Once you know the features you are looking for, you are ready to start your search for a parental monitoring app. There are hundreds available and not all of them can offer you the full package, so make sure you do your research and carefully read reviews.
Top 10 best parental monitoring apps for iPhone 2020
Cost: Packages range from $29.99 to $69.99 depending on the features you want and how many devices you have.
One of the highest-rated apps available is mSpy. With a ton of features, easy setup, and centralized monitoring, it is easy to see why so many parents are mSpy devotees. You don’t even need to have the app installed on your own device to use it – everything can be monitored from your browser.
Features: There are three bundles available, so you can choose the level of security and protection your family needs. At the highest level, you can access screenshots of your child’s activity and make use of a keylogger that can alert you to any problematic details contained in private messages. You can customize app blocks to suit your needs, or block downloads altogether. mSpy also lets you manage calls, see texts and emails, and has a separate track location function to act as a backup in case Apple’s feature fails.
- No jailbreaking necessary
- 24/7 customer support
- User-friendly interface
- No need to download an app yourself (saving you valuable space on your phone)
- Intuitive control panel
- Free trial
- Customers must pay extra for support, either by opting for a higher package or on a per-access basis
- Calls are not recorded; the only details you get about phone calls are the phone numbers involved and the duration
Cost: The basic package costs around $68 per month, putting it on par with premium prices for other apps with the same features. The highest tier, Extreme, is available for $199.
FlexiSpy is another highly recommend parental control app. It is much more affordable than others while still offering you a ton of features. The company also offers a money-back guarantee, giving you the chance to try it without risk.
Features: FlexiSpy lets you block and monitor access to numerous apps, putting in blanket settings or tailoring them to suit your specific needs. At the highest tier level, keyword alerts can be set up, notifying you instantly if your child has come across something they should not have access to.
- 24/7 customer support
- A user-friendly interface that makes accessing customized features easy
- Can be installed on an unlimited number of devices
- Provides you with access to text messages, photos, installed apps, and lets you block apps
- Call recording is only available at the highest tier
- There is no remote device lock
- Users need to jailbreak their iPhones to use this app
Cost: A one-time fee of $69
Highster Mobile may lack the infamy that mSpy and FlexiSpy have, but it certainly does not disappoint in terms of features and cost. With remote installation available and intuitive setup, monitoring your children has never been easier.
Features: Instant message, SMS, and social media spy are all included and work reliably. Parents are alerted the moment an SMS or email is sent or received by the device, not at the end of the day or when you choose to check, giving you instant access to the information you need to keep your children safe.
- One time payment
- High-resolution video, audio, and images are captured and sent directly to your device
- Social media network use can be monitored and controlled
- Logs from all popular instant messaging apps can be sent to your phone
- Lack of a free trial/no demo version
- There is no live support, meaning that questions have to be responded to by email
Cost: After your seven-day free trial, the app is only $14.95 per month
TeenSafe is specifically designed to be used for teens, unlike a few other apps on this list. As a result, it is known for its user-friendly interface. There are strict requirements that parents must agree to before downloading the app, including that they are the legal guardians of the child in question and that the parents are at least 18 years of age.
Features: Parents can access text messages, emails, and call logs, as well as social media activity. There is no jailbreaking involved, which makes it perfect for those who are not exactly tech-savvy.
- Multiple accounts can be monitored under one subscription
- A free parental guide to tech safety is included with each subscription
- There is a free trial, so you can test it out before committing
- There is no access to Snapchat data
- When you try to recover deleted texts, duplicates and texts with missing information can appear
- Parents cannot access stored videos or photos
Cost: One license is $27 per year
FamilyTime is another app specifically designed for parents, bringing with it a user-friendly interface and the ability to control your child’s access to certain apps based on age as well as other customizable features. It is also available cross-platform, making it perfect for blended-tech families.
Features: Parents can block certain apps and websites, on a set schedule or permanently, as well as limit screen time to suit their family’s needs. All calls and texts can be viewed as well as internet history.
- Easy to operate control panel
- Compatible with different devices
- Supportable geofencing
- There is no ability to filter web content by keyword
- History for messaging apps is not available
Cost: The cost ranges from $55 to $140 per year, depending on how many devices you want to have it installed on.
If you are searching for a parental control app with a detailed reporting feature, this is the app for you. Parents can access a daily report or a weekly one, providing you with all the information you need to know how the device is being used.
Features: This is one feature-packed app, giving you a ton of web filtering and social media monitoring options. Web filtering is done on a device basis as well so that your children can’t circumvent your controls by downloading a new browser.
