring apps.

Our Top Picks for Parental Control and Monitoring Apps of 2023

For Social Media: Bark

Bark logo


Key Specs

  • Price: $5-14 per month or $49-$99 per year
  • Platforms: iOS, Android 
  • Free Trial: Yes, 7 days

Pros & Cons

  • Monitors in-app content for 30 of the most popular social media apps

  • View everything easily from the family dashboard

  • Monitors text messages and emails

  • One of the most expensive options

  • Only available for mobile devices

  • No call monitoring

Why We Chose It

Bark goes beyond simple social media and web filtering and offers parents the ability to see what their kids are doing in real time via the family dashboard. The dashboard lets parents monitor up to 30 social media apps, and text messages, manage screen time limits (including what apps can be used when), filter websites, and set location alerts. With unlimited devices, this option also works well for families with kids who use several devices each. 

The app works by employing artificial intelligence to analyze phone activity for signs of cyberbullying, violence, sexting, suicidal ideation, or adult content. Parents are only alerted if something problematic is detected. Another stand-out feature is the ability for parents to block screentime while still allowing nighttime and wind-down apps like meditation or audiobooks to help kids relax and rest after their other apps have been shut off for the evening. 

Bark offers two plan options: Bark Jr. and Bark Premium. With Bark Jr., parents pay $5 a month or $49 a year for location tracking, screen time management, and website blocking features. Bark Premium costs $14 a month or $99 a year and provides full access to Bark Jr. features and the ability to monitor 30 social media apps and more.

For Customization: Screen Time

Courtesy of Screentime

Key Specs

  • Price: Free to $7 per month
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: Yes; Seven-days

Pros & Cons

  • Seven-day free trial of premium features

  • Includes social media monitoring

  • Instant pause feature to control device use

  • Features are limited on iOS devices

  • Location tracking only available on the premium plan

Why We Chose It

If controlling screen time is your main need, the Screen Time app is great choice. In addition to controlling screen time on and off hours, you can reward your child with more screen time after they finish their homework or chores. Parents can also preset blocked periods like bedtime, homework, or school hours. For moments when you're feeling extra generous, you can activate "Free Play" to temporarily override settings without messing up your screen monitoring routine.

With a premium subscription, all downloads are approved or rejected by you, and you can also keep an eye on your children's web history. Bonus: One Screen Time account works for the whole family, so you can give access to relatives or caregivers. Another bonus is that your kids won't be able to uninstall the app without a secure password. Screen Time offers both a free basic version and a premium version for $7 a month.

For Real-Time Monitoring: Qustodio

Courtesy of Qustodio

Key Specs

  • Price: Starting at $55 per year for 5 devices
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: Yes; Seven-days

Pros & Cons

  • 3-day free trial offer

  • Ability to block apps and filter content

  • Read text messages and see call history

  • Limited social media tracking (Facebook only)

  • More expensive than other options

Why We Chose It

Find everything you need to know about your kids' screen time on Qustodio's online dashboard. Qustodio offers standard features, like web filters that can block inappropriate content, game limitations, and a device time schedule—so your kids are unplugged when needed.

You'll also receive activity reports to stay on top of your kids' screen time trends and app usage. Qustodio even allows you to monitor social networks, track calls, and texts (for Android devices only), and install location tracking with helpful panic alerts. There is a free basic plan that allows you to monitor one device, or upgrade to the premium versions of either $55 per year for five devices or $100 per year for unlimited devices.

For Location Tracking: Norton Family


Key Specs

  • Price: $50 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both (plus Windows PC)
  • Free Trial: Yes, 30 days

Pros & Cons

  • 30-day free trial offer

  • Monitor time spent on devices

  • Ability to set up text alerts to report location changes

  • Some features are limited on iOS devices

  • Doesn’t support Mac devices

Why We Chose It

Norton's award-winning parental control software is now available in app form. Keeping tabs on your kids' activity is easy with web, time, search, social network, mobile app, text message, and video supervision. This way, you know who your kids are in touch with, what social media image they are presenting of themselves, and how often they are gaming.

Norton Family also protects personal information for those with Windows devices, so your child doesn't disclose sensitive or endangering information. Our favorite feature? "Instant Lock," which lets you unplug your kid during dinnertime. There's a 30-day free trial; after that, an annual plan costs $50.

