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Parental Control Apps: Should You Pay for a Subscription?

Parenting

Parental control apps are more essential in this age of virtual learning, but do you really need to spend money on a subscription, or will the free versions suffice?

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Parental Control Apps: Should You Pay for a Subscription?

Introduction

Is your at-home student straying from their Zoom class to the Roblox game on their iPad? Those screens can be tempting. Most parental control apps are "freemium" with a basic version and paid upgrades, so we set out to discover if the extra cost is worth it. We found the premium subscriptions are usually the better option for device control, especially in the case of our top pick, Parental Control by Kidslox, at $3.99/mo or lifetime access at $99.99. Here's how we chose:

Our Pick

Premium control that stands above the rest

  • Control screen time limits with parental controls to keep your family safe

    4.2 Ratings 34K+ Reviews 500K+ Downloads
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases

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Kidslox stood out to use immediately as being the most user friendly and with the most helpful features for the price. The premium version was definitely worth spending the money on, especially since it was cheaper compared to other apps.

Why we chose Kidslox

  • The most feature-rich app of all the apps we tested and low-priced given its quality
  • Has a lifetime access option for only a one-time fee of $99.99 or subscriptions at only $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year.
  • Offers a lot of device monitoring and location monitoring such as safe driving alerts so the app can grow with your kids and their needs

Spring for the upgrade if:

  • You have more than 1 kid or more than 1 device to control
  • You want to get Mac/PC control along with a phone or tablet
  • Blocking of specific apps is important to your control
  • You want the extra protection features that you can use for years to come with your kids’ devices

Stick to free if:

  • You only have 1 kid and 1 device to protect
  • All you need is a basic device block schedule for certain hours of the day
  • You don’t mind the Messages app remaining unblocked
We have to recommend this one for anyone with either multiple kids or multiple devices. In reading reviews and speaking with other parents about the features, this one was one of the favorites based on the range of features, and with the lifetime access price, it’s truly a steal.
Read Kidslox's Full Review
Runner Up

Best free and low-fees option with decent premium features

OurPact is another one with great features, and they even have a middle tier subscription for only $1.99 a month so you can add multiple devices and block schedules, which would be another option we highly recommend.

Why we chose OurPact:

  • Another feature-rich control app for phones and tablets only
  • Has a variety of subscription options, including a low-cost PLUS subscription for only $1.99 a month that would work well for multi-device control
  • Premium subscription for $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year.
  • Easy to use and straightforward device pairing

The $1.99 a month PLUS subscription is the perfect budget option for those who just want a month to month subscription during the school year. Not to mention that this one probably has our favorite user interface of all the apps tested. However, this one certainly had better reviews for iOS users over Android users, so Android users may want to read on to our next pick.

Read OurPact's Full Review
Also Groovy

A no-cost Android must-have

  • Set screen time limits, manage apps, and view app activity for your kids device.

    3.6 Ratings 1M+ Reviews 50M+ Downloads
    Free
    Free

This no-cost option is so great, we had to include it, even though its full control features only work on Android or Google devices.

Why we chose Google Family Link:

  • 100% free option that still has excellent control features
  • Highest rated option for Android users specifically whereas some apps, such as OurPact, were much higher rated for iOS but less high for Android
  • Parental Control app is available for iOS too even though it can only fully control Android and Google devices
  • Even if your kids have iOS devices, you can use this to monitor their Google account and web browsing

There were not any other free apps of the same features for iOS only, but it’s possible that Apple may develop parental control features of their own to be included with their devices. Either way, this is a great pick for Android control and for any parent who wants to monitor their child’s use of Google.

Read Google Family Link's Full Review
Also Groovy

Upgrade to all-around protection

  • Use with Circle with Disney

    4.3 Ratings 33K+ Reviews 100K+ Downloads
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases

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For the most upgraded pick, Circle was an obvious choice for us. If you’re willing to spend the extra cash, you really get what you pay for.

Why we chose Circle:

  • Best option to protect every WiFi-enabled device in your home, including phones, tablets, computers, smart TVs, video game consoles, and more
  • Priciest option for full control at $129 purchase for a home device and $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year but includes robust control as well as other Circle security protections
  • Specific app blocking capabilities as well as internet filters and ability to give kids rewards for good behavior

For your tech-savvy young ones, this might be the best to look into. This one appears to be harder for kids to find ways to “un-block,” and reviews point out that though there are sometimes connect issues that the app developers are quick to update and fix these problems.

Read Circle's Full Review

Everything We Recommend

  • Our Pick
    Kidslox Parental Control App

    Kidslox parental control and screen time tracker is a secure parental control app that makes it easy for parents to control screen time, track their child's location, block apps, and monitor app usage.

