Keeping your kids safe on their devices can be a challenge. Whether it’s preventing them from seeing inappropriate content or spending too much time staring at screens, parents can sometimes feel ill-equipped to deal with this constant battle. Help is at hand though, in the shape of parental control software that can define when your children use their iPhone or iPad and the kinds of things they can see on them.
The general principle is that you install the app on the child’s app, then do the same with the accompanying one on your own device. From there you can now remotely set restrictions, or relax them, and generally take back a modicum of control over their iPhone or iPad. Here’s our pick of the best current offerings.
You should also be aware that Apple provides parental controls within iOS and iPadOS, so be sure to take a look at our How to set up parental controls on iPad & iPhone guide.
One of the most recognisable names on this list is Qustodio, which has built an enviable reputation over the past few years as a go-to app for parental controls. You can use the service for free, giving you the ability to protect a single device with restrictions on content that can be viewed and the times it can be used. These can be set via the Qustodio website or via the accompanying app for parents.
If you want the full range of features, including location tracking, multiple-device support, and Facebook monitoring, then you’ll need to step up to a premium account.
These start at £35.95/$54.95 each year for five devices and go up to £92.95/$137.95 p/a if you want to cover fifteen devices.
Another popular service is MMGuardian, not least because it allows you to pay a small monthly amount (£1.79/$1.99) to protect a single device. This is very useful if your child only has an iPhone or iPad, so you don’t have to pay more than you need. To cut costs even further there are options for an annual subscription that’s priced at £17.99/$19.99 or £59.99/$79.99 for five years.
So, what do you get for your money? Well, MMGuardian offers location tracking, web filtering so you can block adult content, selecting the types of websites that their device can access, and even specific blocking of certain sites. There’s also an image alert feature that notifies you if your child’s device has downloaded an image that might be inappropriate (ie nudity) and allows you to view the image itself.
MMGuardian also plays nicely with Apple’s own Screen Time feature, so you can pair the two up for maximum protection.
There’s a 14-day free trial so you can test drive MMGuardian before spending any cash.
As the name suggests, this package is all about keeping the younger member of your family away from harm. It does this by offering a comprehensive range of features. These include limits on the amount of time kids can use their devices and app blockers to prevent certain ones from being accessed (so if you think Fortnite is taking over their lives you can now step in).
There are the standard web filters to block content they shouldn’t be seeing, location tracking so you can see where they are in real-time, and there’s also a feature whereby Famisafe allows you to set Geofences (basically allowed areas) where you kid can be. Then, if they leave those areas you’re immediately notified. Handy, if you’re worried that they might leave the park and head off with their mates into town.
There are a few different tariffs for Famisafe, starting at £7.49/$9.99 per month for five devices, then going to £15/$19.99 per quarter for ten, and £45/$59.99 per year for thirty. It’s an unusual scale, it must be said, but definitely competitive with other offerings.
Net Nanny Parental Control
One of the oldest names in the business is Net Nanny, with the original version being released back in the 1990s as a dedicated web browser. These days things are a little different, with the software available for Windows, macOS, Android, Amazon Fire, and of course iOS. In fact, in some ways this is something of a drawback as you can only buy the iOS version as part of a larger package that also contains all of the above apps and covers five devices.
Still, if you’re a technologically blended family then this might be the ideal solution. The iOS app gives you control over screen time while providing locations tracking, alerts about online activity, plus a granular amount web filtering. The latter enforces Google Safesearch, which sifts most of the most egregious images away from search results, plus you can pick from fourteen different filter categories, including drugs, gambling, pornography, suicide, and tobacco.
The Family Protection Pass will set you back £41/$54.99 per year for cover on five devices, and should that not be enough you can opt for the large package that protects twenty devices for £67.50/$89.99.
Download Net Nanny
Apple Screen Time
As we mentioned at the beginning of this roundup, Apple does include free parental control software with iOS and iPadOS. This is called Screen Time and it does allow a good deal of protection without you haven’t to spend any more money.
Features include age-restrictions that limit access to certain types of websites or can block all but the ones you choose to include, these can also be extended to movies, TV shows and music that include adult language or content. Apps on the iPhone can also be blocked, so that the little ones can’t expand their horizons before you deem it appropriate.
Downtime allows you schedule periods when the device will only allow calls or access to specific apps, while you can also set daily limits for apps so they are only available at certain times of day.
The features are useful and well worth exploring before paying out for an expensive software package. Read How to limit iPhone and iPad usage with Screen Time for more details.