Best Parental Control Apps & Software: Norton Family Premier vs Net Nanny vs Qustodio & More

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Are you worried about your child being exposed to profanity, pornography or potential predators while using their smartphone?

Whether your child is eight or sixteen, she could have access to all kinds of inappropriate images, language and people without your knowledge.

Fortunately, you have some tech help on your side. Welcome to parental control apps. These apps and software give you remote supervision over your child’s mobile activity, so you can make sure she is safe and making smart choices with her mobile use.

Article Overview

How Do Parental Control Apps Work?

Parental control and monitoring apps allow you to:

  • Set up filters to block websites that contain pornography, profanity and any other content you deem inappropriate for your child’s age.
  • Block your kids from downloading specified apps to their mobile devices. And you can get detailed reports on their mobile device activity.
  • The best parental control apps for smartphones even give you the ability to monitor their texting, calling and contacts, as well as tracking their location using GPS.

Parental Control Apps FAQ

Before we jump into our reviews, we want to share some information that is important to know when shopping around for the best parental control apps.

Is This Spyware?

The apps we’ve reviewed here aren’t technically spyware. Your child knows that you’ve installed the software on her device and that you’re monitoring her usage. Some parental control apps do have a feature called invisibility, which cloaks its existence on the device. But even if you’ve set the software to be invisible, it won’t take long for savvy pre-teens and certainly teens to know it’s there.

iPhone vs Android Monitoring

Android mobile devices are easier to monitor, hands down. Apple’s operating system has more limits on the type of content and activity third-party apps can control. So, most parental control software behaves differently for iOS vs Android devices. Some work around Apple a bit better, but there are limits.

What Social Media And Chat Apps Should Be On Your Radar?

As a mom of two teenage girls, I have the unwelcome privilege of knowing what apps kids today use to communicate with each other (and with potential predators). So, what’s hot these days? Snapchat, Kik, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook should all be on your radar. There are plenty of other social sharing sites and apps out there, but these are the most popular and a good start for concerned parents.

Best Parental Control Apps

How did we choose our best parental control apps? We based our rankings on several factors, including web filtering and app blocking tools, location tracking features, the ability to block and monitor texting, calling and social media, pricing and more.

Our reviews give you our rankings and recommendations for the type of monitoring you want. Read on to see how you can gain more supervision over your kid’s mobile use!

Best For Multiple Devices: Qustodio Review

Qustodio logo

Visit Website | Download iOS App | Download Android App

Qustodio is best parental control app for multiple devices. This app is a strong contender, especially for families who want to monitor multiple users and devices. Its standout features include text and call monitoring, device compatibility, and time limits per Internet, apps and each device.

Qustodio isn’t quite as robust as PhoneSheriff when it comes to data monitoring, location tracking and the ability to set custom limits and alerts. But the addition of social media monitoring, while limited, and being able to use on multiple platforms is a huge plus.

Qustodio offers a free version for one user on one device — it doesn’t include premium features, but it’s a good option to get you started.



  • Free version and affordable pricing tiers for premium versions
  • Strong app blocking tools
  • Monitors texts, calls and contacts
  • Social media monitoring (mainly Facebook)
  • Can manage multiple users and devices from one admin panel
  • Not as many custom web filters and alerts as our top two apps
  • No geofencing tool (but has child locator)
  • Can’t view deleted content and no tampering alert
  • Customer service via email only

Pricing & Compatibility

  • Free version for 1 user and 1 device
  • $54.95/year for 5 users and 5 devices
  • $96.95/year for 10 users and 10 devices
  • $137.95/year for 15 devices
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Kindle and Nook


Use coupon code QUST10 to save 10% off Qustodio plans, just use this link to get started.

Best For Web Blocking: Norton Family Premier Review

Visit Website | Download iOS App |Download Android App

Norton Family Premier is best app for web blocking. Norton really shines on Android devices (its iOS version is more limited).

It’s hard to beat this parental control app and software for its robust web filtering and app blocking tools that you can install on smartphones and computers. And its location tracking feature rivals Qustodio’s.

But if you want the ability to adequately monitor your child’s text messaging, calling and contacts, you’ll have to look elsewhere. You can’t block phone numbers, and text monitoring is very limited. If these features aren’t important to you, then Norton Family Premier has better web filtering control than Qustodio.



  • Very affordable pricing
  • Excellent web filtering and app blocking tools and custom filters
  • Unlimited number of users and devices
  • Easy admin tools to manage multiple users/devices
  • 24/7 customer support via live chat, phone and email
  • 30-day free trial
  • Can’t block texts or calls and limited text message monitoring
  • No social media monitoring for mobile devices
  • Child locator tool doesn’t have geofencing
  • Limited iOS support
  • Can’t view deleted content and no tampering alert

Pricing & Compatibility

Norton Family Premier offers a generous 30-day free trial.

