The Best Parental Control Apps of 2021

After comparing 16 parental control apps and testing their performance, we believe Bark is the best option.
Best overall
Bark
Bark
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Excellent social media monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Text message monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Unlimited devices
Best for younger kids
Boomerang
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No social media monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Text message monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 10 devices
Best for budgets
Kaspersky
Kaspersky Safe Kids
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Some social media monitoring
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No text message monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    500+ devices
Best for iOS families
FamilyTime
  • Icon Cons  Light
    No social media monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Text message monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 5 devices
Best reporting dashboard
Qustodio
Qustodio
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Some social media monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Text message monitoring
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Up to 5 devices

Even though some new online safety brands have appeared on the scene since we first published our round-up, Bark is still our favorite parental control app. Bark can’t be beat in terms of email and social media monitoring, and our testers thought Bark was the easiest app to set up and use.

We prefer other parental control apps for specific features—like location tracking and speed tracking—and for more comfortable price points. Learn more about the differences between our top picks, and discover why other apps didn’t make the cut.

Bell
A note about monitoring Android vs. iOS devices

Apple has some strict rules about call/text monitoring and tracking. That’s why parental control apps can’t offer the same features for all devices or platforms. If your child uses an Android device, you should be good to go. If your child uses an iPhone or iPad, pay special attention to each brand’s iOS functions. 

Read more: iOS vs. Android Security: Which One Keeps Your Child Safer Online?



Compare parental control app prices

Product
Annual price range
Free version available
Maximum number of devices
Trial period
Learn more
Best overall
BarkBark
Icon No  LightNo
Unlimited7 days
Best for younger kids
Boomerang
Icon No  LightNo
1014 days
Best for budgets
KasperskyKaspersky Safe Kids
Icon Yes  LightYes
50030 days
Best for iOS families
Family Time
Icon Yes  LightYes
53 days
Best reporting dashboard
QustodioQustodio
Icon Yes  LightYes
153 days

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Parental control app similarities

Our top five picks share these features:

  • App management
  • App usage history reports
  • Texting history reports
  • Screen-time management
  • Content filter
  • Website blocker 

We’ve organized the major differences in the chart below.

Compare parental control app features

Product
Email monitoring
Location tracking and geofencing
Social media monitoring
Remote time out
Learn more
Best overall
BarkBark
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for younger kids
Boomerang
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best for budgets
KasperskyKaspersky Safe Kids
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Best for iOS families
FamilyTime
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Best reporting dashboard
QustodioQustodio
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best parental control app reviews

1. Bark: Best overall

Best overall
Bark
Bark
$99.00
/yr

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

We love the fact that Bark monitors social media instead of simply blocking those apps. Your teen gets the chance to responsibly use social sites, but you’ll get an alert if concerning messages are sent or received. 

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Computer monitoring
Pro Bullet Email monitoring
Pro Bullet Social media monitoring
Pro Bullet Text message monitoring
Pro Bullet Text and email alerts
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet No location tracking or geofencing
Con Bullet Expensive choice for just one child
Con Bullet Relatively short trial period
Con Bullet Remote time-out doesn’t turn off texts

Bark is one of the few parental control apps that monitors emails and PC-based online activity so there are fewer ways for kids to sneak around the app. 

We do think Bark has one minor flaw: “screen time management” is more like “internet management.” The remote time-out function only turns off the phone’s internet access. If your kid is a text-aholic, they might still be glued to their screen when they’re supposed to be taking a break.

Expensive but unique

At $99 per year, Bark is on the expensive side. There are more affordable options for managing screen time or blocking apps and websites, but Bark is the best way to go if you want social media and email monitoring or have lots of devices to monitor.

“The Bark app and software oozes consideration for the user. The installation walkthrough was incredibly easy.” —Rebecca E., Bark tester

No GPS function

Bark doesn’t offer location tracking and/or geofencing capabilities. Instead, you must “request a check-in.” If your child agrees to share their location, you’ll get a precise coordinate on Google Maps. We’re sure that teenagers will appreciate this autonomy, but it may not offer the level of safety you’re looking for with younger kids.

You can use other parental control software in tandem with Bark for no-permission-needed location tracking. Or, consider purchasing a wearable GPS tracker or kids smartwatch.

Checklist
We have more to say

Get the full scoop of our testing experience in our in-depth Bark review.

