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How to track online activities with parental controls

by | May 2, 2024


With kids of all ages spending time on devices and using the internet, the importance of safeguards can’t be overstated. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to some of the most popular parental controls options for your family.

Parental controls can keep your kids safer online.

Why you need parental controls

The internet is a great source of information, entertainment, and communication, but it also comes with many risks and dangers, especially for children. Cyberbullying, online predators, inappropriate content, phishing, malware and identity theft are threats that your kids (and you) may encounter online. As a parent, you want to protect your family from harm and ensure that your kids have a safe and positive online experience. Read about more signs that your family needs parental controls.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls are software tools that allow you to monitor, filter, block, or limit the web content that your children can access on their devices. They can help you to prevent your kids from seeing or sharing harmful or inappropriate content such as violence, pornography, hate speech, gambling, or drugs. They can also help you to manage your kids’ screen time and online activities, track their social media interactions, or simply keep them on task during homework time. Parental controls can be installed on computers, smartphones, tablets, or routers, depending on your needs and preferences.

Options to consider for tracking online activities for your family

Just like families, not all parental control tools are the same. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best digital management program for your family.

  • The age and maturity of your kids. Does the product offer a variety of features and settings by age group? What would be considered inappropriate for a six-year-old may be just fine for a 16-year-old. Look for a product that matches the developmental stage and online behavior of your kids. For older or more tech-experienced kids, don’t underestimate their ability to find ways around controls you put in place.
  • The devices and platforms that your kids use. Many devices and media subscriptions come with a certain level of controls built in. Some programs can be used only on certain devices, while other programs may be effective on your home WiFi network but not extend to mobile data. You many need to install a few different programs to cover all the devices and platforms that your kids use.
  • The level of control and customization that you want. Do you want to be able to set up different profiles, schedules, categories, and exceptions for each child or device? Features to consider include website blocking by content type, app blocking, time limits, time tracking, activity monitoring, and location tracking.
  • The cost and reliability of the product. There are some free web control products out there, but they may also have limited features, poor performance, or security issues. You want to choose a product that has a reasonable price, good reviews, and regular updates.

Five of the best products to track online activities

There are countless parental controls on the market. We’ve rounded up a five of the best options out there today, according to PCMag and U.S. News. Each of these products is available for all device types and operating systems.

  1. Qustodio is rated as the best app by PCMag and the best for multi-device monitoring by U.S. News. This all-in-one product allows you to monitor and manage kids’ web browsing, app usage, screen time, location, and social media access. It also has advanced features such as a panic button, geofencing, and call and SMS tracking. Qustodio offers a free 30-day trial.
  2. Net Nanny, rated as the best for online monitoring and content filtering, is a powerful web content control product. It allows you to filter and block web content, set screen time limits, view online activity reports, and receive alerts. It also has a unique feature called Family Feed, which shows you a summary of your kids’ online activity in real time.
  3. Bark is rated as the best for social media monitoring, Bark’s award-winning dashboard offers parents a way to proactively monitor text messages, YouTube, emails, and over 30 social networks for many signs of digital danger. Additional features include screen time management and web filtering tools to set healthy limits around how and when your kids use their devices. CenturyLink customers can get a special offer when signing up for Bark.
  4. FamilyTime Premium is rated as the best product for mobile devices. It includes blockers, scheduling and time limits, monitoring, and location tracking features. FamilyTime offers a free trial.
  5. Norton Family provides a good budget option. Norton features School Time to help parents manage a child’s learning and keep them focused on schoolwork, plus a number of supervision features.

Staying safe with parental controls

As you consider the safety of your kids on the world wide web, the necessity of tracking and putting controls in place is clear. It’s a digital solution to a digital problem. We hope this information about parental control options will help you make the best choice for your family. Just remember, no app or software is entirely kid-proof! These tools are no substitute for your own monitoring and conversations with your kids about the content they encounter.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/maliaruchti" target="_self">Malia Ruchti</a>

Malia Ruchti


Malia Ruchti has been known to use the internet once in a while. She has found herself writing on, about, and for the internet for at least 10 years. She's written web content for nonprofits and small businesses. She has also written grants and business plans. Writing content for CenturyLink has given her great insight to the workings of the internet. Malia lives in Colorado with her family, most of whom are too young to explore the internet. Instead, they spend a lot of time outside with plants, dogs, and bikes.