    Control Screen Time

    The Kidslox Parental Control app includes a range of tools for monitoring and regulating screen time to help parents manage their kids and teens phone use in line with their desired parenting style:

    Instant lock - lock your kids phones (android and iphone) remotely, at the touch of a button
    Screen time schedules - set fixed times when your child can use their smartphone, e.g. set a bedtime curfew when the phones switch off
    Daily limits - allow your family free access to their phones until they reach a daily limit of screen time you set
    Screen time rewards - give your children extra screen time for completing chores, homework or other tasks
    Usage monitoring - keep track of the way your kids use their phones, see app usage, sites visited, screen time and more...
    Custom modes - choose which apps to block at different times to encourage appropriate behaviour, e.g. allow educational apps during homework but games only during free time
    Adjust time - it's easy to increase or decrease daily limits on a one off basis in response to your child's behaviour

    Location tracking

    ✔ Know your family's location via GPS tracking
    ✔ Get notifications when your child enters or leaves geo-fenced zones you set
    ✔ See location history

    Content blocking

    ✔ Filter pornography and other adult content to give your child a safe browser experience
    ✔ Block in-app purchases
    ✔ Lock safe search on for Google search and other search engines
    ✔ Full internet blocker

    Family Parental Controls On All Platforms

    ✔ Download Kidslox to protect and manage screen time on all your devices
    ✔ Mobile versions for Android devices and iPhones and iPads
    ✔ Desktop versions for Windows and Mac
    ✔ Online, browser based access to controls - turn off junior's phone from your laptop

    Every kid we know seems to be addicted to online games or social media. Kidslox is the solution to unglue them from their screens!
    Every family is different, in fact every child is different, which is why a modern parent or guardian needs a flexible tool that lets you set boundaries suitable for your child.

    Kidslox offers several approaches in one simple to use app:
    For in-the-moment control, use the instant lock.
    For establishing positive patterns, set daily screen time schedules.
    When you think your child is ready for a little more freedom, set daily limits. Minimal parental involvement, but a hard cap on screen usage.
    For many teens it's appropriate to allow entirely free device use, but still monitor the apps and sites they're going on.
    Of course each of these approaches can be combined and used with other features like the family locator to create the custom approach that's just right for your family.

    To use Kidslox you will need to download the app onto each device you wish to control.
    One paid account allows you to control up to 10 devices.

    Kidslox contains no advertisements.

    Our support team are ready to help via in-app chat or via email in case you need any assistance setting up Kidslox or getting good results with it.

    Kidslox offers a 3 day free trial when you sign up. No need to add credit card details until you decide we're right for you.
    Find our Premium pricing here: https://kidslox.com/pricing

    Learn more about Kidslox on our website: https://kidslox.com

    Please note:
    - Kidslox requires an internet connection to operate
    - This app uses the Device Administrator permission
    - To be able to show your kids’ positions on a map, Kidslox requires the use of the Location permission on Android phones
    - Find copies of our terms and conditions here: https://kidslox.com/terms/
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    $0.99 - $129.99 per item
    $1.99 - $19.99 per item
  • Runner Up
    OurPact is the complete screen time parental control app every family needs. Our breakthrough solution offers flexible screen time management, screenshot views into your child’s online activity, a text & app blocker, a website blocker, and GPS family tracking to provide comprehensive family management.

    Use OurPact parental control app to:

    • View – Use either automated periodic, on-demand or gallery views of your children’s online activity, all encrypted for safety.
    • App Blocker – Block internet, text messages, and apps at-a-touch
    • App Rules – Block & allow specific apps
    • Block/Allow Websites – Prevent access to specific websites, including adult content, for safe internet browsing
    • Block Texting - Block access or set rules for texting apps
    • New App Alerts – Receive alerts when new apps are installed on your child’s device
    • Block Schedules – Automate your family’s daily routine
    • Screen Time Allowance – Set daily screen time limits for your kids
    • Geofencing with Places – create GPS geofences around specific locations and receive real-time alerts when their kids leave and arrive at home, school or any set zone
    • Find My Family – Allows parents to locate any family member using geolocation and geofences.
    • Find My iPhone & iPad – Family Locator also lets parents find the location of all their individual devices paired to their parent account in case of lost or stolen items.

    OurPact gives you the power to block apps like social media and games plus gives you peace of mind knowing you can track your kid’s location and have visibility into their online activity.

    OurPact allows parents to foster healthy habits and manage their child's screen time using screen time allowance, blocking specific apps, blocking texts, and scheduling daily screen time according to a child's daily routine. OurPact is the most comprehensive parental control app and family locator, perfect for families of any size.

    By pairing your family's Android or other devices to OurPact parental control app, you have the power to manage your entire family's screen time & device locations from one powerful application.

    Recommendations:
    • Use OurPact's app blocker and parental control app solution to reinforce spoken or written agreements with your child regarding screen time limits and device use.
    • Use OurPact parental control app to block social media or games with a single touch, while leaving apps that help your children learn and grow.
    • Use OurPact’s View function for spot-check monitoring of your child’s online content.
    • Set daily screen time allowance and teach your children how to budget their screen time effectively.
    • Set one-time or recurring schedules for your child to manage screen time on-the-go.
    • Find my family or locate lost or stolen items using Family Locator.

    OurPact offers a Premium and Premium+ monthly auto-renewing subscriptions charged to your iTunes account. Try free for 2 week. You'll be billed monthly within 24 hours of the end of the current billing period. You may cancel or turn off auto-renewal of your OurPact subscriptions any time by going to the user's Account Settings. To avoid being billed for an additional period, subscriptions must be canceled at least 24 hours before the end of the current period.

    For more information visit:
    ourpact.com/privacy
    ourpact.com/terms

    If you have any questions or need technical support, do not hesitate to reach us via email: support@ourpact.com
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    $1.99 - $99.99 per item
    $1.99 - $99.99 per item
  • Also Groovy

    Google Family Link for parents

    3.6 Ratings 1M+ Reviews 50M+ Downloads
    Try the free Family Link parental controls app from Google. Whether your children are younger or in their teens, the Family Link app lets you set digital ground rules remotely from your own device to help guide them as they learn, play, and explore online. For children under 13 (or the applicable age of consent in your country), Family Link also lets you create a Google Account for your child that's like your account, with access to most Google services.


    With Family Link parental controls, you can:

    Guide them to good content

    • View their app activity - Not all screen time is the same. Help your child make healthy decisions about what they do on their Android device, with activity reports showing how much time they’re spending on their favorite apps. You can see daily, weekly, or monthly reports.
    • Manage their apps - Handy notifications let you approve or block apps your child wants to download from the Google Play Store. You can also manage in-app purchases, and hide specific apps on their device, all remotely from your own device.
    • Feed their curiosity - It can be hard to figure out what apps are right for your child, so Family Link shows you teacher-recommended apps on Android that you can add directly to their device.


    Keep an eye on screen time

    • Set limits - It’s up to you to decide the right amount of screen time for your child. Family Link lets you set time limits and a bedtime for their supervised devices, so you can help them find a good balance.
    • Lock their device - Whether it’s time to go play outside, have dinner, or just spend time together, you can remotely lock a supervised device whenever it’s time to take a break.


    See where they are

    • It’s helpful to be able to find your child when they’re on the go. You can use Family Link to help locate them as long as they’re carrying their Android devices.


    Important Information

    • Family Link’s tools vary depending on your child’s device. See a list of compatible devices at families.google.com/familylink/setup
    • While Family Link helps you manage your child's purchases and downloads from Google Play, they will not need approval to install app updates (including updates that expand permissions), apps you have previously approved, or apps that have been shared in Family Library. Parents should regularly review their child’s installed apps and app permissions in Family Link.
    • You should carefully review the apps on your child’s supervised device and disable those you don’t want them to use. Note that you may not be able to disable some pre-installed apps.
    • To see the location of your child or teen’s device, it must be powered on, recently active, and connected to the internet.
    • Teacher-recommended apps are only available on Android devices in the US to parents of children of certain ages.
    • While Family Link provides tools to manage your child’s online experience, it does not make the internet safe. Rather, it is intended to give parents choices about how their kids use the internet, and encourage conversations about internet use.
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    No
    No
    Works with the Circle with Disney device and supported NETGEAR routers. Not compatible with the 2nd generation Circle Home Plus device.

    ABOUT CIRCLE:
    Circle products help families better manage time spent online. Filtering content and balancing online usage has never been easier. From devices on your home network, both wireless and wired, to connected devices, Circle has you covered. Customizing Circle for your unique family is quick and easy.

    Circle’s mission is to improve families’ lives, online and off.

    Don’t have a Circle with Disney device or a supported Netgear router? Please visit www.meetcircle.com to learn more about our products.

    NEED HELP?
    If you have any questions, need help with Circle, or want to provide feedback, you can contact our Support Team at help@meetcircle.com or go to support.meetcircle.com

    NETGEAR OPTIONAL IN APP SUBSCRIPTION - Pricing & Terms
    Circle Premium (for supported NETGEAR routers) is an optional automatic renewing subscription. Your subscription will be charged to your Google Play account at confirmation of purchase and will automatically renew unless auto-renewing is turned off at least 24 hours before the end of your current period. Current subscribers can manage subscriptions and turn off auto-renewal by visiting Play Store Subscriptions settings after purchase.

    Circle Premium (for supported NETGEAR routers): $4.99 USD / month (meetcircle.com/netgear)

    Privacy policy: https://meetcircle.com/privacy/
    Terms of use: https://meetcircle.com/license/
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    $4.99 - $49.99 per item
    $4.99 - $49.99 per item

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Parental Control Apps: Should You Pay for a Subscription?

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