In the beginning, you never thought you needed a parental control app. Of course you didn’t. But these things start slowly, and eventually your children will spend time in front of screens. It’s inevitable. What you as a parent can do is make sure they’re protected, both from unsavory digital content and spending too much time online, by investing in the best parental control apps.
Self-control is a bitch, and nobody wants to raise a kid who throws a fit every time their tablet is taken away. Obviously, active parenting is the first line of defense, but you can’t keep an eye on them at all times.
Which is why you want either hardware or software that limits the types of sites your kids can visit, regulates how much time they spend online, pauses the internet so kids can do chores or homework, blocks access to sites that aren’t appropriate for them, and allows access to sites that you approve of. If you have multiple kids, of different ages, it can help if you can set up different profiles per child, for each one’s specific need.
The Best Overall Parental Controls
The Gryphon works via its own security app, which lets parents filter content, view browsing histories, set bedtime and homework times, limit screen time, and basically, pause internet access at any time. Boom.
Pros: So you know how you threaten to shut down your WiFi if your kid doesn’t clean his room or do his homework? But never follow through? Now you can. Just download the Gryphon app to immediately pause internet access. You can also set up multiple users, so there’s a safe internet for kids, and a regular one for adults. And you can give approval to website or bedtime extension requests from anywhere, in real time, via the app.
Cons: The only con is that it’s on the pricier side, but its features are more than worth the price tag.
If you're absolutely hellbent on monitoring what your kids see online, Syfer is calling your name. Unless you're raising a coder, kids cannot circumvent the system you put in place.
Pros: The Syfer system is powered by AI, so it automatically detects potential security threats and protects your family from malware, ransomware, and phishing. Your data is encrypted, and it’s worth noting that Syfer does not log or track your activity. In terms of parental controls, parents can restrict inappropriate content by choosing the categories they want to block. Syfer also provides safe search and safe YouTube access.
Cons: Only two quibbles here. This thing is not cheap. And for the price, you get a one-year subscription to the service, but after 12 months, you pay $10 per month.
The Best for Large Homes and Multiple Rooms
This tiny yet mighty router automatically tags sites that contain violent, illegal, or adult content so you can choose what your kids can and cannot visit by using the eero app.
Pros: This router has robust parental controls that let you to 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. While many parental control products only work for one device, eero Secure works for every device connected to your network, in your smart home.
Cons: You do have to play for the eero Secure plan to get the full parental control benefits of this router system. eero also doesn’t have a URL-blacklisting feature.
The Best for Setting Specific Time Limits
This router is great for parents who, above all else, want to control how much time each of their kids spend on their devices because it notifies you when there's a sudden upsurge in usage.
Pros: This router is fast, so that’s a big plus. And it lets you set internet parameters, like times and accessibility, for each person in your family. You want Eli or Shiloh to spend 20 minutes a day max playing Roblox? Then use the app and determine precisely what each kid can do and when. It also has handy buttons to either stop the internet or extend the time allowed online. The app is very intuitive and easy to use.
Cons: There are issues with how often this thing drops WiFi connectivity.
The Best for Working with an Existing Router
This simple box from Circle Media Labs plugs right into your home router while the app gives you control over your kids' mobile devices even when they're out and about. It comes with one year of the premium Circle service for free.
Pros: The app is well-designed. It looks great, and it’s easy to use. It’s also powerful, with the ability to block specific platforms and track and limit the time spent in specific apps.
Cons: After a year, you’ll have to pay $10 per month for premium features like rewarding extra time for good behavior and location tracking.
The uncreatively named Router Limits is another white box that plugs into your router with an ethernet cable and limits what your kids can do with it. Once it's plugged in, it automatically discovers all of the devices on your network.
Pros: Device-by-device browsing history includes every site your kids visit and every site they try to visit and are blocked from. There’s also a long list of filters that are both category-based — games, social media, porn — and pegged to specific websites and apps — Snapchat, Netflix, Facebook. Router Limits can also filter search results in Google, Bing, and YouTube to ensure your kids don’t stumble across something questionable in a search. There’s also a mobile companion app that you can install on devices to duplicate the protection that’s in place on the home network on mobile connections or other wifi networks.
Cons: If you share your wifi information with guests, you’ll have to tell them you can monitor their traffic (well, you really should), which is kind of awkward. The mobile companion app is nice to have, but starts at $10 per month.
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