  • $49.99/year for unlimited devices and users
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS

Best Free Version: ESET Parental Control Review

ESET logo

Visit Website | Download Android App

ESET Parental Control is a budget-friendly app for Android phones. In fact, ESET offers a decent free version that includes age-based app filters and time limits for such activities as gaming.

For only $29.99 per year, you can get ESET’s premium version which also offers site blocking and filtering, a child locator feature and full reporting. But if you want to monitor your child’s calling, texting and social media use, ESET is not the app for you.

This app is likely all you’ll need for younger children, but it lacks the monitoring features needed to control devices for pre-teens and teens.



  • Easy to install and manage from the admin dashboard
  • Free version and very affordable premium version
  • No limit on the number of devices
  • Good time-limit settings per app
  • Can’t monitor calling, texting, contacts or social media use
  • Lacks more advanced web filtering you get with high-end apps
  • No geofencing or location history (but it does have child locator)
  • Isn’t iOS compatible
  • Tech support via email ticket only

Pricing & Compatibility

ESET Parental Control offers a limited free version, as well as a 30-day free trial for its premium version.

  • $29.99/year for unlimited users and devices
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and Android

Parental Control Apps Feature Comparison Table

See an easy, side-by-side comparison of each best parental control software for mobile devices in the table below.

 Best for Multiple Devices: QustodioBest for Web Blocking: NortonBest Free Version: Eset Net NannyPhoneSheriff
Lowest Price Per Year$54.95$49.95$29.99$59.99$89
Free TrialFree Version30 DaysFree Version
Number of Users1-10UnlimitedUnlimited5-151
Number of Devices1-10UnlimitedUnlimited5-153
Per User SettingsCheckmark
Remote ManagementCheckmark
Web FilteringCheckmark
App BlockingCheckmark
Time LimitsCheckmark
View Video & Photo SharingCheckmark
Social Media MonitoringCheckmark
Monitor ContactsCheckmark
Text MonitoringCheckmark
Android OnlyCheckmark
Real-Time AlertsCheckmark
Location TrackingCheckmark
Panic ButtonCheckmark
View Deleted ContentCheckmark
Tampering AlertCheckmark
Remote LockCheckmark
Invisible ModeCheckmark
Supports iOSCheckmark
Supports AndroidCheckmark
Supports WindowsCheckmark
Supports Mac OSCheckmark
Customer SupportEmail Only24/7 Live Chat, Phone, EmailEmail OnlyMon-Sat. Via Phone, Email24/7 via Live Chat, Email
Best for Multiple Devices: QustodioBest for Web Blocking: NortonBest Free Version: Eset Net NannyPhoneSheriff

Other Best Parental Control Apps

Parental control is a booming market, with many fantastic app options. The following apps to monitor child’s phone use didn’t make it into our top three, but each is worthy of serious consideration depending on your budget and family’s needs.

Net Nanny  | PhoneSheriff

Net Nanny Review

Net Nanny logo

Visit Website | Download iOS App |Download Android App

Net Nanny has been around since 1996 and remains one of the most popular parental control software solutions out there. It’s an excellent option for PCs and Macs and internet usage on mobile devices.

Net Nanny masks profanity, blocks inappropriate sites and images, and has some of the best web filtering and app blocking capabilities you’ll find. And the higher-end version, called Family Protection Pass, includes social media monitoring on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn.

What’s missing? Net Nanny doesn’t offer text or call monitoring, and it doesn’t have a location tracker. But if you’re mainly concerned about your kids’ Internet and app usage, Net Nanny is among the best.



  • Competitive pricing
  • Among the best web filtering tools on the market
  • Manage multiple devices and users from admin panel
  • Solid social media monitoring
  • Excellent tech support via phone and email 6 days/week
  • No text or call monitoring
  • Doesn’t offer location tracking
  • Some user complaints about a difficult installation process
  • Can’t set time limits per app
  • No free trial or free version

Pricing & Compatibility

  • $39.99/year for 1 device (Windows or Mac only)
  • $59.99/year for 5 computers or devices
  • $89.99/year for 10 computers or devices
  • $119.99/year for 15 computers or devices
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android
  • View all options

PhoneSheriff Review

Phonesheriff logo

Visit Website

DISCLAIMER: As of 3/5/2018 Retina-X Studios is immediately and indefinitely halting its PhoneSheriff products because of repeated illegal hackings it has been the victim of.

We recommend looking for a different parental control app.

