Tech is moving fast these days and parents need to keep up. Many parents are open to instilling agency in their child. Often, the decision to use parental controls comes down to safety. Protecting children from predators, bullying, inappropriate sexual content, and their own (sometimes) foolish mistakes is important. Wondering how to monitor cell phone activity or track their computer usage? Here are some simple tips and tricks get you started.
Options Outside of Your Cell Phone Provider
Looking to customize beyond your cell phone provider’s free parental control tools? Myriad applications are available for monitoring and tracking cell phones and computers.
Many paid services offer free trials to test out their programs and services prior to subscribing. It’s also wise to search out reviews online. Below is a list to consider.
Types of Monitoring Tools to Consider
- Cell provider apps
Many apps/programs are available from your cell provider for a monthly fee. We’ve listed them below.
- Jailbreak your phone?
Some programs require “jailbreaking” cell phones, a term for bypassing factory defaults and restrictions. Be aware: this can void our phone’s warranty. There are other viable options that don’t require such extreme setup requirements.
- Computer & cell phone monitoring
These programs have crossover appeal, monitoring computers as well as phones. These are a great all-in-one solution.
- Email alerts
There are programs that email you if disturbing activity or trigger words in messages crop up on your child’s phone. (Check out Bark listed below.) This spares you from sifting through your child’s online activity and scans the content for you.
- Locate phones
Most phones have location services, so there isn’t usually a need to buy a program that offers this feature. New iPhones offer this feature even when the phone is turned off. If your phone doesn’t come with this feature, it’s definitely one worth purchase consideration.
- Speeding alerts
Excellent feature for parents of a new driver.
- Screen time
Some apps limit screen time, though iPhone has the feature built-in. Screen time alerts are also a great way to be aware of how much time you’re spending online if looking to cut the tether now and then.
Phone Provider Options
Here are some services to consider when shopping around for parental control 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.
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, drug use, suicidal thoughts, cyberbullying and more.