2. Boomerang: Best for younger kids

Best for younger kids
Boomerang
Starting from
$15.99
/yr

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Boomerang is best for younger kids who’ve just gotten their first phone and are learning how to use it responsibly. It doesn’t offer social media or email monitoring, but it features a safe web browser and lets parents block apps altogether. 

Our recommendation comes with a big caveat—most of Boomerang’s features are available on Android devices only.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable price
Pro Bullet Parents must approve new apps
Pro Bullet Geofencing and location tracking
Pro Bullet History logs for apps, calls, and texts
Pro Bullet Great screen-time management
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Only works on mobile devices
Con Bullet No social media or email monitoring
Con Bullet Very limited iOS functionality
Con Bullet Confusing setup

Boomerang really shines in terms of screen-time management. You can remotely pause all activity on your child’s phone at any time, but you can also schedule automatic shutdowns at specific times, like bedtime or during school hours. 

We especially love that you can limit activity on a per-app basis. For example, you might want to encourage your kid to use educational apps while limiting their activity on other apps.

Potentially confusing setup

Boomerang offers call and text monitoring, but you have to download that app from their website. The Google Play version doesn’t include these features due to Google’s own rules about call and text monitoring. Boomerang does mention this discrepancy on their website, but it can still be confusing. 

You also have to download another app called SPIN and link it to Boomerang. This is the website blocker. 

All in all, our tester thought the 40-minute setup process was confusing.

“There's a lack of instructions so it was a trial-and-error thing. I don't think you need to be really tech-savvy, but you need either intuition or a willingness to try, try again.” —Rebecca E., Boomerang tester
Light Bulb
We have more to say

Get the full scoop of our testing experience in our in-depth Boomerang review.

3. Kaspersky Safe Kids: Best for budgets

Best for budgets
Kaspersky

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Kaspersky delivers a lot for a low price. For around $15, you can protect up to 500 devices with all of Kaspersky’s premium features. We imagine that most people don’t need that much protection, but we like that Kaspersky makes it easy for families of any size to afford parental control protection.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable
Pro Bullet Location tracking and geofencing
Pro Bullet Screen-time management
Pro Bullet Web and app filter
Pro Bullet YouTube search monitoring
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet No email monitoring
Con Bullet No uninstall protection
Con Bullet No social media monitoring
Con Bullet Limited iOS features

One of Kaspersky’s most innovative features is low-battery alerts. When your child’s phone needs a charge, you get a notification. This means no more “my phone died” excuses when you ask why your kiddo ignored your call or text message.

Our testing experience

We tested the free Kaspersky Safe Kids app, which offers these features:

  • Web-content filter
  • App blocker 
  • YouTube safe search
  • Screen-time management (warnings only)

As nice as the free version sounds, it includes zero push notifications for the parent. You have to go directly to the app to see if your child has been using their phone too long, for example.

We also found that many in-app alerts are toggled off by default. The interface isn't intuitive, but we got the hang of it within about 20 minutes. Our main surprise came when our child tester quickly uninstalled the app. 

But it did work well as a website blocker. Kids have to use the Kaspersky browser for the website blocker to work, so make sure you uninstall all other web browsers before setting up Kaspersky.

Not suitable for iOS users

All parental control apps offer limited features on Apple devices, but we found Kaspersky Safe Kids to be the least iOS-friendly. For example, you won't get notifications if your child tries to use a forbidden app or download a new app to their iPhone.

Android users can enjoy all features, and some are also available for Windows.

4. FamilyTime: Best for iOS families

Best for iOS families
FamilyTime
Starting from
$27.00
/yr

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

FamilyTime offers a slew of extra features like speed-limit alerts and a contact watchlist, so it’s useful for teenagers, preteens, and don’t-want-to-be-left-out youngsters. 

We also think it rivals Boomerang in terms of clever screen-time management. But we don’t love its short trial period and limited number of devices.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Geofencing and location tracking
Pro Bullet Detailed history reports
Pro Bullet Text and call monitoring
Pro Bullet Web filtering and blocking
Pro Bullet More iOS features than competitors
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Only monitors 5 devices
Con Bullet No social media monitoring
Con Bullet No email monitoring
Con Bullet 3-day trial period

We like these unique features in the FamilyTime app:

  • SOS/panic button
  • Speed limit alerts
  • Location history
  • PickMeUp alerts
  • Contact Watchlist alerts
  • Gamified screen-time management with TimeBank and FunTime

Good functionality for iPhones

FamilyTime offers more functionality for iOS devices than competitor apps. For example, you can use geofencing and block apps on your child’s iPhone with FamilyTime, whereas Boomerang only offers those features for Android users. 

