We all know there is an overwhelming number of scary apps, websites and people lurking behind them that pose real, physical threats to our children.
We’ve all seen the horrifying headlines. We could react in fear and take devices and phones away from our kids. Or we could take a close look at the policies schools have in place.
But aside from hammering into our kids’ brains how crucial internet safety is, randomly confiscating their devices and rifling through every nook and cranny (they can and will get stealthy and delete stuff before you can see), what can we do proactively to protect our children?
We did a little digging through the app store and found that we mustn’t be the only ones seeking these answers.
Here are five of the parental-control apps that stood out to us.
unGlue Parental Control App
What sets it apart: The empowerment of the child to manage their time. The app enables them to earn extra screen time by completing chores, shelf a little time for a boring day and lets them see where they are spending the most time on their device.
Parents, of course, get to know where the child is spending their time online, as well.
Parents can also customize screen time. A simple tap of a toggle blocks adult content on a child’s phone. If screen time needs to be revoked, another toggle will turn off access to apps and internet.
Also, when screen time is up, parents can be sent a notification.
However, texting and calling aren’t blockable within the unGlue interface.
unGlue also has a home monitor that allows limits to screen time and activity tracking on any device on the home wifi.
There are articles under “Parent University” included in the app for tips on how to use the app, screen time advice, bad apps, apps to know, security tips and more.
unGlue was one of the more expensive apps we tested. Try unGlue with a 13-day free trial. After that, it’s $11.99 per month or $99.99 per year.
What sets it apart: Claims to have more free “forever” features than any other parental control app. Blocks viruses and scams. Also reasonably priced at $3.49-$4.99 per month.
The free version includes monitoring unlimited devices, blocking 25 million porn and violent websites, filtering for search and YouTube, blocking categories of websites and apps and the ability to set a bedtime. You can’t, however, block apps or websites individually, pause the internet, or block viruses or scams for free.
Blocking viruses is its additional superpower in paid mode.
If you choose this app, use caution with the default settings. When setting up, the app asks if the child is 12 or under, 13-15 or 16 or over to select default filter settings, which can be later customized.
For 12 or under, the default settings did not block YouTube videos, which is odd since pornography is easily found on YouTube. Roblox wasn’t blocked either, and that app has a chat feature (as does Fortnite) that gives players the ability to talk to other players they don’t know, posing a potential danger. It also allowed Netflix.
All of these can be customized, however, simply by toggling them on or off.
Custom filters can be added here, as well. Pause the internet, extend bedtime, set additional off-times for internet (mealtime, homework, school, etc.) and see recently visited sites.
This app is $3.49 per month for 12 months or an option to pay by month at $4.99 per month.
What sets it apart: Track family members using GPS. The driver-protect option, great for new teen drivers.
A fancier version of a smartphone’s included Find Friends or Find iPhone apps, Life360 charges $2.99 per month to give its users 30 days of tracking history, unlimited place alerts and local crime alerts (within the U.S. only). For an additional cost, Driver Protect can be added. Parents get driving analysis and crash detection. If a crash is detected by the app, the driver will receive a call. If the driver needs assistance, life 360 will dispatch emergency services to the location.
A “circle” of people can be created to share location information. When others have downloaded the app, they can join the circle and will show up on the map as a pin with either their name or a photo if they’ve uploaded one to their profile. A “checking in” will send a notification of your location to the circle. A messaging function allows everyone in the circle to communicate.
Circle members even get alerts on one another’s battery life.
Life360 is $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year. The Driver Protect addition is $7.99 per month or $69.99 per year.
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OurPact Parental Control and Kid Tracker
What sets it apart: Allows blocking of text apps. Parents can receive alerts when kids leave and arrive at home or school or any zone set by the parent. This is a do-it-all app that offers GPS locator as well as screen time management for a decent price.
This is the only app we tested that blocks text apps if wanted.
It’s also good at blocking internet, adult content, specific websites and apps.
Like many of the other apps we tried, parents can create a schedule of screen time on OurPact.
On the kid-tracking side, it offers “geofencing,” the creation of boundaries on a map within the app where kids are allowed and aren’t allowed to go. So if they’re out riding their bikes in the neighborhood, a parent can create boundary lines they can’t cross without the parent’s knowledge.
The child’s location and location of all devices paired with the app can be seen with the use of a map in the app.
There’s even a find my iPhone and iPad feature.
Another unique feature: OurPact alerts parents to newly-installed apps and location activity.
A free one-week trial is offered, then plus and premium options. Plus is $1.99 per month and allows the parent to create screen time schedules, limit device use and manage devices remotely.
For $6.99, premium gives full access to the app’s capabilities, including the GPS tracking features.
Google Family Link
What sets it apart: it’s free.
While we didn’t get a chance to test this, it is a free option. Like the other apps, Family Link allows parents to view their kids’ activity, manage apps (as well as manage in-app purchases) and hide apps on their devices. Setting screen time limits and device locking are options. This app also has a GPS-tracking feature. Some reviews we read state that Family Link doesn’t do everything some users want it to. But since it’s free, we think it’s worth checking out.
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