PhoneSheriff is outstanding when it comes to monitoring and controlling your child’s mobile devices. PhoneSheriff is an excellent choice for Android devices, but does not work on iOS.

Its robust features and real-time alerts make it ideal for pre-teens and younger teens. You can set up custom filters for profanity, pornography, potential predators (based on known keywords), and even customize your own keyword alerts.

Blocking or limiting time on certain apps is a breeze. And PhoneSheriff’s child locator tools are the best we’ve seen — you can even set a physical boundary, called geofencing, that alerts you if your child crosses the line.

If you have sneaky kids, PhoneSheriff gives you the ability to see deleted content, a tampering alert if she tries to disable the software, and a remote lock if it’s time to shut down her mobile activity.



  • Best text, call and contact monitoring we’ve seen
  • Strong app blocking and custom web filtering tools with keyword alerts, potential predator blocking, and much more
  • Excellent child locator tools with geofencing, location history and panic button
  • Tamper alert and view deleted content
  • 24/7 tech support via chat and email
  • On the expensive side
  • Limited social media monitoring
  • License is only for one user (up to 3 devices)
  • No free trial or free version
  • Not available on iOS or Blackberry

Pricing & Compatibility

  • $89/year or $49/6 months for one user and up to 3 devices
  • Compatible with Android only
  • View all options

Need More Advice On Keeping Your Kids Safe?

There’s no doubt that a large majority of kids in the U.S. use mobile devices. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. teens own a smartphone, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll. Close to 60% of kids age eight to 12 have cell phones, and nearly 20% of kids under age eight use smartphones. Controlling and monitoring your kids’ cell phone activity isn’t easy, but the following news broadcast gives you some added tips to help you do your best.

Parental Controls App Infographic

Here’s a summary of the benefits of these tools in a visual format.

Parental Controls App Infographic

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How Can Parental Control Apps Build Trust?

We think a major selling point for the parental control apps we’ve reviewed here is the fact that they’re not spyware. The openness of the software encourages parents and kids of all ages to have ongoing conversations about online and cell phone safety. This method builds more trust than simply spying on your child’s mobile activity.

Another huge plus in our book is that you can customize what you’re blocking or filtering at age-appropriate levels. It’s a safe, smart way to keep your kids secure as they grow and gain more freedom.

Also take a look at our review of Family Tracker Apps that serve a similar purpose.

Why do you think parents should (or should not) control their kids’ mobile activity?

About The Author:

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance.

Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions.

Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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April 1, 2020 2:26 pm

If you are a concerned parent looking for a way to connect with your children without suffocating them, Bark is an excellent choice. It will give you all the necessary information about your kids’ daily internet use, their chat buddies, what they share online, and alert you if there is something to be worried about.

August 9, 2018 7:22 pm

Thank you for the detailed information. I just looked at PhoneSheriff’s website and the following note is in the top right of their site. “NOTE: The iOS and Blackberry Versions of PhoneSheriff and Mobile Spy have been discontinued.”

Kimberly Alt
August 15, 2018 9:13 am
Reply to  Steph

Thank you Steph, we’ll look into this and update our article accordingly!

January 7, 2018 3:56 am

Thank you for providing a comprehensive report on child safety applications for internet enabled devices. This is the first side by side comparison by feature that I’ve seen on the web. Kudo’s for putting this together as our children are exposed to the web at continually earlier ages as technology grows ever present in our lives.

Based on recommendations on this site and other webpages, I was in the final stages of purchasing Phone Sherriff. I was somewhat surprised at the very last line of the sales process included the following statement “I agree that my phone needs to be Jailbroken for Phone Sherriff to run on iphone or ipad.

This is a VERY important aspect, and normally void’s apple’s consumer warranty. Further investigation in the Phone Sherriff FAQ revealed that you also are required to root android devices for full functionality of the application.. If you are not ok with Jailbreaking a phone, you are directed to Teenshield which offers a small subset of functionality.

You may wish to consider this important information in your article and recommendations. It was not obvious in any of the product information on the vendor website that this was required.

In addition, the license terms are not as stated in the article. The license does cover three devices as stated, but only is licensed for one named user. This means if you have more than one child, the cost of the application is substantially higher than any of the competitors at $90 per year per child for 12 months.

Sally Jones
January 10, 2018 10:23 am
Reply to  Robert

Hi Robert,
We thank you for your insight into a concern with these apps that they clearly don’t advertise. We’re looking into incorporating the jailbreaking issue into our review.

June 23, 2017 6:48 pm

Oh gosh, my kids are always up to no good whenever I loan them my phone! Wish I would have found these sooner…life saver!