You still can’t track calls or texts on iOS devices with FamilyTime. That’s an Apple rule.

Limited free version available

You can use FamilyTime for free, but you’ll only be able to access these features:

  • Call tracking
  • App usage history
  • Viewing installed apps
  • SOS button

5. Qustodio: Best reporting dashboard

Best reporting dashboard
Qustodio
Qustodio
Starting from
$54.95
/yr

Info current as of 09/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Qustodio takes the guesswork out of your parenting choices, at least when it comes to screen time. You’ll receive a daily or weekly activity report in your inbox with detailed stats and data, which can help you make informed decisions about blocking a specific app, limiting screen time, or talking about cyberbullying.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Excellent cloud-based parent dashboard
Pro Bullet Web filter
Pro Bullet Location history
Pro Bullet Panic button
Pro Bullet Some social media monitoring
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Expensive plans
Con Bullet 3-day trial period
Con Bullet No email monitoring

We love the in-depth cloud-based dashboard, which shows you exactly what your child has been typing into search engines or YouTube and automatically flags concerning activity for you to review. 

You’ll see which apps and websites your kid spends the most time on, who they’re calling, and the content of their texts. There’s also social media monitoring, but it’s limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Messenger. 

You can also set up rules and restrictions from this dashboard, but that’s where Qustodio’s user-friendliness takes a nosedive. Other apps offer simpler interfaces for parents.

Location tracking and history

The other neat feature we like about Qustodio is its “family tracker.” You can glance at it and see the current location of each child. Need to trace their steps? You can do that too with the “location history” function.

Free version

Downloading the free version of Qustodio gives you these features for one device:

  • Web, app, and search monitoring
  • Online content filter
  • Safe search
  • Facebook & Twitter monitoring
  • Time limits
  • Online reporting dashboard

Compatible with many platforms

The other major perk to Qustodio is its platform/device compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Chromebook
  • Kindle

Of course, each of these platforms has its own rules regarding privacy. Some features aren’t available across the board. Android users have access to the most features, whereas Chromebook users basically get a web filter to block inappropriate content.

Checklist
We have more to say

Get the full scoop of our testing experience in our in-depth Qustodio review.

More brands we considered

We started out with a list of 16 parental monitoring apps. Here are some that didn’t quite make the cut for our top five.

MMGuardian

We liked MMGuardian a lot until we saw its price. You can get almost all of the same features for a cheaper price by choosing Boomerang. MMGuardian does offer limited social media monitoring, but if that’s your main concern, it’s worth paying for Bark.

Circle Home Plus

The Circle Home Plus internet filter costs about $130 per year and controls any device connected to your home’s Wi-Fi. If that sounds good to you, we recommend Bark Home instead. It costs about $80, and you don’t need to pay an annual fee. 

You can read more about our experience with Circle Home Plus in our in-depth review.

Mobicip

Mobicip offers a web filter, screen-time management, location tracker, app blocker, website blocker, and history report starting at around $48 per year for five devices. If you use Android devices, Boomerang offers those same features and more at around $31 per year for 10 devices.

If you use iOS, macOS, Windows, Kindle, or Chromebook, then Mobicip is a slightly more affordable alternative to Qustodio (but without the info-heavy reporting dashboard).

OurPact

OurPact offers a free version that lets you block apps and set up one schedule for screen time. If you want any other functionality, you need to pay nearly $84 per year. At that rate, you might as well pay for Bark and get social media monitoring and email monitoring. We do think it’s cool that this parental control software lets you see a live view of your child’s screen.

Read more about our testing experience in our in-depth OurPact review.

Google Family Link

Google Family Link is free and lets you manage apps, control screen time, and track your child’s location. Google Family Link’s closest competitors are the free versions of Kaspersky or Qustodio, which don’t track location but do offer a web filter. We think web filtering is the more useful feature, but you can always install Google Family Link in addition to Kaspersky or Qustodio if you want.

Net Nanny

In our original roundup of the best parental control apps, Net Nanny earned a spot among the top four. We’ve bumped it down the list because there are more affordable and easier-to-use alternatives on the market now. 

Net Nanny is one of the most expensive options and offers no trial period. It took our tester an hour to set up Net Nanny for one device, and they were able to get around the web filter. We don’t see a reason to choose this brand. 

