Parental control software is vital to keep your children safe in a digital world. Before choosing the best tools to keep your kids safe online, ask these 6 questions.
Children spend ever more time online today, but we all know that the beauty and the danger of the internet is that you can truly find everything on there. Parents want ways to keep their children safe, protect them from inappropriate content, and keep an eye on what they're up to as well. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that parents can use to keep their kids safe online. Here are the top 6 questions you should ask before choosing the best parental control software.
Does it Offer Content Filtering?
For most parents, content filtering is the basic requirement of an internet safety tool for kids. The best tools are those like NetNanny, Qustodio, and Mobicip that use real-time content filtering, which means, for example, that they will allow a short story about science fiction to pass, but will block one about erotica on the same site.
Different safety tools also have differing numbers of content categories that you can use to set the level of filtering you want. These categories can include violence, drugs, gambling, porn, and more. It’s standard for parental control software to allow you to manually block or allow individual sites, but the categories make it faster to set universal preferences. The more categories there are, the more precisely you can fine-tune your content filter setting. K9 Web Protection offers more than 70 different categories, and Mobicip exceeds it with 80. This can be overwhelming to sift through, so Mobicip divides those into 16 groups. Circle provides 30 categories, while Kaspersky Safe Kids only offers 14 categories, and Clean Router collects websites into 9 categories.
Some parental control software such as Mobicip can also filter HTTPS sites. Clean Router can block access to HTTPS sites, but it can't filter their content. Although Norton Family Premier also offers real-time content filtering across 48 categories, it doesn't succeed in blocking HTTPS sites if they are opened in an unsupported browser. However, it does force Safe Search on Google, YouTube, Yahoo, and other search engines when Search Supervision mode is enabled, an option that is also offered by K9 Web Protection.
Does it Include Access Scheduling?
Along with your concern about what your children are seeing online, you probably also want to stop them from spending too long on their screens. You’ll find access scheduling, also called time allowance or time restrictions, on most parental control software. NetNanny, Qustodio, and Norton Family Premier are among the tools that apply time restrictions across all devices, so your child can’t just switch from the desktop to the tablet and carry on surfing the web.
Kaspersky Safe Kids enables parents to set time limitations for apps on their children’s smartphones as well as on other devices, which is helpful. Since Circle applies to the router and not to individual devices, you can use it to pause the internet entirely if you need to punish a child or want to enforce bedtimes, as well as set daily time limits on individual apps and sites.
Does it Cover All the Platforms You Need?
Before buying any parental control software, it’s important to check that it covers the devices and operating systems that you and your kids use. For example, Norton Family Premier is extremely powerful for Windows and Android users but its iOS features are weak, so it wouldn’t be a good choice if your teens all have iPhones. Kaspersky Safe Kids also has some limitations for iOS platforms. Zoodles Kids Mode is a cross-platform tool that works equally effectively on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, while Qustodio and Mobicip cover the greatest number of platforms. Both of them are suitable for Mac and Windows, iOS, Android, and even Nook and Kindle.
If you’re concerned about covering all possible platforms, another approach is to apply controls to your router instead of individual devices. Using Circle or Clean Router means that you know that no matter what devices your children are using, they are all covered by the same comprehensive control software.
Can You Access Social Media Monitoring?
For parents of teens and tweens, the content that their children are seeing can come second to concern about their use of social media. With the rise of cyberbullying and the extremely troubling content that can be sent over social media networks, this type of monitoring has become highly important to many parents. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to monitor. Norton Family Premier does allow parents to view a list of all the videos their child is watching on YouTube and has advanced web tracking features for video content and social networking. Kaspersky Safe Kids also has the option of monitoring your child's Facebook account, but you'll need your child's cooperation, and it doesn't extend to other social media channels.
One of the best options for social media monitoring is KidLogger. This tracks and records every keystroke your child makes, notes all phone calls, and allows you to view all their Facebook, Viber, Skype, Kik, and other social media messages. It even offers silent monitoring for Whatsapp and Skype conversations through a voice-activated sound recorder and can be set to take screenshots of Skype conversations every 15 seconds.
Does it Send Activity Reports and Logs?
What our children do online often seems like another world. Many parents worry that their children could be doing who knows what online without them being any the wiser. This is why many parental control tools send regular activity reports and keep logs for a certain amount of time about children’s internet usage. Zoodles Kids Mode, NetNanny, Mobicip, Qustodio, and many others send activity reports regularly. Qustodio keeps activity logs for up to 30 days for paid users.
Norton Family Premier offers advanced activity tracking features that include sharing a list of the videos your child watches on YouTube and Hulu and an account of their web search requests. If you want to monitor your child's every online move, KidLogger is your best choice. It keeps records of your child's every keystroke, web history, screengrabs, text that has been copied onto the clipboard, and more. You can use it for tracking their activity over time as well as the powerful social media monitoring tools mentioned