Parental Control Software

Updated 03-20-2015

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

Services: Our Ratings: Bottom Line:
Net Nanny Rating:stars
The best choice due to its smart block list, proxy-resistance, and good interface
SocialShield Rating:stars
Relies on your child's cooperation; friend monitoring is smart, but language filter is not
WebWatcher Rating:stars
Blocklist is smart and monitoring is comprehensive, though site blocker and monitor are easy to get around
SafeEyes Rating:stars
Easy for kids to get around; frustrating and expensive for parents
KidsWatch Rating:stars
Does what is advertised for the most part; however, 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

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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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Advertiser Disclosure: is a consumer information site that offers free, independent reviews and ratings of online services. We receive advertising revenue from most but not all of the companies whose products and services we review. For credit cards, we review cards from all of the top 10 US issuers by purchase volume (according to Issue 1035 of The Nilson Report, Feb 2014) excluding issuers that require additional accounts to be a cardholder and private label issuers. We may also review cards from other issuers in select cases. We do not review all products in a given category. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own.