Apps to Monitor Kids' Phones
Best practices and parental control apps for monitoring kids’ phones and tracking internet activity.
How to monitor your child’s phone
With so much inappropriate, violent, and false information available on the internet today, it can be a scary world for parents. Digital media has created an important new job for moms and dads everywhere, and that is to help their children learn how to be responsible digital citizens. There are many ways for co-parents to set child technology guidelines, but it all starts with you.
Monkey see, monkey do
Parents must first take a look at their own digital media usage. Parental behavior is the single biggest influencer in a child’s life. How many hours a day are you on your phone? Does your device frequently distract you from engaging in family conversations or activities? Do you keep your phone out of your bedroom at night so you can get enough sleep? Your kids will mirror your behavior, so it’s important for you and your co-parent to be mindful.
Next, you must have open, honest conversations with your kids about the content that is available to them, and which content does or does not match up with your family values. For co-parents, it is beneficial to discuss these matters so you can relay consistent information to your children. Reputable organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Common Sense Media offer independent, nonprofit, research-backed information to help guide these conversations and educate both parents and children.
Cell phone monitoring for parents
Finally, you must closely monitor your children’s digital media use, particularly on their phones, and teach them about safe usage. Most experts will tell you that you should never secretly monitor your child’s activities. You should let your child know that you are monitoring their activities on their phones or tablets.
You can start the process of protecting your child by using the parental controls provided on the phone’s operating system. Microsoft, Apple, Google Chrome, and Amazon Fire all have settings that allow parents to prevent access to certain websites and limit exposure to inappropriate content.
Phone monitoring apps
If you and your co-parent want to help your kids manage their screen time, Apple ScreenTime and Google Family Link are two options available. If you feel like you need to take it a step further by monitoring the content of your child’s text messages or social media posts, you can look into investing in a third-party parental monitoring app. Four apps that have appeared in numerous reviews, including Digital Trends, PC Magazine, and Common Sense Media are Qustodio, NetNanny, Bark, and MamaBear.
Qustodio: This app works on iOS, Android, Kindle, Mac and Windows devices. It allows parents to block inappropriate content, balance screen time across devices, control games and apps, monitor time spent on social media platforms, and view your child’s phone calls and texts. You will need to know your child’s social media passwords in order to monitor activity. To access all of Qustodio’s features, you’ll need to purchase a Premium Subscription.
NetNanny: The NetNanny app also works on Windows, Android, iOS, and Kindle. Some of the features it touts includes giving you instant reporting of your kids’ online searches, visibility into what apps your kids are using, access to block pornography and other adult content, and management of the amount of screen time they have.
Bark: Bark monitors Android devices, Apple devices, Amazon devices and computers. It can monitor a variety of different apps, as well as text messages, photos, videos, and web browsing. For a full list of everything it monitors, click here. You can get automatic alerts via email and texts when Bark detects a potential risk.
MamaBear: MamaBear features include location tracking services so you can be alerted when your kids arrive and leave places like home or school, social media monitoring of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook activities, and an alert that lets you know when your child is driving, or riding, at a faster speed than you would like. It also has text message monitoring for kids on Android devices.
These parental control apps are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many others out there, so you and your co-parent need to do your homework to compare features and pricing. Most importantly, stay educated and be vigilant about your kid’s digital media usage.