Updated 09-19-2017

Parental Control SoftwareParental Control Software

With tools like filtering, blacklists for inappropriate sites, email monitoring and social networking safeguards, parental control software can help parents keep an eye on the content their kids are accessing online. We tested the best parental control software to help parents pick the right software for their kids, their computers and their parenting strategies. We paid particular attention to factors like how easy they were to set up, how effectively they blocked content and how easy they were to circumvent, so take a look at our detailed reviews to learn more.

Parental Control Software Reviews & Ratings

View Full Comparison Chart
Services: Our Ratings: Bottom Line:
Net Nanny Rating: stars
Smart block list, proxy-resistance and good interface; monitors the most popular social networks
WebWatcher Rating: stars
Monitoring is smart and comprehensive, but with several caveats: a higher price tag, a weak site blocker and inability to handle proxies
SafeEyes Rating: stars
Somewhat easy for kids to get around; frustrating and expensive for parents; does not cover any device other than computers
KidsWatch Rating: stars
Performs as expected for the most part; very buggy program causes more harm than good in many circumstances
CyberPatrol Rating: stars
Poor blocklist, easy bypass, no chat monitoring, and confusing interface
McGruff SafeGuard Rating: stars
Despite some good monitoring it's buggy and easy to circumvent
Avira Social Network Protection Rating: stars
Strictly for social media monitoring; seems to have decent tools for this but the service was not functional for us at all

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Did you know?

There are over 186 million websites on the Internet. Some of them are good and provide access to a wealth of information never before available. Others, well, most of us would rather not talk about them. For the most part, the Internet is completely unregulated. Along with all the great information out there, there's no shortage of sites that offer up pornography, violence, and other content that many parents don't want their children accessing.

Parental control software gives parents the ability to monitor their child's online activities and keep them from prohibited content. Parental control software can also help protect children from online predators. You can think of parental control software like Internet security software: it runs in the background, filtering content, analyzing behavior, and sending out warnings.

How we tested parental control software

For these tests we had to act like both parents and children. We downloaded and set up the software, and then we used the computer with the controls activated. We searched for stuff, both prohibited and acceptable, to see how smart the parental control software was, to see if it blocked too much or not enough. And then we tried to get around the controls. An important criterion in our ratings was how easy it was for us to bypass the parental control software using common techniques such as surfing with a proxy server. This gave us our "kid-proof rating," which you can see in our compare chart. For more ways to prevent parental control software circumvention, check out our FAQ.

How parental control software protects kids

Parental control software doesn't just keep kids from accessing inappropriate web sites, it provides mechanisms for monitoring online activity. Some parental control software records chat activity, and others give your teen privacy while just monitoring conversations for risky behavior. Some products even send out warnings to your email or cell phone. As we said above, the Internet is a big place, with new programs and new search terms invented daily. While parental control software is a great aid to keeping your kids safe, nothing beats keeping honest and open communication with them about the good and bad of the online world.

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