Today’s kids might be digital natives, but just because they’ve never known a world without the internet doesn’t mean they’re prepared for everything it has to offer. Parents have always been vigilant about keeping their kids out of dangerous situations IRL, and keeping kids safe online requires both the same level of commitment and the best parental control software and hardware. As the YouTube Kids controversy and similar instances show, even sites built as safe havens for young children can easily be corrupted by those with digital savvy and nefarious intentions. Parents today are tasked with not only explaining the Internet to children but also monitoring what sites children visit and their screen time consumption. Thankfully, there are a number of excellent parental control routers, apps, and devices that allow parents to do just this, from the Gryphon Smart Mesh Router to the successor to the Disney Circle parental control device to the Amazon eero Pro mesh network.
The best parental control apps and devices put parents in command of the content their children can view and the amount of time they can spend online. They also help restore a parent’s sense of control. With the right tool, parents can restrict access to specific sites and apps, filter dangerous or explicit web-content, manage screen time, and even track their kid’s location.
The programs, routers, apps, and devices below are some of the best parental control systems we’ve found. They’re easy to set up, work on a variety of devices for a number of family members, and inform — but don’t bombard — parents with necessary updates. Of course, it’s also important to supplement parental control devices with regular discussions with kids about online safety. An open dialogue is often the best defense.
The Best Parental Control App and Device Overall
The sleek, simple-to-connect router offers everything we want in parental control software and more. Thanks to six internal tri-band antennas and 3Gbps, it blankets an area of up to 3,000 square feet in a powerful signal. It offers screen time management by device, browsing history, bedtime/homework time parameters, safe search, and YouTube filtering, as well as a nifty crowd-ranking system, which allows on-the-fence parents to tap into the wisdom of the crowd (of other parents). The Gryphon app also makes it easy to pause internet access, set up multiple users, and give approval to website or bedtime extension requests from anywhere. While certainly pricey, it provides parents with excellent peace of mind.
The Best Parental Control App and Device for Large Homes with Multiple Rooms
In addition to providing a mesh network of speedy WiFi that coats all corners of a home, eero’s parental control software let you filter adult, illegal, and violent content for specific profiles that you set up on your network. Best of all, eero Secure filters new content in real-time. eero Secure also works for every device connected to your network. You do, however, have to play for the eero Secure plan to get the full parental control benefits of this router system. But the $10 a month is, in our opinion, very much worth it. It should however be noted that eero also doesn't have a URL-blacklisting feature.
The Best Parental Control Apps and Devices for Setting Specific Time Limits
This expandable mesh router system lets parents fully control what their kids do online, and how much time they spend doing it, via the corresponding app. Parents filter content, view browsing history, set bedtimes/homework times, limit screen time, enforce safe search, and turn off the Internet entirely. Plus, parents can see each kid's browsing history even if they delete it.
Some users report a few connectivity issues, but overall, this device does the job. TigerMom automatically filters out gambling and porn content, and allows parents to set restrictions on apps kids love, like Tiktok, Snapchat, and YouTube. Parents can check when and what apps are being used through an online control panel. And parents can lock devices at bedtime to stop any late-night browsing.
The Best for Parental Control Apps and Devices That Work with an Existing Router
The successor to the uber-popular Disney Circle plugs right into your home router. Its companion app grants you God-like control over your kids' mobile devices even when they're out and about. The app is well-designed and easy to use. It's also powerful, with the ability to block specific platforms and track and limit the time spent in specific apps. Just note that after a year you'll have to pay $10 per month for premium features like rewarding extra time for good behavior and location tracking.
Once plugged into your existing router, the Router Limits device automatically discovers all of the devices on your network. Its device-by-device browsing history includes every site your children visit, as well as blocked ones they try to visit. There's also a long list of filters that are both category-based (e.g. games and social media) and pegged to specific websites and apps (e.g. Snapchat, Netflix, Facebook). Router Limits can also filter search results in Google, Bing, and YouTube to ensure your children don't stumble across something questionable in a search. A mobile companion app, which costs an additional $10 per month, can be installed on devices to duplicate the protection that's in place on the home network on mobile connections or other wifi networks.
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