Tech is moving fast these days, and parents need to keep up. Protecting children from predators, bullying, inappropriate sexual content, and their own (sometimes) foolish mistakes is important. If you’re wondering how to monitor cell phone activity or track their computer usage, you’re in luck. We have some simple tips and tricks to help you out.
Start with Your Cell Phone Provider
Many cell phone providers have tools available — many of which are free. It’s advantageous to use your cell provider because you’re already set up with them. Ideally, you’ll want to go with a larger company that provides robust support because more than likely they won’t be hacked or go out of business.
The easiest way to find out what they offer is to google the company name with the words “parental controls” to find the info fast.
Options Outside of Your Cell Phone Provider
There are many other applications available to monitor or track a cell phone or computer, and we have some listed below.
Whether or not you tell your child depends on your family and the circumstances. Many parents are open about the decision with the goal of instilling agency in their child. Others want to monitor from a distance so that they don’t seem like helicopter parents. Couples should discuss their options so they’re on the same page. Single parents may wish to talk it over with a school counselor or therapist to see what they suggest.
As you shop around for programs, stay away from the free apps because they have less motivation to keep your data secure. (The old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it is, really applies here.) Many paid services offer free trials to test out the program before subscribing to the service, so you’re not going in blind. It’s also wise to search out reviews online.
Cellphone Monitoring Tools to Consider
- Cell provider apps
Some programs come from your cell provider for a monthly fee. We’ve listed them below.
- Jailbreak your phone?
Some programs require the client phone to be jailbroken, voiding the warranty. Avoid these vendors. There are other viable options that don’t require such extreme setup requirements.
- Computer & cell phone monitoring
Some programs monitor computers as well as phones. This is great if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution.
- Email alerts
There are programs that email you if there is disturbing activity or trigger words in messages. (Check out Bark listed below.) It spares you from sifting through your child’s online activity yourself by scanning the content for you.
- Locate phones
Most phones have location services, so there isn’t usually a need to buy a program that only offers this feature. (The new iPhones will offer this feature even when the phone is turned off — and it’s free with your phone purchase.) If it’s one of many features, then it’s worth it.
- Speeding alerts
An excellent feature for parents of a new driver.
- Screen time
Some apps limit screen time, though iPhone has the feature built in.
Phone Provider Options
AT&T Secure Family
Pause internet, filter and block content, time limits, app purchase block, location history, schedule alerts, arrival and departure alerts, and location tracking.
Verizon Smart Family
Feature content filters, location tracking, and pausing internet usage.
T-Mobile Family Mode
Set time limits, phone locator, and content filters.
For iPhone only, it lets you read current and deleted text messages, as well as view call logs, browser history, and contacts. It also accesses your child’s Kik and WhatsApp messages. Read our review here.
Helps parents manage boundaries around tech devices by limiting screen time, filtering content, screening texts, and monitoring locations — and more. Read our review here.
It does a lot but you need to jailbreak the iPhone if you want to use it on an iOS device. It lets you monitor SMS, location tracking, keylogger (logs every keystroke which is a way to find out passwords), photos and videos, internet usage, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. Calls log, and monitors Tinder.
Monitors computers as well as phones. Access texts, calls, Facebook, Snapchat, emails, location, WhatsApp, Viber, and Line.
Also monitors computers and cell phones. Features call recording, SMS and iMessages, collects inputted text, WhatsApp, WeChat, automatic screenshots, websites visited, GPS tracking, Gmail, Tinder, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Monitors social media, text messages, emails, then sends you parental alerts if keywords pop up. Looks for predators, adult content, sexting, cyberbullying, drug use, suicidal thoughts, and more.