Final word

We think Bark offers the most comprehensive monitoring service if you can spare about $100 per year toward your child’s online safety. It’s the only parental app that monitors email, and that’s just as important as monitoring text messages and DMs.

FAQ

We think Bark is the best app for parental control in terms of screen-time management and internet safety. If you want location tracking, geofencing, and location history, try FamilyTime or Qustodio.

A parental control app provides information about your child’s app usage, overall screen time, web searches and history, text message history, and more. You’ll receive a push notification, email, and/or text if the app detects concerning words in your child’s search history or text messages. Some parental control apps also monitor calls and social media activity. 

Exact features and reports vary by app. We recommend Bark for comprehensive phone and internet monitoring.

Yes. We like the free version of Kaspersky Safe Kids or Qustodio. Google Family Link is free too.

Because it doesn’t monitor social media, we consider Boomerang “best for younger kids,” especially under the age of 13. By the time your child is old enough to join social media, you might want to switch over to Bark.

How we reviewed parental control apps

  • 16 parental control apps considered
  • 27 data points assessed
  • 6 hours of testing
  • 20 hours of research

To find the best parental control apps, we set up different apps, tested them as both “children” and “parents,” and then addressed strengths and weaknesses. 

On top of hands-on testing, we dug into each app’s features, prices, compatibility, and customer reviews. We also consulted with other online safety experts. 

Three members of our team tried out the different apps, looking for how well each performed in these specific areas:

  • Setup and installation: how easy it was to install on different devices (including iOS, Android, mobile, and desktop), how much time it took, and whether or not there were any issues that came up.
  • Performance: Did the app do what it was supposed to do? Would it be easy for kids to work around it?
  • Features: what extra features were available, and did they deliver as promised?

Read more about our methodology.

Related articles on SafeWise

Disclaimers

*Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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  • Christy

    I’m looking for a monitoring/ managing device to block certain websites for blocks of time… such as blocking the web address of social media sites during school hours. Anyone found anything like that?

  • MariaKerr

    Teens spend an average of seven hours and 22 minutes on their phones a day, and tweens — ages 8 to 12 — are not far behind, at four hours and 44 minutes daily, according to a new report by Common Sense Media. Nowdays technology in homeschooling is a must. But we cannot forget about disadvantages of the screen time. If child is spending several hours in front of the computer or tablet, even only for school activities, there has to be a counterpoint. In my opinion the best offline tool is chess. Of course chess is the best logic game in every aspect. It’s lear that for kids it might be boring to play the entire game, but nowdays you have multiple choice of board games, which were designed to teach kids play chess. If you want to teach kids in every age, you can use this book – net-bossorg/chess-puzzles-for-kids-by-maksim-aksanov – The pace of working on the diagrams should be individually adjusted to suit the child’s predisposition. The longer time it takes to focus, the more difficult it is for the child and the results are worse.

  • David Gray

    Hello, what would you say is best Android parental control app to prevent hacking or work arounds? “Force Stop” is one way to turn off apps. Do any of these apps prevent that? Thanks so much !

    • Todd Hewitt

      Bark offers all you asked for and more, I am a single dad of 1 daughter and very happy with the results

  • Suzanne

    I need something to download to a MAC and iPad to block pornography. I can pay for it. Please tell me what. I am raising a teenage grandson. Home since March due to covid.

  • kelemvor

    Do you have information on which, if any of these, can also be installed on a Windows Laptop for additional monitoring? I know Net Nanny can be but don’t know about the others.

    • Rebecca Edwards

      Great question. It’s strange that so many of these products don’t have a Windows version. One that does is Kapersky Safe Kids. They have a free version and a premium that’s $14.99 per month. Qustodio also works with Windows XP and higher. They don’t have a free plan, but their annual price starts at $54.95 for up to 5 devices. Good luck, I hope that helps!

      • Todd Hewitt

        Kapersky safe kids is easy to get around, from personal experience, look for more comprehensive like bark or qustodio

    • Todd Hewitt

      Bark does offer windows device monitoring as well as android, chromebook and apple IOS. It has the best monitoring algorithyms as well as AI (artificial intelligence) and keeps up to date with all slang, and workaround prevention. It is more expensive but worth the peace of mind since it doesn’t just spy but alerts parents/guardians to potential problems and gives advice from child psychologists to help discuss the issue. Bark is also the easiest to install, setup and operate, in my and most I’ve seen opinions.

  • Neeloor Palai

    For Android device The best app is Kids Dashboard in play store. It alo got Knox security on Samsung devices