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parental control softwareHaving parental control over the Internet is an extremely difficult undertaking. You can try tampering with your operating system’s host file, or you can fiddle with browser extensions. Just a few months ago, I wrote about a DNS-based web filtering service Block Inappropriate Websites With OpenDNS's FamilyShield Service Block Inappropriate Websites With OpenDNS's FamilyShield Service I think it’s safe to say that for as long as the Internet has been around, there have always been inappropriate websites - and I’m not just talking about adult entertainment! Think of all the... Read More by OpenDNS. But if none of those solutions seem right for you, you might want to try Qustodio.

Qustodio is an Internet filtering parental controls program that was suggested to me by one of our MakeUseOf readers, Alicedi. It has a built-in setup guide that helps you to get it up and running without having to learn the ins-and-outs of a new program. And best of all, it’s entirely free!

If you’ve been looking for parental control software that serves as an internet activity filter and monitor, keep reading to see if Qustodio meets your needs and expectations.

parental control software

Qustodio is a two-part system that may seem confusing at first, but you’ll only need about 5 minutes to see how useful and efficient its setup is. The two-part system is this – Qustodio’s rules and settings are controlled over the Internet while the actual enforcement of those rules are done through a client that must be installed.

When you visit the Qustodio site and click Download, you’ll automatically start to download an installer file. Double-clicking on that installer file will begin the installation process.

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The learning curve is mitigated by a Setup Wizard that walks you through the entire process of getting Qustodio ready on your computer. The total time of installation? Less than 5 minutes. If you already have a Qustodio account, you can cut that down to less than 1 minute.

Qustodio needs to be installed individually on every computer that wishes to be protected. However, by design, Qustodio’s control is centralized on the web. This way, you can manage all of the devices tied to your single Qustodio account and adding/removing devices is simple.

parental control

The online dashboard is split into two sections, the first of which is an Activity Summary. For every device that you’ve installed Qustodio onto, the dashboard will present you with an ongoing summary of the users tied to the Qustodio account as well as their devices. The tabular setup of the dashboard makes it easy to navigate between and through each user and each device.

What kind of data does Qustodio track? Here’s what I can glean from a first glimpse of the dashboard:

  • last online time,
  • total Internet time for the day,
  • Internet usage over the past 14 days,
  • overview of web browsing activity,
  • overview of search engine activity,
  • overview of social network activity,
  • which devices were used.

How often is Qustodio’s summary updated? On average, the page says that you can expect the data to refresh once every 3 hours. I’m not sure if there’s a way to manually push an update, which would be a useful feature. As a parental control program, the centralize dashboard is extremely well-designed and deserves applause.

parental control

Now, there are two ways that a parent can watch over their children and control what they view on the Internet. On the one hand, we’ve got monitoring which we’ve just discussed. The other method is to preemptively block certain websites before the child can view them–or in other words, the typical web filter.

The web filtering options that are provided by Qustodio aren’t anything special, but they have everything you’d expect:

  • Website Categories: With the website categories filter, you can set which type of websites your child can view or can’t view. Educational, yes. Pornography, no. But Qustodio has a third option: alert. With this, the category won’t be fully blocked but will let the parent know whenever a website in that category is visited.
  • Website Exceptions: If you want minute control over individual websites, this is where you do it. You can allow websites that would otherwise be blocked or you can block a site that would otherwise be allowed. The alerts work here, too. This is a great feature for fine-tuning the outliers that are missed by broad website categories.
  • Uncategorized Websites: This is a simple toggle for whether or not uncategorized websites should be automatically blocked or allowed.
  • Safe Search: Qustodio can analyze and manipulate search engine results to remove certain sites and links that lead to inappropriate or offending content.

parental control

Another great feature of Qustodio is the ability to limit a child’s time spent online. There are a number of ways to do this, each with its own advantages.

With the Internet Usage Schedule, you can set a schedule that automatically enables and disables Internet on a particular child’s devices. The schedule is thankfully easy to set but you can only work in 1-hour blocks.

The second way to control Internet usage is through the Time Allowance feature, which grants the child a set number of hours per day on the Internet. Once those hours are used up, he’s out of luck until the next day. The time allowances are broken down into Weekdays and Weekends; there is no way (that I know of) to set a day-by-day time allowance.

What happens when the child runs out of Internet time, or when he’s on the computer outside of his schedule? Qustodio allows you to determine what happens:

  • block Internet access but allow computer usage,
  • or block Internet access and lock the computer,
  • or send an alert when the child’s time limit is breached.

parental control software

For a free program, Qustodio is quite impressive. I’ve played around with a number of web filters and parental control software over the years and Qustodio’s first impression is by far the best. It has become my primary content filter ever since I upgraded my router to IPv6 IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] IPv6 vs. IPv4 : Should You Care (Or Do Anything) As A User? [MakeUseOf Explains] More recently, there's been a lot of talk about switching to IPv6 and how it will bring a lot of benefits to the Internet. But, this "news" keeps repeating itself, as there's always an occasional... Read More , which is incompatible with what I was using before, OpenDNS FamilyShield Block Inappropriate Websites With OpenDNS's FamilyShield Service Block Inappropriate Websites With OpenDNS's FamilyShield Service I think it’s safe to say that for as long as the Internet has been around, there have always been inappropriate websites - and I’m not just talking about adult entertainment! Think of all the... Read More .

Whether you have a handful of rascals that you need to watch over or you just want a simple way to filter what you see, Qustodio will get the job done. It is most definitely worth a try, at least.

