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Your children are old enough to use a computer, but do you really want them hitting the dark side of the Internet? Scammers, pornography, perverts, and other corrupting influences can be stumbled upon at all but the most innocent websites.

The way around this is to set up a family safety or parental control app to act as an online nanny for your family’s computer use. But do they deliver the level of security you need? Let’s find out.

What Does a Family Safety App Do?

Various family safety apps, also known as parental control apps, are available. Their job is to provide a framework with which to manage Internet access (and often, access to apps and games on your computer). Available for desktop and mobile devices, these tools are installed by parents concerned that their families — typically with young children — might stumble into something unsavory online, or be the target of sexual or extremist grooming.

Ultimately, family safety apps and parental control tools protect your family online. Let’s look at the features we can expect.

1. Logged User Accounts

Family safety software on desktop computers (less so mobile devices) supports configuration of individual user accounts for each family member. These accounts are also logged, which aids with the monitoring and reporting.


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Usernames and passwords for these accounts should be closely guarded wherever possible to avoid mischief, and these accounts should always be used by the family member concerned whenever they use the computer.

2. Usage Controls

Time limits can be placed on Internet access and apps with usage controls. This might mean setting up a window for an app, which will then be closed or access restricted once the time limit is up. Such an app might be Netflix, or a video game.

With this type of feature, however, you need to ensure that you are applying the controls to the correct accounts — otherwise, you might find that your own enjoyment of Netflix The Best Romantic Comedies on Netflix Right Now The Best Romantic Comedies on Netflix Right Now Netflix has dozens of romantic comedies in its library just waiting for people like you to sit down and tune in when the mood takes you. But which ones should you actually watch? Read More is surprisingly curtailed!

3. Content Filters

Concerned about the type of material your children will see online? Content filters are used across the corporate world to prevent children from viewing inappropriate material (whether adverts or websites), and can be put in place at home.


Note that this might affect things in a surprising way. For instance, online stores listing items that come under the filtered content will either be blocked, or the pages listing them will.

4. Monitoring and Reporting

All parental control tools should offer the facility of monitoring and reporting. This is, after all, the best way to keep an eye on what your children are doing online and off.

Different options are available here, depending upon which parental control tool you’re using. Almost all offer easy-to-digest emails with weekly summaries that can be drilled down, so once installed, choose the option you’re most comfortable with.

What Family Safety Apps Should You Be Using?

So, now you know how family safety apps can protect your children. But which one should you be using?

Well, here’s the good news. If you’re a Windows 10 user, the feature is already built in, thanks to the integrated Windows Family Safety Check Out The New Windows 10 Parental Control Options Check Out The New Windows 10 Parental Control Options Windows 10 parental control reports offer details of your child's online behaviour and activity. Some parents are horrified, whilst others welcome it. Let's look at how to use these settings to secure your computer. Read More tool. Just go to Settings > Accounts > Family & other uses and follow the wizard through, adding accounts for children and adults in your household. This service will provide you with an optional summary of visited websites, but you’ll have to opt-out of it. Users with older versions of Windows will have to download and install Windows Live Family Safety How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 Windows 7 has a number of default parental control features built in. Using these, it’s possible to deny access to certain applications and games as well as restrict a child’s account so that is can... Read More .

Windows 10 Family Account

Similarly, Mac OS X has Parental Controls built in, and this can be configured in System Preferences > Accounts. Here, unlock the settings, and enter new accounts with the Managed With Parental Controls option Parental Controls - Safely Restrict Your Kids' Computer Access [Mac] Parental Controls - Safely Restrict Your Kids' Computer Access [Mac] Read More . Activity logs are kept, and you can even limit the apps that an account has access to.

Android also has family safety controls, and these have been present since Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. This parental control system can be initiated very simply Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android] Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android] Tablets running Android 4.2 support multiple user accounts. User accounts work just like they do on a PC -- each account has its own apps, settings, and other data. If you share your tablet with... Read More — just open the Notification area from the top right of the screen, tap the User icon, and then Add user. You can use the settings for this user to determine whether the user should be allowed to make calls or send SMS messages, but beyond this the options are limited.


As you might expect, iOS devices, the Apple iPad and iPhone, have parental control settings built in, labeled Restrictions Lock Down Your Child's iPhone Access & Hide Apps With iOS Restrictions Lock Down Your Child's iPhone Access & Hide Apps With iOS Restrictions The ability to restrict the use of an iPhone is just another set of underused iOS features, and it's handy both for parents and tweakers alike. Read More , which can be found in Settings > General. Tap Enable Restrictions to setup a passcode, and then enable and disable apps and content to your preference.

Third Party Family Safety Apps

In addition to these native options, various third party parental controls are available. You’ll find the choices for each platform are quite good. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites below.

Desktop: Windows and Mac

So many options are available for Windows and Mac users, and here we look at the cross-platform options.

K9 Web Protection is a surprisingly lightweight web filter with timed access, while Avira Parental Control for Social Media (which ships as part of Avira Free Antivirus) is designed to observe your child’s behavior on social media networks. This is quite the authoritarian approach (short of banning access to Facebook, which of course anyone under 13 shouldn’t be using How To Get Kids To Use Facebook Responsibly How To Get Kids To Use Facebook Responsibly Over the last few weeks, news hit the Internet that Facebook is looking at ways to allow kids under 13 to use Facebook under parental supervision. For quite some time now, Facebook has required all... Read More ), but provides useful information, and highlights possible contacts with inappropriate intentions.


As well as the cross-platform Avira Parental Control for Social Media (see above), Qustodio is a strong option, again with a web filter and detailed records of online and app activity.


Linux users don’t have as wide a choice of parental control applications, but if your family is happily using Ubuntu or another popular distro, consider the Privoxy privacy enhancing proxy or Ubuntu’s Web Content Control.

Mobile: Android and iOS

For kids using Android or iOS, look at MM Guardian Parental Control which comes with the ability to block apps permanently or based on a calendar, as well as configure web content types. If you have older children, Screen Time Parental Control is less invasive and targeted at families with teenagers, again for iOS or Android.

For both mobile platforms (as well as Kindle and Nook), you can use Qustodio, also mentioned above in the collection of desktop apps.

Online Safety Is Paramount for Children

With the family safety/parental control tool installed and/or set up on your PC, you should be able to manage the online boundaries that you set for your family far more easily. It might be a good idea to share our four benefits of parental control tools above with the rest of your brood, just so you’re all clear on the dangers, and how to avoid them.

Do you use family safety tools? Is parental control for some reason not a realistic option in your house? Tell us all about it in the comments.

Image Credits: Eugene Sergeev via, Bacho via

  1. Thunder33345
    March 3, 2016 at 10:38 am

    what about these not smart phone that have snake and dont have OS?

  2. Davin
    March 2, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Hey what about Android tablets? The iPad is not the only tablet. Android has parental controls as well. In Android 5.X and above you can create a seperate profile for children and block access to certain apps.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 2, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Android is mentioned throughout this post.

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