With the sheer amount of questionable content available online, many parents are understandably concerned when their young ones use the web. Even a seemingly innocuous Google search can send them down a hazardous path, especially if they are not being properly monitored and supported. For this reason, parental control software is a valuable investment for those looking to get a grip on how their children are using the web. Yet with so many parental control applications available, the greatest challenge is finding one that best suits their specific needs.

Four Proven Pieces of Software

There are dozens upon dozens of different parental control applications available, most of which require either a one-time purchase or an annual fee. These can vary greatly in cost, devices covered, and the number of features provided, but there is inevitably a piece of software that meets your family’s specific situation. If you are uncertain though, the following are among the most popular and commonly used parental control apps available, which should give a sense for the best the market has to offer.

Qustodio Parental Control: Qustodio is a suite of security apps that provide comprehensive protection options across multiple devices, from Windows and Apple computers to Android, Kindle, and iOS devices. It features extensive filters to apply to your children’s browsing habits and strong text monitoring options on Android devices, but its location tracking is lacking and it has no geofencing features.

Kaspersky Safe Kids: Kapersky’s is one of the most feature-filled options available to parents, excelling in blocking a wide range of potentially harmful content across PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. It is one of the most affordable options as well; the paid version is fairly cheap and there is also a free version that allows you to filter websites and set time limits. It does have some downsides though, as it is sometimes criticized for being slow and having a somewhat confusing user interface.

Norton Family Premier: Norton Family Premier is excellent for households with multiple children and Android/Windows, due to having the option for installation across an unlimited number of devices. It has location tracking and web monitoring functions, but lacks text message monitoring on iOS and has no options at all geofencing. It is also a bit expensive, but often comes packaged with their anti-virus suites as well.

Net Nanny Parental Control: Zift’s Net Nanny is one of the best parental control apps, with excellent web filters and an intuitive design. Among its many features are location tracking and history, time allowances, and scheduling systems. It is particularly effective on mobile devices and has near-total parity across Android and iOS devices. On the downside, it is one of the more expensive options available and it lacks call or text monitoring.

There are many other parental control applications available, but these are among the most popular and well regarded. Ultimately though, you should make your decision based on your budget, the devices your children use, and the specific features you are looking for.

The Strengths and Limitations of Embedded Parental Control Tools

One reason that many parents are hesitant to invest in parental control software is the belief that their children are already protected by the parental control options included by default on most computers. It is true that all major computers have parental control options built-in: Microsoft offers its Family Safety features, while Apple computers have Mac Parental Controls. However, recent tests have shown that while Microsoft and Apple’s embedded filters are effective at blocking out pornographic material, they have limited success filtering other types of potentially harmful content.

Of course, Microsoft and Apple’s embedded filters do have some clear benefits over other parental control software packages: for one, they are free. Plus, they have the added benefit of being built into all Apple devices or Android phones, meaning they won’t require additional installations to ensure protection across multiple devices. Also, embedded parental controls are often harder to circumvent than options that need to be downloaded or installed. Yet if you wish to ensure that your children cannot access inappropriate content while online, it is best to supplement the default parental control options with another more robust control application.

The Most Important Parental Control Tool – Diligence

Whether you rely on embedded parental control tools or purchase additional software, it is difficult to completely protect your children from harmful content online if they are actively looking for it. Many children know how to use their computers better than their parents, so the more perceptive and rambunctious child might try to circumvent parental control options. This is why you should not just set up parental control software and forget about it. Instead, you should be keeping track of it, making sure it stays functional and while keeping an eye on your child’s online experiences. Every parental control package can be deactivated or bypassed in some way, even the embedded features in Windows 10 and Mac OSes. However, coupled with a parent who is actively paying attention to their children’s web usage, they are valuable tools that can protect kids from the seedier side of the internet.