For Older Kids: Canopy


Key Specs

  • Price: $8-$16 per month
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: Yes, 7 days

Pros & Cons

  • Advanced filtering for social media, web browsing, and apps

  • Teaches kids how to be responsible on digital devices

  • Free 7-day trial

  • Limited features outside of content filters

  • Can't monitor text messages

Why We Chose It

If you're looking for a way to monitor texts and social media use amongst teens, tweens, and older kids, consider Canopy. This app ensures your child is safe from sexual content, cyberbullying, and inappropriate language by scanning texts and social media posts for red flags.

It's restrictive, but still gives your child autonomy and privacy. For example, you can't read their messages. And it blocks content in real time—if a pornographic message comes through, it will flag your phone. The downside: the app does not control screen usage. It also cannot block content within apps.

Canopy offers three subscription plans after the free seven-day trial (each offers the same features; the only difference is the number of devices that can be monitored).

  • Three devices: $9 per month
  • Five devices: $10 per month
  • Ten devices: $16 per month

For Younger Kids: Net Nanny

Net Nanny
Courtesy of Net Nanny

Key Specs

  • Price: Starting at $50 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: Yes, 14 days

Pros & Cons

  • Advanced filtering for web browsing and apps

  • Ability to manage screen time and set limits

  • Real-time location tracking

  • Can't monitor calls and texts

  • No geofencing

Why We Chose It

With a modern look and intuitive design, Net Nanny is an excellent parental control and monitoring app that lets you filter the content your child is accessing. It can also track your child's location, display their history, and set time allowances—ideal for children of all ages. The app uses artificial intelligence to monitor social media, web browsing, and geo-alerts for when your child arrives at or leaves a location.

And Net Nanny doesn't just blindly block apps and websites; it analyzes them individually, giving you (and your child) the best possible experience. The premium subscription allows you to monitor up to five devices for $55 annually.

For Time Management: Kaspersky Safe Kids

Kaspersky Safe Kids
Courtesy of Kaspersky Safe Kids

Key Specs

  • Price: $0-$15 per year
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: No

Pros & Cons

  • YouTube search monitoring and content blocker

  • Detailed reports of app and website usage

  • GPS location tracking

  • Some features are limited on iOS

  • No free trial offer

Why We Chose It

Designed to monitor your child's computer and smartphone activity, Kaspersky Safe Kids lets you control your little one's online habits. With screen time limits, a GPS locator, an app manager, and the ability to block access to inappropriate or harmful content, Kaspersky is a great choice for parents of young children.

You can also monitor YouTube searches and videos watched within browsers on Windows, iOS, and Android devices—and within the YouTube app on Android devices. The only downside is the app's interface is a bit clunky, and the system can be slow.  The free basic version offers web filtering, safe searches, app use control, and screen time limits. If you want to add location and YouTube monitoring, opt for the premium version for $15 per year.

For Large Families: OurPact

OurPact logo


Key Specs

  • Price: $70/ year 
  • Platforms: iOS, Android
  • Free Trial: Yes, 14 days

Pros & Cons

  • Monitor up to 20 devices

  • Customization of settings for each device

  • Text message blocking

  • Location tracking does not show history

  • Web filtering does not filter as much as other apps

Why We Chose It

OurPact allows you to monitor up to 20 devices and customize settings for each device. This can be especially useful for families with kids of different ages (one in elementary school and one in high school, for example). Parents can block apps, the internet, or texts altogether (or during certain times), and set screen time limits for the device or individual apps. 

OurPact’s web filtering is not as sophisticated as some other options on this list and mainly focuses on pornography. Its location monitoring can show you where your kids are and alert you when your child arrives or leaves a preset location, but does not show location history, which may be a concern for parents of older kids. 

The free version is limited to one device and has minimal blocking features. The premium version allows you to limit screen time, track location, and manage up to 20 devices.

