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Best free parental control app in 2022

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Two children outdoors using laptops.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best free parental control software should make it straightforward to keep tabs on your family's access to the internet, giving you peace of mind that your children will stay safe online.

Our current pick of the best free parental control software is Qustodio, which offers a comprehensive suite of tools to keep your kids safe online including content-filtering and time limits. 

However, it's not your only option, so we've gathered together several of the best other alternative parental control tools so you can make the best choice for you and your family.

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.

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Best free parental control app: How did we choose?

Best free parental control app: How did we choose?

Keeping your children safe on the internet is becoming a more difficult task every day, but it has never been more important. The amount of inappropriate content online is troubling and without some form of parental control software, there is little way of knowing what your child is looking at. With that in mind, we’ve trawled through the numerous paternal control apps on the market today and selected the best - the ones that will keep your kids safe. We’ve looked at free and paid options, as well as ones that might be suitable for children of different ages. 

1. Qustodio: Best cross-platform option

(Image credit: Qustodio)
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1. Qustodio

A full suite of parental control tools to keep your kids safe online

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent content filtering
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Lets parents set time limits
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Cross-platform

Reasons to avoid

-
Some features behind paywall

Most parental control software is aimed at Windows users, but Qustodio (opens in new tab) (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.

2. OpenDNS FamilyShield: Best for automatic domain blocking

(Image credit: OpenDNS)

2. OpenDNS FamilyShield

Block domains on your whole home network at router level

Reasons to buy

+
Runs at router level
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Ready-made blocklists
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Can improve speeds

Reasons to avoid

-
Setup can be tricky

FamilyShield (opens in new tab) 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.

3. KidLogger: Best activity logging

(Image credit: KidLogger)

3. 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

-
Free version doesn't record audio

Nothing gets past Kidlogger (opens in new tab). 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.

4. Spyrix Free Keylogger: Best for parental monitoring

(Image credit: Spyrix)
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4. Spyrix Free Keylogger

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

-
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 (opens in new tab) 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.

5. Kaspersky Safe Kids: Best mobile features

(Image credit: Kaspersky)
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5. Kaspersky Safe Kids

Parental control software for all devices

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
May slow Windows PCs

Kaspersky Safe Kids (opens in new tab) 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.

Other apps to consider

Wondershare Famisafe (opens in new tab)

A premium parental control app for mobile devices, Famisafe can protect up to 5 or up to 10 devices, depending on the plan. It features all the usual tools for keeping kids safe, including setting time limits and blocking inappropriate content but can also detect potentially inappropriate photos and text messages, block games, and monitor your kids' whereabouts with GPS and geofencing.

Also consider reading these guides:

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.