mmguardian parental control

10 Best Parental Control Apps | In-Depth Reviews 2022 [June]

Keeping kids safe online (and offline) is tough these days. Many parents feel they don’t have the right digital tools to keep their children from seeing things they aren’t supposed to, going places they shouldn’t, and talking to suspicious people.

This is where apps for parental control come in. But with so many choices, how do you know which one is the best parental control app?

That’s a great question, and is what inspired this list of top apps that parents can use to help protect their children.

Our ranking is as follows:

#1: MMGuardian

#2: Bark

#3: Qustodio

#4: Google Family Link

#5: Verizon Smart Family

#6: AT&T Secure Family

#7: T-Mobile FamilyMode

#8: Screen Time

#9: Net Nanny

#10: Web Watcher

Most of these apps are available for both a child’s Android or Apple device. However the functions and capabilities available are often different when the child has an iPhone compared to when the child has an Android phone. The type of phone used by the parent usually does not matter.

mmguardian

#1: MMGuardian

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

 

MMGuardian has been used by over a million parents and has one of the highest ratings as one of the best parental control apps on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. 

In 2020 MMGuardian was shortlisted for the GSM Association’s Global Mobile Award “Best Mobile Innovation for enhancing children’s lives” in part due to the MMGuardian Safety Alert function.  MMGuardian uses AI to automatically analyze text and social media messages. Parents are alerted when the content of their child’s messages is indicative of risks to their child such as cyberbullying, sexting, drugs, suicide ideation or grooming by a sexual predator.

A key point if your child uses an Android phone is that the version of MMGuardian downloadable from Google Play is able to monitor text messages, as well as popular social media apps. The apps from other developers that offer text message monitoring and/or reporting for Android have to be downloaded from the developer’s website, then ‘side-loaded’ to the child’s phone.

In addition to detailed message monitoring and reporting, MMGuardian also includes traditional parental control functions including location tracking, limiting screen time, web filtering, contact and app blocking as well as providing detailed reports on phone usage, web browsing and app usage.

Pricing for MMGuardian is lower than most of the other similar apps and has plans for a single child’s phone as well as family plans. There is a 14 day free trial to make it easy for parents to try it out.

MMGuardian secures the #1 ranking as the best parental control app due to comprehensive functionality, automatic analysis of messages to identify risks to your child, and the very reasonable price

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#2: Bark

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

Bark app for kids uses AI technology to send alerts to parents about worrying messages, and monitors the largest number of social media apps, and is also able to monitor email messages. The Bark app for a child’s phone is not available from Google Play, and must be downloaded from the developer’s website.

Bark also includes standard parental controls such as screen time and web filtering, but its anti-tampering capabilities are not as comprehensive as those of MMGuardian.

Pricing-wise, Bark is one of the more expensive options at $14/month or $99/year, although this does cover as many devices as you want. Bark also comes with a 7 day free trial.

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#3: Qustodio

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

While Qustodio does not provide any monitoring capabilities for iPhones, they do have a version of the app for Androids that will let parents read their child’s SMS text messages. However the Qustodio child phone app from Google Play does not monitor SMS text messages, and parents will need to download a version of the app from Qustodio to install on the child’s phone. Even then, Qustodio does not provide any alerts about messages indicating risks.

Qustodio delivers most of the basic parental control features that parents would need, including location, screen time limits and usage reports, web filtering and internet connected app blocking. Like Verizon Smart Family, Qustodio offers geofencing capabilities that will alert parents when their child arrives at or leaves a specific location.

There are no options for parents who only need to control one device or pay month by month, but Qustodio is on the cheaper end of the spectrum at $54.95 per year for up to 5 devices.

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#4: Google Family Link

Child Phone Types: Android

Google Family Link for children and teens lacks any message monitoring capabilities, perhaps the most important part of keeping your child safe. However, it has the basic functions necessary for preventing phone addiction and teaching your child positive habits: screen time limits and app blocking. It also provides app usage reporting for parents, basic web blocking and a robust location function.