There are two premium options available:  

  • Premium: Schedule and limit screen time; block apps, websites, and texting; and track location for $7 per month or $70 per year
  • Premium Plus: All premium features plus live screen views for $10 per month or $100 per year

For Teen Drivers: Life360

Life360 logo


Key Specs

  • Price: $15-$25 per month or $100-$200 per year
  • Platforms: iOS/Android
  • Free Trial: Yes, 7 days

Pros & Cons

  • Real-time drive-tracking

  • Roadside assistance

  • Detailed driving report

  • Lacks online device monitoring and screen time limits

  • More expensive than others on this list

Why We Chose It

Life360 is a great choice for parents of new drivers thanks to its safety features, including crash detection, emergency dispatch, and roadside assistance for a flat tire, a dead battery, towing, and the inevitable getting the keys locked in the car. Best of all, you can monitor your teen's driving habits in real time, right down to how fast they're going on the expressway and back roads. Parents are also provided with a detailed driving report at any time.

Another great feature is family location sharing, so at any given time you know where the entire family is with a push of a button, including how long someone has been at a location. You can also get check-in alerts when your kid arrives somewhere, and then be alerted when they leave. Life360 offers a free basic package, or for a more robust experience, you can opt for a premium or gold subscription.

Gold membership: Comprehensive location tracking, crime reports, crash detection, individual driving reports, family summary, roadside assistance, towing for five miles, and digital safety features (including ID theft protection) for $15 per month or $100 per year

Premium membership: Extensive location tracking, crime reports, crash detection, individual driving reports, family summary, roadside assistance, towing for 50 miles, digital safety features (ID theft protection and credit monitoring), emergency medical assistance, and travel support for $25 per month or $200 per year

For Text Monitoring: MMGuardian

MMGuardian logo


Key Specs

  • Price: $50-$100 per year 
  • iOS/Android: Both
  • Free Trial: Yes, 14 days

Pros & Cons

  • SMS and WhatsApp monitoring

  • Emergency alerts sent when sexting, cyber-bullying, or violence detected

  • Monitors social media activity

  • Not as robust on iOS devices

  • Does not monitor emails

Why We Chose It

Parents who are worried about who their kids are talking to on their devices can use MMGuardian to monitor all incoming and outgoing texts along with messages on WhatsApp and Kik. Plus, you can get alerts for cyberbullying, sexting, suicidal thoughts, and more.

The app works with iOS and Android phones and tablets. Unfortunately, iPhone users won’t be able to access messages on Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, but messages on WhatsApp and Kik are available. Other notable features include location tracking, web filtering, and app control.

There are two plans to choose from:

  • Single device: One phone or iPad for $5 per month or $50 per year (for a single Android tablet, the price is $3 per month or $25 per year)
  • Family plan: Up to five devices for $10 per month or $100 per year

For a Free Option: Google Family Link

Google Family Link logo

Google Family Link

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Platform: iOS/Android
  • Free Trial: N/A

Pros & Cons

  • Completely free

  • Suggests apps your kids might enjoy

  • Offers screen time management features

  • Allows kids to turn off parental monitoring at 13

  • More limited functionality than many paid services

Why We Chose It

For parents who are just wading into parental control apps or are comfortable with more basic monitoring, Google Family Link is a perfect option. Google Family Link is one of the most comprehensive free parental control apps available today. It's great for parents who are figuring out what features work best for their family and what they may need more of.

Parents can turn on web filtering to avoid their kids accessing pornography, track their kids’ location, and block or allow apps at their discretion. Google Family Link also suggests apps that kids might enjoy and lets parents set limits on how screen time is spent. This can be particularly useful for helping kids develop good screen time habits. With these basic features, many parents can manage their kids' screen time experience enough to meet their needs. This app is probably better for younger kids, though, as children can turn off parental controls at age 13. 

Compare the Best Parental Control and Monitoring Apps

 Company  Price  iOS/Android Free Trial
For Social Media Bark $5-$14/month or $49-$99/year Both Yes, 7 days
For Customization Screen Time Free to $7/month Both Yes, 7 days
For Real-Time Monitoring Qustodio Starting at $55/year for 5 devices Both Yes, 7 days
For Location Tracking Norton Family $50/year Both Yes, 30 days
For Older Kids Canopy $8-$16/month Both Yes, 7 days 
For Younger Kids Net Nanny Starting at $50/year Both Yes, 14 days
For Time Management Kaspersky Safe Kids $0-$15/year Both No
For Large Families OurPact $70/year  Both Yes, 14 days
For Teen Drivers Life 360 Free to $15-$25/month or $100-$200/year Both Yes, 7 days
For Text Monitoring MMGuardian $50-$100/year Both Yes, 14 days
For Free Option Google Family Link Free Both N/A

How to Choose a Parental Control and Monitoring App

Deciding on the best parental monitoring app for your family ultimately comes down to your unique needs and parenting style. But keep a few key factors in mind when narrowing down your options.

