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When their time is up, you can choose for the program to either disable the internet or lockdown the entire device. During testing, we noticed devices with Norton Family installed ran much slower than when other monitoring apps were installed. And you can block content, gaming apps and instant messaging programs. Surfie has a keyword and phrase alert, which is a great tool for stopping cyberbullies and other predators.

This monitoring program includes time controls and provides very detailed reports about what your child does online. Reports include information about which websites your child visits, apps they use and words they search for as well as how long they spend in each application. However, its cell phone monitoring program includes profanity masking. Not only does it deny your child access to X-rated websites, but it also checks the pictures and ads on safe sites.

On top of physically testing these apps, we research news and organizations dedicated to educating children and parents about healthy technology habits. Both have extensive guides for parents that are worth checking out.

How to Monitor Text Messages On Someone Else's Phone

We also spoke with advocates and read advice on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC and National Suicide Prevention websites about how to recognize cyberbullying and how to talk to your kids about online dangers. Cell phone parental controls programs are subscription based, meaning you have to pay either a monthly or annual fee to continue using that program. You often must also purchase this subscription for each device you wish to monitor, though there are a few apps that will give you multiple licenses for a decent price.

Our favorite is Mobicip. There is no age requirement when it comes to owning a smartphone, unlike social media accounts that typically require a person to be 13 or older to sign up. Before giving your child their own smartphone, sit down and talk with your child about internet etiquette, privacy, security, cyberbullying, malicious websites, harmful content and time management. This is a lot of info to bombard a child with, so take your time and spread out these topics over several conversations rather than running through them like a lecture or presentation.

Make sure, when your child is ready for a cell phone, that you set clear rules. Be prepared to set firm rules on the things that matter most to you, but be open to negotiating rules such as how to earn more screen time. The Family Contract for Smartphone Use from ConnectSafely is a good tool to help you set specific rules and responsibilities for both children and parents. For more information and advice on deciding when to get your child a smartphone, check out When Is Your Kid Old Enough for a Smartphone?

While setting rules is an important part of helping your child establish healthy smartphone habits before they hit adulthood, they still need to understand why these rules exist. An excellent way to explain smartphone rules to kids is to talk about how you use your smartphone. Although this may cause you to question your own smartphone habits, it can teach your child the potential advantages and hazards of smartphones.

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By setting an example your child wants to emulate, you become a powerful influence in developing healthy smartphone habits for your child. If your child has an iPhone, you can take advantage of its built-in Screen Time parental controls to place restrictions on apps, purchases, explicit content, Siri, privacy and other settings.


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While Screen Time may not have the comprehensive tools of some parental control apps, it might meet your needs and save you money in the long term. Screen Time is available on devices running iOS 12, which was released on September 17, Google also has an app called Digital Wellbeing, which allows you to self-restrict app access on devices running Android 9.

This app is geared towards adults tracking and managing their own screen time, but we like the potential of using this app to help older children and teens learn about healthy smartphone habits.

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However, it also has a few unique features such as an extensive library of kid-friendly books, videos, games, audiobooks, apps, and educational content. These are the current parental control offerings from the four largest U. If you need legal advice before using parental control apps on your kids' phones, you should contact an attorney or legal counsel.

Because wiretap laws vary by state, we do not advocate using smartphone parental apps to record phone calls, either audio or video. Look for apps with clear-cut reports that make it easy to track relevant information. We especially liked the colorful reports in Qustodio. Most programs let you choose from a variety of reports, including monthly or hourly reports with graphs, lists of frequent contacts, browser history, newly installed apps, message history, calendar events, pictures taken, GPS location and keystrokes. You can set a window of time when your child can access apps and the browser and adjust it whenever needed.

Some of the apps we tested allow you to remotely unlock the phone for a few minutes of open access if your child requests it. It's essential that the parental control smartphone app you choose lets you restrict access to other apps and the internet. Choosing an invisible app can make it more difficult for your child to bypass the restrictions on their phone. Though these apps support most common smartphones and carriers, not all are compatible.

It's important that you double-check the brand and model of the phone you want to monitor so you don't waste money on incompatible software. Most developers have extensive lists of compatible devices on their websites.

Each of the apps in our comparison works on Android and iOS devices. This will discourage negative behaviors , while giving everyone in the family peace of mind. Privacy is crucial, but that goes both ways. Your kids might use their cell phones for entertainment and communication, but there are other factors to consider. Regulating mobile device usage can help your children adhere to their schedule without negatively impacting their day to day lives.


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  4. When used properly, your kids have a pocket-sized tool that lets them access unlimited information. However, intentionally or unintentionally, your children could use those same tools to access the more dangerous parts of the internet. Cyber bullying, inappropriate content, and malware-ridden websites have the potential to cause lasting damage. Reduce the risk that your child will be affected by using monitoring software for their devices.

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