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The Best Parental Control Apps and Devices for Safe Internet Browsing

Protecting your kids on the internet can be exhausting. Here are some easy-to-install parental control routers and other devices to put your worries at ease.

While the internet was promised to revolutionize communication around the world, for dads, it’s a minefield of weirdness and danger for his child or children. Thankfully, technology, which allowed the problem, has also invented a way to combat it. Parental control routers, beefed-up software, and web-based internet parental controls are essential to a father’s peace of mind and a safer, more carefree child. This doesn’t get you out of a mandatory explanation of the Internet to your child (the modern equivalent of the “birds and the bees” chat of yore), as well as the deft monitoring of browser history and the well-disguised look over the shoulder. Screen time and its regulation is also part of any good dad’s routine. But to fill in all the gaps that your loving monitoring can’t reach, today’s options of apps, routers, and devices like the Gryphon Smart Mesh Router, the Circle Home Plus, and the Amazon eero Pro mesh network will easy your worries. So take heart: Where the flesh fails, machines are ready to serve and protect.

The best parental control software puts 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 while extending peace of mind when they’re not in the same room. With a proper device, parents, can restrict access to specific sites and apps, filter dangerous or explicit web-content, manage time, and even track their kid’s location. Short of banning our kids from social media, these parental control apps at least give us some idea of what our kid’s our doing in front of the screens all day.

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 Overall Parental Control Apps and Devices

The sleek, simple-to-connect router (plug it in, download the app, and you’re set) 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 mesh network and offers congestion-free browsing. 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 wealth of experience of others that have gone down the same path and then make a decision. The Gryphon app also makes things easy. With it, parents can immediately pause internet access, set up multiple users, and give approval to website or bedtime extension requests from anywhere, in real-time. While certainly pricey, its long list of features provides parents with excellent peace of mind.

If you feel the need, the need for speed, Gryphon's latest is the answer. It covers 3,000 square feet of space with AX4300 gigabit speed, meaning it's roughly 40 percent faster. It works with connected devices and appliances, like a smart oven or smart vacuum, and has the brand's noted parental controls. Using the app, you manage screen time, access, and see everything that’s on in your network.

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. And if you're particularly concerned about your kid's browsing, you can even see their full browsing history even if they delete it. You get 1,800 square feet of coverage. The app is intuitive and easy to use.

The Best Parental Control Apps and Devices That Work with an Existing Router

This simple box from Circle Media Labs plugs right into your home router. Through an app, it 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. With the impressive ability to block specific platforms and track and limit the time spent in specific apps, there's almost nothing it can't do. Just take 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. One year free of premium Circle service is included.

The Cleaner's white box plugs into your router with an ethernet cable and allows parents to limit what children can do online. Once plugged in, it 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 —games, social media, etc —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 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 Wi-Fi networks. If you share your Wi-Fi information with guests, you'll have to tell them you can monitor their traffic (well, you really should), which is kind of awkward.

The Best Parental Control Apps and Devices for Large Homes and 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.

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