  • Age of child: If you have young children, you'll want an app that offers basic features like web filtering and activity reports. For older kids, you may want to consider an app with more advanced features like text and social media monitoring.
  • Types of devices: If your child only uses a smartphone or tablet, look for an app compatible with their device's operating system. If they use a computer, look for an app that offers features like web filtering and activity reports.
  • Budget: Parental monitoring apps can range in price from free to a few hundred dollars a year. Choose an app that fits your long-term budget.
  • Features: Decide which features are most important to you in an app. Some popular features include web filtering, activity reports, text and social media monitoring, location tracking, and panic alerts.
  • Reviews: This is a great way to get an unbiased opinion on an app's features and performance. Reviews help you identify potential problems and decide if an app suits your family.

The best parental monitoring app offers multiple features, is easy to use, and is affordable for families of all sizes. Monitoring online activity, social media use, and screen time can help keep your kids safe online. Location features like GPS tracking and geofencing can also help keep tabs on your kids' whereabouts. Geofencing lets you set virtual boundaries and receive alerts if your child crosses them—and GPS tracking enables you to see their exact location at all times.

Look for an app with a clean, user-friendly interface that is compatible with all your devices. That way, you can monitor your kids' activity—no matter where they are or which device they use.

Key Considerations

How Do Parental Control Apps Work? 

Parental control apps use artificial intelligence to monitor keywords, images, device location, driving activities, and metatags when determining what to block and what to allow. Apps that monitor location generally use the device’s internal GPS to let parents know where their child is. Those that turn screen time on and off internally control the child's device to allow or disallow access when a parent or guardian specifies. 

Are There Any Drawbacks Using a Parental Control App?

Parental control apps can be a useful tool to help keep kids safe online and on their devices, as well as help parents motion their child's location and driving activities. That said, parents should not rely on parental control apps alone to keep their kids safe from the danger that comes with having a smartphone or tablet. Parents should talk with their kids and teens about their online habits and behavior.

“So many social-emotional issues are at play for tweens and teens in their online life,” says Liz Repking, an internet safety expert and the founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, “Parents really need to be at the forefront of that as it comes down to topics like relationships, communication, self-image, self-respect, and more.”

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can I Monitor My Child's Phone Without Them Knowing?

    While not all parental control and monitoring apps are completely discreet, most do allow you to monitor your child's phone without them knowing. Some apps, like Screen Time, also allow parents and caregivers to set a password that must be entered in order to uninstall the app. This way, children cannot uninstall the app without permission.

  • Can I Monitor My Child's Social Media Use?

    Most parental control and monitoring apps allow you to monitor your child's social media use. Some apps, like Canopy, are specifically designed for this purpose. Make sure to choose an app compatible with your child's preferred social media platforms.

  • Can I Monitor Multiple Devices at Once?

    Yes, you can monitor multiple devices simultaneously with most parental control and monitoring apps. You'll just need to install the app on each device and sign in with your account. After that, you can view activity from each of your child's devices in one place.

  • What Are the Most Important Features of a Parental Monitoring App?

    The most important features depend on your needs. Consider your child's age and online activity trends along with your budget when choosing an app. Some popular features include web filtering, activity reports, text and social media monitoring, location tracking, and panic alerts.


We reviewed over 35 monitoring apps and read hundreds of user reviews to find the best parental monitoring apps available. We focused on apps that are compatible with multiple device types, offer a wide range of features, and are affordable for families of all sizes. Location features like GPS tracking and geofencing were also important, as well as the number of devices the app can monitor simultaneously. Finally, we chose apps that offer advanced security features like content filtering and social media monitoring to keep kids safe online—no matter their device type or preferred online platform.

Updated by Kimberly Zapata
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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Media and children. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2021.

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