Best free parental control app of 2022

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
An image of security icons for a network encircling a digital blue earth.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best free parental control software makes it simple and easy to keep your family and children safe online, when using Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.

In an ideal world, the web would be a safe space for everyone, but unfortunately, that is far from reality, and as a busy adult, it’s not always possible for you to spend the time to be there while your children are online. 

This is where the best free parental control software can help - by allowing you to either block access to particular sites that may have concerning content, or only permit access to sites you deem suitable, this tool can help protect your kids.

The best free parental control software will look after the kids when you're unable to, whether they are conducting research for a school project, keeping in touch with friends, or simply enjoying all the good things that the Internet does offer. 

It does not matter what age your child is, or whether they are using a mobile device, Windows, or a macOS computer. In this roundup, you will find the perfect choice of the best free parental control software to lend you a vigilant hand.

We've also featured the best identity management software (opens in new tab).

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The best parental control software right now is: Qustodio (opens in new tab)
Qustodio's premium parental control tools are the best around. YouTube monitoring, the ability to see time spent on social networks, time limits for games and call tracking are just some of the options available. These tools aren't free, but they'll provide an extra layer of protection to keep your kids safe.


The best free parental control app of 2022 in full:

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(Image credit: Qustodio)
A full suite of parental control tools to keep your kids safe online

Reasons to buy

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Excellent content filtering
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Lets parents set time limits
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Cross-platform

Reasons to avoid

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Some features behind paywall

Most parental control software is aimed at Windows users, but Qustodio (think 'custodian') is also available for Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle, and Nook.

The free version is one of the most comprehensive parental control apps around, enabling you to set rules and time schedules, block pornography and other unsuitable content. If you go for the paid-for version, you'll also get SMS monitoring, social media features, and per-app controls.

Its raft of features and support for a wide range of platforms make Qustodio the best free parental control software, but there are some other excellent free programs available, some of which may be better suited to your individual needs as a parent. Read on for the rest of our top choices.

Read our full Qustodio parental control software review.

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(Image credit: KidLogger)
Detailed activity logging, including apps used and keystrokes

Reasons to buy

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Tracks keystrokes
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Cross-platform

Reasons to avoid

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Free version doesn't record audio

Nothing gets past Kidlogger. This free parental control software not only tracks what your children type and which websites they visit – it also keeps a record of which programs they use and any screengrabs they take.

If you're concerned about who your kids might be talking to online, there's even a voice-activated sound recorder. If your children are a little older and more responsible, you can pick and choose which options to monitor and give them a little privacy.

The free software lacks some of the sneakier features of the premium editions (including silent monitoring of WhatsApp conversations and the ability to listen to Skype calls), but it's still a well-rounded tool if you're concerned about your kids' safety.

The free and standard plan can monitor up to 5 devices, while the professional plan can monitor up to 10 devices.  

Kidlogger is available for Windows, macOS, and Android.

Read our full KidLogger review.

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(Image credit: Spyrix)
Find out what your kids are typing, and if they might be in trouble

Reasons to buy

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Remote monitoring
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Monitors clipboard and printers

Reasons to avoid

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No content blocking
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Windows and MacOS only

Keyloggers have something of a bad reputation online, as they're often used by crooks hoping to capture passwords and bank details, but they can be a force for good too, and Spyrix Free Keylogger enables you to see what your children have been up to. 

For instance it will record keystrokes, take screenshots of the desktop view without the user knowing it, or record program activity and similar.

Although it's dubbed parental control software, the free version of Spyrix is really a monitoring program; it doesn't stop the kids from getting up to no good, but it does let you see exactly what they've done. If you want content blocking too, premium subscriptions aren't expensive.

The absence of filtering means Spyrix might not be the best choice for younger kids' computers, but it may be useful for older children if you suspect online bullying or other unpleasantness.

The software is available for Windows and MacOS.

Read our full Spyrix Free Keylogger review (opens in new tab).

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(Image credit: Kaspersky)
Parental control software for all devices

Reasons to buy

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Available for multiple platforms
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App and screen-time management
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Extra mobile-specific tools

Reasons to avoid

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May slow Windows PCs

Kaspersky Safe Kids is parental control software for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS devices, with both free and paid-for versions.

The free edition includes a blacklist that prevents your kids from seeing inappropriate content online, plus app controls that let you manage app use by time used, age restrictions, and category (if you don't want your kids playing games on a school night, for example). There's also a screen time management tool to help you control overall device use,

The paid version adds more mobile-specific features, including a battery tracker so you can see if your kid's phone is about to go flat, leaving them without a way to contact you. You can also keep an eye on their location with GPS tracking, manage their social media use, and receive real-time alerts if they visit websites they shouldn't or leave a pre-defined 'safe' area. One of the newer features added to the paid plan is YouTube activities history, which can help monitor your kids YouTube search and watch history. 

We found that it took longer than usual to log into a Windows account when Kaspersky Safe Kids was running on a Windows 10 PC, so this is worth bearing in mind if your kids' PC is a little on the slow side already.

Read our full Kaspersky Safe Kids parental control software review.

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(Image credit: OpenDNS)
Block domains on your whole home network at router level

Reasons to buy

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Runs at router level
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Ready-made blocklists
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Can improve speeds

Reasons to avoid

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Setup can be tricky

FamilyShield is a free service from OpenDNS. Its parental control tools automatically block domains that OpenDNS has flagged under the headings "tasteless, proxy/anonymizer, sexuality, or pornography".

One of the big pluses here is that while FamilyShield can run on PCs and mobile devices, you can also apply it to your network router and filter all the traffic that passes through it – it's just a matter of changing the DNS server numbers in your control panel.

This has the happy benefit of improving DNS lookup speeds on some ISPs. By filtering everything at the router level, every device on your network benefits from the filters. For more options, there's also a premium service available.

The setup can be a bit tricky for the non-tech savvy, but there is a solid setup guide on company's page, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

Read our full OpenDNS review (opens in new tab).

Read how to keep your kids safe in the digital age.


Which free parental control app is best for you?

When deciding which free parental control app to use, first consider what your actual needs are, as budget software may only provide basic options, so if you need to use advanced tools you may find a more expensive platform is much more worthwhile. Additionally, higher-end software can usually cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require from your parental control app.

How we tested the best free parental control app

To test for the best free parental control app we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, then we tested the service to see how the software could be used for different purposes and in different situations. The aim was to push each app to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.

Read more on how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.