4 of the best parental controls for your child’s phone

When a child gets a phone, it changes their world. It opens a door to a universe of sights, sounds, voices, videos, friends and fiends. And then…the child steps through. Where will they go? Parents don’t know. They can’t be there 24/7 to watch what their children are doing.

But parents can lock the doors to those places where kids should not be. They can also make sure their children don’t spend all day (and night) on their phone, absorbed in apps and games. How? They can use parental controls. Most parents now do, managing their children’s activity to limit screentime, filter content, curb or block specific sites and apps, keep predators away and oversee phone use overall.

Indeed, there is today such demand for parental controls that there are dozens of choices on the market and it would take you a good deal of time to sort through them. We’re here to help. We think these are four of the best. They’re user-friendly and multifunctional, allowing parents to limit screentime, track phone activity and restrict addictive apps like TikTok and YouTube.

Apple Screen Time

Preinstalled in Apple’s iOS operating system, Screen Time is a set of controls that enables you to remotely manage your child’s iPhone or iPad, turn off access when it’s time for bed and restrict the amount of time your child can spend on individual apps, categories of apps—and on the phone overall.

Setup can be complicated and there are a lot of features and settings tucked away in different menus but, because it’s so closely meshed with the operating system, Screen Time gives you a comprehensive view of your child’s phone activity and superior capability in managing phone use.

To use Screen Time, you’ll need to set up Apple’s Family Sharing service. Once you do, you can remotely activate Screen Time on your child’s iPhone, iPad or Mac. Make sure you don’t skip the “setup passcode” step. If you do, your kid can easily disable Screen Time.

Google Family Link

This is a free app you can download to your Android phone (or iPhone) to manage your child’s Android phone. Family Link offers basically the same functionality as Apple Screen Time. It enables you to approve, limit or block use of specific apps, restrict total hours per day your child spends on their phone and set a turn-off time at night. You can also follow device location.

Family Link is best for kids under 13. After they turn 13, kids can sign up for their own Google account and opt out of your control. That might be OK with you. But if you want to continue monitoring, consider Qustodio.


Qustodio gives you the same capabilities as Google Family Link—and gives you use of them even after your child turns 13. With Qustodio, you can monitor and manage individual apps, and screentime overall. You can also set up more than one off-time. So not only can you remotely switch off your kid’s Android phone at bedtime, you can switch it off at, say, dinnertime as well.

Qustodio comes in different versions. There’s a free option but it covers only one device and keeps just seven days of activity history. The Small version covers five devices and costs around $55 a year. The

Medium version covers 10 devices and is around $100. The Large version covers 15 devices and costs around $140 a year. The paid versions all save 30 days of activity history and offer extra features.

Norton Family

Like Qustodio, this is a subscription service (around $50 a year) and comes with generally the same capabilities as the apps above. It works with iOS and Android, and offers a web dashboard as well as a phone dashboard. Setup and configuration are simple and Norton Family also includes geofencing tools. It’s the parental control top-rated by PC Magazine.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that getting a phone is modern childhood’s most important event. With phone in hand—which is nearly always for today’s kids—a child can watch practically anything and interact with almost anyone. They can go virtually anywhere. But with the right parental controls, you can make sure they go to those places where they learn and grow responsibly and safely.