As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US, movie releases, tech conferences, political rallies and major sporting events have all been postponed and rescheduled. School systems were no exception — students across the US were sent home and classes moved online, possibly for the rest of the academic year.
With the surge in digital learning, school districts have had to reevaluate safety and security issues that have arisen around video chat apps like Zoom. Parents are also now balancing working from home and having kids at home — both in school and not in school. The safety concerns for kids online haven’t lessened, but learning about parental controls and safety apps can help bring some peace of mind to parents.
Here are a few parental control apps we think are a good idea to consider putting on your child’s phone or computer.
Net Nanny is an app that uses AI to block questionable or dangerous content before your child sees it. The app can filter certain websites and monitors your child’s digital activity, and can also monitor and limit screen time. The software’s Family Feed feature can report what your child is searching online and what apps your child uses and can alert you to content such as pornography, weapons and drugs.
Net Nanny is compatible with Android and iOS, as well as Windows, Mac and Fire. The software costs $55 per year to cover PC, Mac and mobile for a 5-device family. Net Nanny also offers a $40 annual plan to cover one Mac desktop and a 20-device protection package for $90 per year.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Net Nanny also offers a dedicated filter to block coronavirus sites and searches to help kids who might feel anxious.
Bark is another option for parents who want to keep kids safe online. The app monitors texts and emails, along with YouTube and over two dozen social media networks for questionable content your child might be searching or viewing. Bark sends parents alerts if it detects signs of cyberbullying, depression, online predators, adult content and more. You can also decide which platforms you want to monitor, if you want to give your child some privacy.
Bark has a 7-day free trial and then costs $14 per month ($99 annually) per family with iOS and Android devices. You can also subscribe to Bark Jr, the company’s entry-level product, for $5 per month ($49 annually). Bark Jr focuses on screen time management, website filtering and location check-ins.
The OurPact parenting app helps families balance screen time for free on iOS and Android devices. The app lets parents limit access to certain apps, filter websites, enable GPS monitoring, and schedule screen time and recurring activities like bedtime. It also allows parents to block or grant internet and app access at anytime.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, OurPact said that it’s offering three months free access to premium features, normally $7 per month. Premium can manage up to 20 devices, keep tabs on all the apps on your child’s device and mark as Always Blocked, Per Schedule and Always Allowed. Premium also enables a spendable screen time allowance, the family locator feature and geo-fence creator for alerts, text blocking and web filters.
Typically, OurPact’s base plan is free and offers one schedule, and five blocks and unlimited grants for one device. OurPact also has a Plus plan for $2 per month that offers unlimited schedules, and manual blocks and grants for 10 devices.
Screen time might have surged with shelter-in-place orders and public spaces closing to prevent the spread of the virus, but there are still ways to help kids be active. Goya-Move is an app that focuses more on monitoring a child’s physical activity than their online activity, to keep them from being glued to their phone all day.
Goya-Move lets parents lock certain apps until their child meets a certain step count or completes a chore list. Parents can also set a “blackout” time for homework, family time or bedtime. The app costs $1.99 per month for your first child and $1 a month for each additional child.
Google Family Link
Google Family Link lets you create a Google account for your child (if they’re under 13 years old) with access to most Google services, including Gmail and Photos. If your child is over 13, they have to consent to using Google Family Link. The app lets parents keep track of their kid’s Google account and guide them to age-appropriate content. Parents can also approve or deny which apps their kids want to download. Family Link shows parents apps that teachers recommend, which parents can add directly to the child’s phone.
The service is compatible with Chromebook, iOS and Android. It includes other parental controls such as screen time limits, locking the phone for family time and location tracking.