A key aspect to be aware of is that once a child turns 13 (or the relevant age in your country), they are able to remove the app due to Google’s terms, so Family Link is possibly only well-suited to younger children.

Best of all, Family Link is 100% free, and so it earns a higher rank in our list of the best parental control app than the paid-for apps that don’t offer much more than Family Link.

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#5: Verizon Smart Family

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

 

Verizon Smart Family also lacks message monitoring capabilities, but it offsets this with its robust location services, contact blocking and Driving Insights functions. 

Verizon Smart Family enables parents to retrieve their child’s location on demand or according to schedules, in addition to geo-fencing capabilities that will alert parents if their child leaves a specific location.  It also provides web filtering and selective blocking of internet connected apps.

The Driving Insights function provides parents with insights into their teen’s driving activities, and alerts parents if the app detects indications that a crash has occurred.

To access the location-related and Driving Insights features, parents need to sign up to $9.99/month, although it comes with a 30 day trial period.

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#6: AT&T Secure Family

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

 

The first thing to note is that AT&T Secure Family can also be used even if your carrier is Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. In that regard it is similar to the apps from MMGuardian and Bark.  However it is also similar to the other carrier-branded apps in that message monitoring and hence alerts for risky situations is not available.

The parental controls that are available are the traditional ones of location, screen time limits, web filtering and blocking of internet connected apps such as games, video, social media and messaging.

AT&T Secure Family costs $7.99/month, for up to 10 devices. There is a 30 day trial period.

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#7: T-Mobile FamilyMode

Child Phone Types: Android & iPhone

 

T-Mobile FamilyMode does not monitor messages for signs of risky situations, nor provide parents with reports of their child’s messages. 

Traditional parental control functions are however available, including location information, age-appropriate web filtering and restricting of internet connected apps, screen time controls and web usage reporting. Reports are available for 

T-Mobile FamilyMode is priced at $10/month, for the family.

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#8 Screen Time

Child Phone Types:  Android & iPhone

 

The first thing to be aware of is that the Screen Time app referred to here is the one from Screen Time Labs, not the Apple Screen Time function!

Screen Time does not monitor messages for signs of risky situations, nor provide parents with reports of their child’s messages.  However it does offer the traditional basic parental control functions including location, web filtering, app blocking and app usage reports. 

One potentially useful aspect of the app is that parents can set tasks and chores for their children to complete to earn more screen time.

It should also be noted that the functions available for a child’s iPhone are rather limited, for example there is no web filter or web usage report.

Screen Time works with limited functionality for free, however to access the core parental control functions such as web filtering, app blocking and location the cost is $6.99/month, for up to 5 devices, with a 7 day trial period.

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#9 Net Nanny

Child Phone Types:  Android & iPhone

Net Nanny parental control does not monitor messages for signs of risky situations, nor provide parents with reports of their child’s messages. 

However, as with  the other apps presented here, Net Nanny includes the basic parental control functions of location, app blocking, web filtering and screen time management. Unfortunately, contact blocking is not available even for Android phones. (None of the apps listed here are able to provide a contact block function for iPhones, as Apple does not provide a mechanism to developers to do so).

Net Nanny is priced at $54.99/year for a phone inclusive plan of up to 5 devices.

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#10 Web Watcher

Child Phone Types:  Android & iPhone

Whilst Web Watcher is able to report your child’s SMS text messages, it does not include alerts for risky situations that are available from other apps such as Bark and MMGuardian. Also, whilst some popular social media apps are monitored, only incoming messages are reported, and not what your child sends.

Web Watcher app‘s focus is on monitoring, so the usual parental control functions such as web filtering, screen time limits and app blocking are not available. However one of the functions  that other apps in this list do not offer is that reports of pictures are available.

The pricing for Web Watcher is $129.99/year per device. If you  only need  to use the app for 3 months, the price is $59.95 per device (ie. $20/month).

Hence Web Watcher rounds up the list of the best parental control apps at the #10 position, as whilst it has an extensive range of functions the cost is very much higher than the other apps  which provide similar or better monitoring functions at a lower cost.

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