What are Parental Controls? All You Need to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What are Parental Controls? All You Need to Know (2023)<br />

What are Parental Controls?

Do you worry about your child’s safety in the digital world? Are you concerned about the content they might stumble upon or the amount of time they spend online? You’re not alone. “What are parental controls?” you may ask. Parental controls are the answer to help you protect your children and teach them responsible internet usage. Let’s dive into the world of parental controls and discover how they can benefit your family.


  • Parental controls are tools that help parents manage their children’s digital experiences, promoting safer and age-appropriate online interactions.

  • They limit access to explicit content, regulate screen time, monitor activity, and can even manage app purchases and downloads.

  • Find the right solution by considering age, compatibility, and desired content restrictions. Maintain open communication to ensure a safe digital space while respecting privacy.

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Understanding Parental Controls

Parental controls are features or software that let you keep an eye on and limit what someone does online. They help protect children from inappropriate content and excessive screen time. With the power of parental controls, you can set restrictions on device usage, block access to specific websites, and monitor your child’s activity on social media apps and more.

You can think of parental controls as your personal digital bodyguard, always keeping an eye out for potential harm. These tools come in various forms, including device-level controls, app-specific controls, and network-based controls, allowing you to tailor the protection to your family’s needs.

Types of Parental Control Tools

Parental control tools come in various shapes and sizes, each catering to specific needs and devices. To find the best fit for your family, let’s explore the three primary types of parental control tools: device-level controls, app-specific controls, and network-based controls.

By understanding these different tools, you can create a customized safety net for your child in the digital world.

Device-Level Controls

Device-level controls are built into your device’s operating system and allow you to control your child’s online activity. These controls can be set up on smartphones, tablets, and computers by following instructions provided by the device maker or operating system’s website.

For example, Apple’s Screen Time settings can be enabled on iOS devices and managed through Family Sharing, while Google’s Family Link lets you track and control your child’s activity on Android devices. With device-level controls, you can set time limits, block certain websites, and restrict access to specific apps, ensuring a safe online experience for your child.

App-Specific Controls

Many popular apps, such as Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube, offer parental control features to help keep your child safe while using their services. These app-specific controls can be found in the app’s settings section and may include options like age-appropriate ratings, blocking certain apps, and setting time limits for app usage.

Some third-party parental control software, like Net Nanny, can also be used to regulate app usage on devices by allowing or blocking specific apps. By utilizing app-specific controls, you can ensure that your child is only engaging with appropriate content within their favorite apps.

Network-Based Controls

Network-based controls are devices that enable you to set up parental controls on your home network, encompassing routers and internet service providers (ISPs). By implementing network-based controls, you can manage the online activities of your child’s device and other devices connected to your home network.

To set up parental controls on your home network, you can use network-level control devices or check if your ISP offers parental controls. For devices with cellular connections, you may find parental controls available through third-party router companies.

With network-based controls, you create a safe online environment for your child on all devices connected to your home network.

Selecting the Right Parental Control Solution

Choosing the right parental control tool for your family depends on factors like age, device compatibility, and specific needs. It’s essential to consider your child’s maturity level and the type of content you want to restrict or monitor when selecting a filtering or monitoring product.

Although we don’t have specific recommendations, many free and paid tools are available to help you find the perfect parental control solution for your family. Keep in mind that the goal is to protect your child while also respecting their privacy and fostering open communication about online safety.

Balancing Privacy and Protection

While parental controls are essential for keeping your child safe online, it’s crucial to balance protection with privacy. Monitoring tools can be seen as an intrusion into a child’s privacy, particularly for teenagers, and may lead to too much information for parents.

Finding the right balance between monitoring and respecting your child’s privacy is vital. You can achieve this by using built-in parental control settings on devices or parental control apps that allow you to adjust the level of monitoring based on your child’s age and maturity.

Combining Parental Controls with Open Communication

Open communication is key to ensuring that kids understand the importance of online safety and responsible internet usage. Talk to your child about the potential dangers of the digital world, and make it clear that you’re there to protect them while also trusting them to make the right choices. This approach will help create a healthy balance between parental controls and independent decision-making.

Some tips for combining parental controls with open communication include setting expectations and guidelines, discussing age-appropriate content, and keeping a watchful eye on their online behavior without being overly intrusive. By fostering a trusting relationship with your child, you can create a safe online environment that promotes responsible internet usage.

Setting Up Safe Search and Content Filtering

To further protect your child from inappropriate content, enabling safe search features on search engines is essential. You can set up safe search and content filtering on Google SafeSearch, iOS devices, and Windows devices by following specific instructions provided by each platform.

Safe search features and content filtering help limit the sites your child can find when searching, effectively reducing the risk of exposure to adult content or other inappropriate material. By setting up these features, you can create a secure online environment tailored to your child’s age and maturity level.

Monitoring Screen Time and Usage Limits

Setting limits on screen time and managing device usage can help prevent excessive online exposure and promote healthier digital habits for your child. You can monitor screen time and usage limits by using apps like Apple’s Screen Time, OurPact, Qustodio, and Net Nanny.

These apps allow you to establish screen time limits, monitor social media activity, and control access to specific apps on your child’s device. By implementing screen time and usage limits, you can encourage your child to engage in other activities and foster a more balanced digital lifestyle.

Preparing Kids for Digital Independence

As children grow older and become more responsible online users, it’s essential to gradually ease parental controls and teach them to navigate the digital world independently. Some tips for easing parental controls include setting expectations and guidelines, monitoring their behavior, and having open conversations about online safety.

By gradually loosening parental controls, you empower your child to make their own decisions and take responsibility for their online behavior. This approach will help them develop the critical thinking skills needed to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly.

Troubleshooting Common Parental Control Issues

Despite the benefits of parental controls, you might encounter some common issues, such as bypassing restrictions, technical difficulties, or conflicts with antivirus/firewall software and other parental control tools. To address these issues, try resetting the device, ensuring it’s connected to a child profile, and checking for conflicts with other software.

Remember that using parental controls effectively requires a combination of safe search and content filtering, screen time and usage limits, and preparing your child for digital independence. By addressing common issues and maintaining a well-rounded approach to online safety, you can create a secure and nurturing digital environment for your child.


Parental controls are a powerful tool to help protect your child in the digital world. By understanding the different types of parental control tools, selecting the right solution, and balancing privacy with protection, you can create a safe online environment for your family. Remember, open communication and gradual easing of controls as your child matures are key to fostering responsible digital habits. Stay proactive, engage with your child, and embrace the journey of digital parenting. Together, you can navigate the digital world safely and confidently.

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Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What do parental controls do?

Parental controls are a great way to help protect your child from accessing inappropriate content online. They allow you to set restrictions on what content they can access and when they can go online, as well as monitoring activity and setting up age-appropriate usage times.

These controls can be set up on any device that your child uses, including computers, tablets, and smartphones. They can also be used to limit the amount of time your child spends with your child.

What are examples of parental control?

Parental control tools can be incredibly helpful for parents to set limits on their children’s technology usage. Examples include settings on devices to restrict spending, limit screentime, or disable location services.

Also, online services such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube allow users to control what content is available. With these features in place, parents can ensure their children are using technology safely.

Can parental control see messages?

Yes, parental control apps can help you keep an eye on your child’s text messages. These apps can recover and read deleted texts, giving parents the power to make sure their children are safe online.

There are many options available, such as mSpy, Spyic, and Spyera.

Do parental controls turn off at 13?

Yes, parental controls turn off at 13 if you are using Google Family Link. The controls will remain active until the child’s age is set to 13 in the app or the parent decides to remove supervision.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.