The best parental control apps to manage device time & content

Parental control apps for iOS or Android devices are worth their weight in gold. Especially since the internet is largely unregulated and kids are techy ninjas who can find pretty much anything online at lightning speed. Starting at an alarmingly young age, most can operate a device better than the adult(s) in the house.

It’s true! Ask my kid who just turned 5 and intentionally rearranged the apps on my Apple TV just to mess with me. This is my life.

I regress….

So if your kids spend a lot of time online or with a device in their hands, it’s wise to put some sort of parental control software in place to shield them from the seedy underbelly of the world wide web.

I’ve got a favorite, but I know there’s a lot of options to choose from. So instead of giving you a specific list of “best apps”, I’m going to lay out important features you should look for when choosing a parental control app.

One. Can the app be easily accessed by the other adult(s) in the house? I discovered this feature in the best way possible. I locked my husband out of his iPhone accidentally. When I downloaded a parental control app on the kids iPad, I unknowingly downloaded it to my husbands iPhone too. I blame iCloud. Long story short, he came home confused and a little annoyed, which prompted me to laugh first, fix later. I unlocked his phone and took the kids app off of it. Funny to me, not so much to him, but he did eventually chuckle.  

Two. Can the same app be downloaded on multiple devices? This may feel like an obvious “duh”, but some paid apps will not allow you to download it multiple times. So if you’re looking to use the app on more than one device, keep that in mind. If you DO choose a single download app, it may turn out to be very expensive. Especially if you have to create multiple logins and hold separate subscriptions.

Three. Shop around before committing & choose based on specific features for your kid’s age group. Different apps cater to different ages. For instance, if you’ve got a house full of tweeting middle schoolers look for the app that goes beyond managing screen time and instead monitors messages or texts. But if your oldest is entering kindergarten in the fall, you could probably get away with a screen time app and blocks certain apps. Also, pay special attention to the platforms the app supports. Enter: iOS or Android. Read the fine print and be sure you choose an app that works on both if you have mixed platforms in your house.

Four. Read the reviews. If you see a lot of “I couldn’t figure out how to fully use it” or “It’s hard to use” , it’s probably more complicated than what you signed up for. We’re parents, not rocket scientists*. Use the KISS method (keep it super simple), because who has time to monkey around with an app after a long day of parenting?

*Unless you are a rocket scientist, in which case, go you! 

Because of my children’s age, my favorite parental control app is the one where I can set time sessions, then lock it in the Den. The only smart charging station of its kind, I’ve managed to establish device boundaries for everyone in the house, even me, your friendly freelancer next door **who almost never leaves her phone behind because technology is LIFE**. .

Out of sight, out of mind equals more family time.

Megan Cahak is a contributing TechDen writer, mom of two, firefighter wife, and is the owner of a copywriting company specializing in supporting small business growth online and in real life. Behind her big business dreams is a woman on a mission to make others laugh and nod their head in solidarity when talking kids & technology, free-range parenting (that’s a thing), and the ‘good ole days’ of growing up in the late 90s, early 2000s. Unrelated, Megan also drinks an entire pot of coffee a day and show no signs of slowing down.