  1. Seth
    December 19, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    How much data does it use? Like how many Megabytes and stuff. I only have limited data.

  2. Stewart Montgomery
    July 27, 2015 at 5:19 am

    BAD APP! It made my phone almost useless when installed. My phone used to stuck like hell. My data usage had exceeded. My phone’s battery timing dropped drastically. What other harm it could do to my device? I mean seriously! It is the worst experience I have ever had with the app install. As a suggestion I would advise you not to waste your time exploring it rather go for other parental control apps available. I am using FamilyTime and it is pretty good…

  3. Frank
    December 6, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Does it have a full installer?
    I wanna install it "offline" style.
    Because i want to install it as quick as possible.

    Thanks,

    • Joel Lee
      December 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

      Qustodio has an easy-to-use installer. I do not believe it has a portable version. Also, you'll need to reboot your computer at the end of the installation.

  4. Tom Ferriss
    November 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    While qustodio is a nice program to control my kids. This is what I use at home.

    For my small business, I use a tool called BrowseControl (http://www.currentware.com/browsecontrol). It took me only 15 minutes to set up and now my employees are blocked from going to sites like Facebook, youtube and twitter.

    I don't usually stay in my office, so it's hard for me to tell my employees to get off Facebook all the time. With BrowseControl, they're restricted completely.

    I'm not that bad of a boss, I do give my employees free time to go on Facebook during lunch and break time. There's a scheduler in the program that lets me do that.

    • Joel Lee
      December 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      BrowseControl looks nice! It ha a lot of features, but starts at $13 (for academic) and $79 (for commercial) for their licenses, though. That's a big bummer. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Pat Milton
    October 8, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Love it. Lightweight, unintrusive, and free. What more can you ask for! I primarily use it to block sites and track what my son downloads on his computer. It's definitely better than some of the paid programs out there.

  6. lf
    September 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I have qustodio and it works great. However when my child created a new account on my computer he can still view whatever he pleases. Am i doing something wrong? Is there a way that i can us qustodio on another account user on my computer?

    • Sam
      September 26, 2012 at 8:27 am

      If, I am using Qustodio as well, you should not give admin privileges to your child's windows account. That way he won't be able to create new window accounts.

  7. Ahmed Khalil
    September 20, 2012 at 7:03 am

    can i ask if their is tool like this for MAC and also for the tablets(ipad and android)

  8. Bernardo Delapasion
    September 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    i just used the windows own parental lock

  9. Rich Mc.
    September 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Great article, I am always stunned at parents will let their kids use computers on the internet but have no idea how it works or how to keep track of what their kids are looking at.

  10. CaroM
    September 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I have been using Qustodio for a couple of months now and couldn´t be more satisfied. It does what it promises to do and it is very easy to configure and use. Recommended.

    • Jana
      December 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Are you still using Qustodio and are you happy with it?

  11. Edgar
    September 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Awesome app, it also tracks social networks and usage of pc applications.

  12. Gene
    September 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    LOL I came across that piece of soft installd on my 8yo niece last month and man that was impossible to bypass. we wanted to use his computar to watch some funny adult vidz and finelly had to use my cell for that lol

  13. McGruff SafeGuard
    September 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    If you need advanced parental control that watches everything kids do on the web (such as Facebook) , as well as blocks nasty websites, and does linguistic analysis to watch out for dangerous activity -
    such as online predators or cyberbullys -
    look into McGruff SafeGuard's Parental Control system:
    http://www.GoMcgruff.com

    You may remember McGruff “The Crime Dog” - Take A Bite Out of Crime - from your youth.

    For FREE iPad/iPhone parental control, check out http://www.GoMcGruff.com/browser

  14. GrrGrrr
    September 19, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Nowadays Children are more technically sound than parents, so all such measure of blocking web may not help.
    The best way is to educate the child.

  15. ohad
    September 19, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Remindes me of "norton online familiy" - which is also free...

    • Tim
      October 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      But Norton Online Family (which is mainly Norton Safety Minder) is not IPv6 compatible and Norton doesn't seem to care much. "It is a new protocol and rarely used". Less rare than they think and we are moving to it faster and faster all the time.

  16. Sebastian Hadinata
    September 19, 2012 at 1:29 am

    This is very useful to manage control over the internet... Nice article!

  17. David
    September 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    "Qustodio needs to be installed individually on every computer that wishes to be protected." -- It sounds like it can't block mobile devices, unlike OpenDNS. Otherwise, I would probably switch to it for the scheduling feature.

    • Joel Lee
      September 19, 2012 at 12:20 am

      No mobile apps yet, unfortunately. Hopefully it's only a matter of time.

      • David
        September 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

        Even if there were a mobile app,it sounds like it could easily be bypassed using a friend's tablet that doesn't have the app installed.But I haven't actually downloaded it yet.

        • David
          September 30, 2012 at 4:15 am

          I've reconsidered this. By the time they are old enough to borrow a friend's tablet to circumvent network security, they are probably already thinking of other ways to outsmart the old man, and I will have to rely on their own common sense at that point. So I probably will try this when I can get to it.

  18. Ed
    September 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I've used K9 (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) on all of my kids' PCs for years now. I also use OpenDNS for added protection on my router.

    • Mark S.
      September 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      I have tried both. Despite k9 is a good option, Qustodio has much better reporting features. At the end of the day, it's all about making parents' life easier and Qustodio really delivers in that aspect!

    • Daniel
      September 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      K9 is a bit old-school, I must say. For a free product, I agree, http://www.Qustodio.com is just easier to deal with. Feels like it was designed this century.

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