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Tuesday Tip: 4 Apps to Help Parents Set Limits on Children’s Cell Phones

Tuesday Tip: 4 Parental control apps to help protect children when they’re on their phones

Kids and phones. It’s a quandary for parents. You want your kids to have a phone so you can stay in touch, but you don’t want your kids using their phone to access sites you find unacceptable or spend every waking hour playing Fortnite.

Here’s a solution: parental controls.

These are apps you install on your child’s phone and your phone (or computer) so you can monitor and manage their activity. They enable you to supervise web behavior, limit screen time and view your child’s activity.

Most of these apps work better on an Android phone than an iOS phone due to Apple’s restrictions on third-party apps. But Apple just announced that iOS 12 (due for release this fall) will include a free feature called Screen Time that will allow you to manage all of a child’s iOS devices. This is in addition to the app-blocking and web-filtering options already in the Restrictions section of the main settings of iOS phones. To learn more about the variety of parental controls for iOS devices – current and future – check out the Apple Families page.

With the right parental control app, you can filter web access and prevent kids from going to certain websites while overseeing the sites they do visit. You can block kids from using particular apps, such as social media or messaging apps. Some parental controls automatically block new apps a child tries to install unless you first approve.

Most parental controls enable you to restrict the time of day and/or the number of hours a child can spend on a device and limit hours of web usage. Most also include location-tracking features that let you see where kids are and where they’ve been. Parental control apps allow you to see who children communicate with and what they say by relaying call and text logs to you. A lot of parental controls let you manage social media activity as well.

Most parental control tools now also enable “geofencing,” which means you can define a safe geographic area for your child and get an alert if your child leaves that area.

Here are 4 of the best parental control tools out now.

Please note: App creators’ views and values are their own and are not endorsed by CREDO Mobile. Before downloading any app, please confirm that it meets your personal standards for corporate ethics and protection of privacy.


Boomerang is mobile-only, which means you can’t manage a child’s activity from a PC or Mac, but this is a solid, easy-to-use app for Android and iOS phones and tablets. It lets you set flexible weekday and weekend schedules to limit screen time. You can choose to shut down certain apps at a specific time of day – or pause a device entirely for all but emergency uses. You can filter web content, review browsing activity and search history, and approve or block new apps before they’re installed. Boomerang’s built-in safe browser automatically filters inappropriate sites. You get regular reports of who is texting your child and who is being texted, with alerts when inappropriate words are used. You can also capture and read all text messages. With call blocking, you can limit incoming and outgoing calls to saved contacts only and review call logs. Location tracking and location alerts are included as well.

$30.99 per device per year for up to 10 devices, $15.99 per year for individual devices. No free version.

Net Nanny

Net Nanny has been around since 1996 and is among the most popular and comprehensive parental control tools. It enables you to filter online content in 18 different categories. You can also control the number of hours kids spend on the internet each day. You can monitor social media activity and even censor profanity on sites while still allowing kids to visit them. You’ll receive alerts when children visit inappropriate websites as well as weekly usage reports. Net Nanny offers preset user profiles or you can customize settings for individuals. It works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

$39.99 per year for one device, $12 per year per device for up to 5 devices, $9 per year per device for up to 10 devices. No free version.

Norton Family Premier

Norton is the web security expert, and its Norton Family app has a wide range of features. You can monitor the sites kids visit and block the sites you choose. You can set screen-time limits by time of day or days of the week. You can see the search terms kids are using and what YouTube videos they’re watching. You’ll receive a detailed report of online activity via email or your Norton web dashboard as well as instant email alerts when kids visit blocked websites. Norton also includes social media monitoring, mobile app supervision and blocking, instant device locking, text supervision, and location tracking in real time with 30-day reports. The app works on Windows and Android, with limited iOS and no Mac support.

$49.99 for a 1-year subscription with no limit on the number of devices. No free version.

Qustodio Parental Control

PC Magazine’s top-rated tool, Qustodio, lets you keep track of a child’s phone activity from your own phone or PC in real time. It works on iOS, Android and Kindle devices. It includes web-filtering, screen-time limits and reporting features, as well as location tracking, call tracking and blocking, social media monitoring, game and app time limits and blocking, and text monitoring in which you can see who is being texted and read the messages. There is also a panic button for emergencies.

$49.45 per year for up to 5 devices, $87.25 per year for up to 10 devices or $124.15 per year for up to 15 devices. There is also a free edition that includes web filtering only.

A new phone is an exciting time for a kid. If you’re shopping for a new smartphone for a child now, we have a wide range of choices at the CREDO Mobile. And all phones and plans purchased through CREDO Mobile help support CREDO Action and CREDO Donations.

So when should children have their first phone? The average young American gets a smartphone at the age of 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it, not including texting and talking. But there is a lot of evidence to indicate that all this screen time is not good for young brains.

But saying no to a young person who’s adamant for a smartphone is not easy. If you find yourself in that situation, look into the Wait Until 8th campaign, which advocates keeping kids off smartphones until they reach the eighth grade. It has a lot of helpful advice for parents on how to talk to children about smartphones.

And if you find that your child really does need a cell phone before eighth grade, we hope this parental control information is helpful to you.

4 Comments on “Tuesday Tip: 4 Apps to Help Parents Set Limits on Children’s Cell Phones

  1. I guess this is very important these days. I never had children but I was a kid once. I was a free range kid. On one hand kids need to be safe but it’s so sad that this has to happen.
    We have no autonomy left and no privacy.
    Guess I live in the wrong century. But here I am on a phone.
    Thanks for listening.

  2. Kids should only have cell/mobile items for schoolwork & contact with family & closest trusted friends only. i feel very strongly about this. there are too many rotten people out there & the more parents can monitor what their kids see & listen to the better! These are great starting points & ideas but things cost so much that there should be more security options available for one device or very few devices but they need more panic buttons & emergency location buttons in case the child or adult cannot talk or is physically not able to perhaps for a health reason. Please try to see if these sorts of apps & items are available because they are only on iPhones with cellular plans & not on wifi any place anywhere. that should be mandatory & its a huge help with the Apple batteries problem still a massive problem. Thanks for all you do Credo!

  3. Parental controls are wrong. Young people should decide for themselves how they use phones and what they do with their time. Controlling other people is always bad, and controlling everyone in a certain age group is age-based discrimination.

    • So you’d let your 1 year old decide if it is ok to walk into traffic? Or eat poisonous, but pretty chemicals?

      I’m not a big fan of over-scripting children’s lives. Children should have some freedom to make mistakes that have small consequences. But a blanket statement like the above is just ridiculous.

      Children are not just small adults. Thinking they are can lead to poor parenting, poor societal decisions (child labor, for example) and a host of other issues. Just as any counter-factual belief can.

      As children age, they should be allowed to make more and more of their own choices, with less and less input from their parents. So that they are ready when they leave, and are making their own decisions for nearly everything. But to allow them to make all of their decisions too early is dangerous and irresponsible.

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