Only twenty years ago, parental concern for the safety and psychological wellbeing of their children and teenagers was limited almost entirely to the physical world. You taught your children to stay together and avoid strangers. You could easily hang up the home phone if they were talking on it for too long, and their access to inappropriate materials was limited to finding a dirty magazine somewhere.

Now though, children and teenagers spend just as much time on the internet as adults, if not more. Whether it’s through a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, children and teens use the internet to research information, watch videos, play games, and engage in social media. These often positive uses of technology can easily be outweighed by the potential for negative and even dangerous elements lurking at the loading of a page.

How do you, as a parent, stay in control of your child’s intake of inappropriate content and unhealthy phone behaviours? More importantly, can you ensure your family’s safety by eliminating the possibility of your child chatting with a stranger online in an age where you sometimes cannot verify who exactly you’re communicating with? In order to limit unhealthy behaviour and maintain a safe guard around a child, it takes an active, intentional parent and some technological precautions as well.

iPhone Parental Control Apps

In this endeavour, the most helpful technological aid to parents is the parental control app. These apps offer features that control a child or teen’s behaviour online, by setting boundaries that filter out adult content, monitor internet activity, and make certain app purchases off-limits. Or, in order to manage the phone element of the smartphone, parental control apps allow you to set time use limits and monitor phone calls, and messages.

Most parental control apps for iPhone and Android also have a GPS feature that allows you to find your child at any time. But how do you know which one to choose? According to Tom’s Guide, there are a number of effective parental control apps with various capabilities to best fit your parental monitoring:

Best Parental Control App

For strictly mobile monitoring, Mobile Guardian offers a parental control app for Android and iOS that allows parents to monitor their children’s or teenagers’ smartphone activity. For only 4 dollars a month, Mobile Guardian provides internet filtering systems and blocks unwanted applications. Also, it offers a schedule and timetable system, and contacts management, allowing you to block contacts as well. Mobile Guardian has GPS and geofencing capabilities so you can locate your child at all times.

My Mobile Watchdog is another one of the parental control apps for Android and iPhone. Like others, this service allows call and text monitoring, web blocking, time blocking, app permissions and GPS services. This multi-faceted service comes at a low $4.95 subscription fee.

Like Mobile Guardian and My Mobile Watchdog, MM Guardian offers phone controls that monitor texts and block calls. Parents can also block texting and calling when their teenager is driving or at school. While MM Guardian control app downloads, it does not have internet filtering capabilities. MM Guardian is one of the exclusively Android parental control apps and costs $4 per month.

MamaBear offers some unique alternatives to the typical parental control app for iPhone and Android smartphones. This service allows you to monitor your child’s social media engagements, by notifying you with each new contact or using negative words, photos and tags. Its GPS capabilities track arrivals and departure and can ever notify parents if their child has driven over the speed limit.

Like MamaBear, Canary sends notifications if the teen is travelling above the speed limit and if texting, calling, or on social while the car is moving as well. With a robust GPS capability, Canary also allows parents to demarcate safe areas and off-limits areas with geo-fencing. Parents can even add a curfew time element to this feature. Canary is available for $14.99 for a lifetime subscription.

For Android users, Funamo Parental Control allows parents to monitor their child’s smartphone activities, including a child-safe browser, SafeSearch search results, and keyword blocking. The Funamo Parental Control also allows parents to monitor calls, texts, and app downloads.

Qustodio is a free service that works on PC, Android and iOS, allowing parents to monitor desktop and mobile use. You can also set rules for use and access on the device and block inappropriate content. For $44.95 a year, you can buy the full version that provides GPS tracking, phone call monitoring capabilities, and app controls.

Maybe the most robust internet control service (and most expensive), ParentKit works only for iOS but provides internet scheduling tools that determine times for internet access. It also gives the parent remote control of their child’s smartphone so he or she can turn off internet capabilities and apps at any given moment. ParentKit also blocks app purchases and certain internet content based on age ratings.

For parents lending their phones to their young children, the Kids Place app for Android gives parents the peace of mind that their child won’t stumble upon anything bad, accidentally delete apps, data or mess up settings. Kids Place gives your child only to the apps you’ve chosen and lets you limit use with a timer feature.