Filters & Monitoring
Reporting & Notifications
Installation & Support
Best Monitoring Software
Why Buy Monitoring Software?
We spent over 130 hours testing monitoring software, looking at exactly what each program blocks and monitors, what it records for you to review later and if it alerts you when your child is in danger. Based on our testing and research, we believe Qustodio is the best monitoring program for most people. Learn about this program, as well as our other favorites, below.
Best Overall Monitoring Software
You can use Qustodio’s filters to block sites that falls under 29 categories, including violence and pornography, so your children can’t access online content you don’t want them to see. This application works on all devices and platforms, and the least expensive plan comes with five licenses, so you can monitor your kids’ activity whether they access the internet on their computers or their cell phones. The program also records your kids’ chat and email messages so you can read them later, and it captures screenshots of what they look at online.
On top of blocking websites, Qustodio lets you set time limits so your kids can’t access the internet when they should be paying attention in school, doing homework, working on chores or going to bed. Qustodio costs about the same as other monitoring software, but it comes with a lot more safety features, which is why we think it is the overall best monitoring application and the best value option for protecting your family.
Best Monitoring Program for Cyberbullying
Surfie includes tools that let monitor your children’s interactions on popular social media sites, which makes it a good option if you are concerned about cyberbullying. Using this software, you can make sure people don’t send your kids harmful messages, images or links via private messages or public posts. In addition, you can tag specific words and phrases, such as “hate,” “don’t tell your mom,” or “are you home alone?” for Surfie to watch for. If your child types or receives a chat or email message that contains one or more of them, the program sends you an alert so you can quickly intervene.
The application doesn’t take screenshots of what your kids do online. However, it provides detailed reports about what each child views and who they interact with online.
Best Monitoring Program for Profanity Masking
Net Nanny’s best feature is its profanity masking. This tool blocks out bad language on websites so your kids don’t see inappropriate words while reading content online. This feature is useful since some websites aren’t bad but may have user comments that are a bit too colorful for children to read. On top of hiding swear words, Net Nanny has 18 filter categories that make it easy to block dangerous websites as well as time controls so your kids can’t access the internet when they should be doing chores or homework or going to bed.
Best Monitoring Program for Mac Computers
ContentBarrier is the only program we reviewed that is exclusively made for Mac computers. It is developed by Intego, a Mac antivirus software company, and it works seamlessly with other Mac programs. Only a few of the other programs we reviewed are compatible with Apple devices.
Using this software, you can set filters to block websites that are too mature for your kids as well as view screenshots of the sites your children visit. ContentBarrier also has time controls, so you can set times limits, either to block your kids from accessing the internet during specific hours or to restrict when they can visit certain sites such as those for online gaming or social media. In addition, this program monitors your kids when they chat online and gives you a transcript of each conversation so you know if they are talking appropriately and with safe, trusted people.
What We Learned While Testing Monitoring Software
We researched 19 different monitoring programs and physically tested about a dozen before narrowing down the list to our best picks. To test, we downloaded each program and used it on multiple laptops and desktop computers. We even took the programs home and tested them on our personal computers and monitored our own children’s online activities while they played, chatted and did homework online.
During our testing, we activated filter categories then attempted to access sites we knew fell in them. Most of the time, the filters worked without a problem. However, with the help of our kids, we discovered that some of the filters worked too well and blocked good sites simply because a certain word or phrase was used in the comments or ads.
We found that the best computer monitoring applications include a lot of very specific filter categories, since this cut down on how often we needed to okay webpages for our kids to visit. Norton Family has the most categories, 47 total, while most other monitoring programs we reviewed have around 25 or fewer.
Recording & Reporting
Each monitoring program lets you block websites, content and online functions such as chat and instant messaging. However, not all of them record the conversations you kids have with others, what time they chatted and how long they chatted. As a parent, this in-depth information is important to have, so we included programs that make it available to you. The same is true with email messages, both the ones your children send and the ones they receive. Some monitoring applications don’t capture these messages and their attachments, but those that do, such as Witigo, were credited for including this feature.
We were surprised to learn that while most computer monitoring software record what kids do online, not all of them provide detailed reports of exactly what happens during those times. For example, all the programs let you know what sites your kids visit and list the URL links to them, but the best internet tracking software show exactly what your children saw by capturing screenshots. SpyAgent captures screenshots, plus it runs in stealth mode so you kids don’t know when you are monitoring them.