- An easy to use interface
- Detailed call and text log
- Limits can be set per app
- Social media tracking is not always reliable
- Snapchat cannot be monitored
- There is no geofencing feature
Cost: WebWatcher is available for $100 per year
WebWatcher is a very popular monitoring app, both for parents and for employers. With full iPhone compatibility, you never need to worry about jailbreaking your child’s device, which can preserve your warranty (something parents of clumsy teens need to keep).
Features: All activity is monitored through an easy to use web portal – no separate app required. Parents can also benefit from a streamlined account, making it easy to monitor multiple phones and devices.
- SMS text messages
- Website history
- Photos as they are taken and when they are saved
- Detailed call log
- The app is not available through the app store, so it does mean giving a third party company access to your child’s device
- It does not block apps
Cost: Norton Family Premier costs only $50 per year.
Norton is a trusted name in family security, thanks to its anti-virus software. This makes it a great app for parents who may be nervous about giving another company access to your child’s device.
Features: There are a ton of features that make this package perfect for parents of teens. One of the biggest perks is that you have a ton of web monitoring options. You can block sites, restrict sites, or set the app to warn your teens when they are visiting a site you may prefer they avoid wasting time on.
- Detailed web monitoring and reporting
- Cross-platform functionality
- No limit to the number of devices
- Teens have successfully overcome some of the app’s features in the past
- The iOS version does not have the same full reporting features that are available for Android users
Cost: After a two-week free trial, customers can choose to subscribe on a yearly basis for $40, or they may choose a one-time $80 fee
Kidslox is an iOS specific app, designed to work on all Apple devices, including iPods and laptops. With a very user-friendly interface, it is a great choice for parents who aren’t technologically advanced.
Features: The app gives you the ability to block apps, put daily limits on screen time, and choose from a selection of web filters geared to keep your children safe.
- Easy to switch between child and parent mode
- Three levels of security are included so you can tailor the app to your needs
- Parents can block access to the internet entirely
- You cannot customize app access or screen time
- There are no monitoring features, and no text or call logs are kept
- The app does not grow with your child
Cost: Circle is currently available for a renewing subscription of $4.99 through the app store.
Circle is a family-friendly app released by Disney, geared at keeping your younger children safe when they are online. The app works on your home’s WiFi, making it easy to monitor all devices on your network without installing software on each one.
Features: There are a ton of features that make this app useful for families with multiple children, including the ability to set unique filters for each user. You can also set an individual bedtime, which automatically blocks access to the device after a certain time of night.
- Personalized rewards can be set which automatically increase time limits or extend bedtime for individual users
- Internet access can be paused if you have concerns about content
- Time limits can be set for apps and websites
- The app does not feature call logs or monitoring
- There is no way to review text messages or other messaging apps
Why Use a Monitoring App?
Balancing your child’s need for privacy with your own need to ensure their safety is very difficult. Most parents do not make the decision to install a monitoring app on their child’s phone lightly.
It is important to remember that you can use the controls on the app as much or as little as you want.
For example, if your eldest child is incredibly responsible and fears getting into trouble, you probably don’t have to monitor their activity as much as your younger child, who might be sneaking out at night or suddenly appear withdrawn.
In both situations, monitoring apps can give you some insight into what is going on, so you can step in and offer help.
Monitoring apps are also the perfect way to help teach your child the value of focus. In today’s increasingly digital world, it is hard to put down your phone and pick up a school or work project.
This is true for adults as well as children. Monitoring apps that give you the option to block access to certain games or apps during pre-scheduled times are an excellent way to instill those skills.
Finally, monitoring apps can also help you guide how your child uses their phone. This is particularly important for parents giving cell phones to younger children.
For example, you may not want them to be able to download social media sites at all, or you may be worried about them accessing adult content or violent games.
There are apps available that can give you that kind of control, giving you the ability to guide your child as they navigate this new area of their life.
Apple does have a few built-in control features that parents can access. These restrictions include:
- Privacy data
- Screen time
- Search results
- Restrict certain games
- Prevent purchases from being made
Enabling them is quite simple. All you need to do is go to your settings menu. From there, you can select Screen Time or Content and Privacy Restrictions.
Parents should also be sure the Find my Phone and Find my Friends features are enabled. While you aren’t going to use these features to physically track your child, they can come in handy when your child is late or if they have lost their phone.
While built-in parental controls are very useful and should be enabled where possible, there are a few notable drawbacks. First, for them to work, your child must not have your password.
This means that your child cannot use the lock screen or download anything from the app store. For parents of teenagers, this is not a livable situation.
What to Look for When Choosing a Parental Control App?
While the specific features you need may vary depending on your unique situation, there are a few standard things that all parental control apps must have: