mSpy Review: Quick Expert Summary
mSpy is more of a surveillance app than a true parental control app. While it does include some parental control features like a limited web filter and location tracking, it’s missing other essential features like screen time and app usage limits, which the top parental control apps like Qustodio and Net Nanny offer.
On the other hand, mSpy has many powerful surveillance features such as:
- Messaging app monitoring — Allows you to read all of your child’s messages on messaging and social media apps including WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook messenger, LINE, and Google Hangouts.
- Email monitoring — Allows you to read all of your child’s emails.
- Stealth Mode — Lets you monitor your child’s activities without them knowing.
- And more…
mSpy can monitor Android and iOS devices, including both smartphones and tablets (though its iOS app is very limited). Parents can access their dashboard directly through mSpy’s website just by logging into their account, without needing to download or install anything. The dashboard is intuitive and easy to use, so you don’t have to worry even if you’ve never used a parental control app before.
Besides the lack of many advanced parental control features, mSpy has some other glaring issues. The biggest downside is that you need to root or jailbreak the target phone to use all of mSpy’s features. This isn’t just extremely challenging for non-tech-savvy users, but it can also compromise the device’s security, so I recommend that you grab a good mobile antivirus like Norton, which is the best antivirus for both Android and iOS.
mSpy has Basic, Premium and Family Kit plans at various subscription lengths. These plans cover between 1-3 devices. mSpy doesn’t have a free plan or a trial period, and it doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee like most other parental control apps.
|🏅 Overall Rank||Ranked 7th from 13 parental controls|
|🖥️ Web & App Filtering||✅|
|⏲️ Time Limits||❌|
|📍 Location Tracking||✅|
|💸 Starting Price||$26.99 / month|
|📀 Supported Operating Systems||iOS, Android|
|📱 Number of Devices||1-3|
|🎁 Free Plan||❌|
|💰 Money-Back Guarantee||❌|
mSpy Full Review
I spent the last couple of weeks running extensive tests on and researching mSpy and my conclusion is that unless you feel the need to read all of your child’s communications due to serious parental concerns, there are far better parental control apps on the market.
mSpy is simply missing too many features that I think are critical for parental control apps, such as the ability to filter websites by category, create schedules, set device usage limits, and supervise YouTube usage. It’s less an app built for monitoring your children and managing their device usage and more an app built to spy on them (which makes sense, given the name).
mSpy is also quite pricey, especially considering that it only covers 1-3 devices and has no free trial, no free plan, and no money-back guarantee.
mSpy has these essential parental control features:
- Web and app filtering — Decide which apps your kids are allowed to use and which websites they’re allowed to visit. However, mSpy doesn’t give you the ability to filter websites by category. All it lets you do is blacklist specific websites.
- Location tracking — Keep track of your kid’s location and where they’ve been.
- Activity reports — Summarizes and presents information about your child’s device usage, including who they’ve messaged and called the most, which websites they’ve visited most frequently, and more.
Additionally, mSpy has a bunch of other useful features, including call and SMS monitoring, social media app monitoring, a keylogger, and a screen recorder.
Bear in mind that a lot of mSpy’s features (such as keylogging, social media monitoring, and geofencing) are only usable on Android and iPhone devices that have been rooted or jailbroken. This is a process that “unlocks” your phone and gives you the power to customize and take control of your phone in a way that the original manufacturers didn’t intend.
Rooting or jailbreaking your phone will void your warranty, can make your device more vulnerable to malware and hackers, and may cause you to lose access to certain apps that check to see if your device has been compromised, including most banking and payment apps like Google Pay, as well as other popular apps like Netflix and Pokemon Go. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might even completely destroy your phone.
mSpy does provide assistance with rooting and jailbreaking your device, but this isn’t a decision that you should make lightly.
If the idea of messing with your phone like this makes you anxious, consider getting Qustodio or Bark instead. Both are among the best parental controls apps on the market, and they’re designed to work without the need to root or jailbreak your phone.
App Monitoring & App Filtering
mSpy allows you to read your child’s messages, see what images they send, and check out their contacts list on a huge variety of social media apps. It’s an incredibly useful feature considering how much time kids spend on social media apps, and it sets mSpy apart from most other parental control apps which can typically only monitor SMS messages — if that. However, keep in mind that the list of social media apps mSpy can monitor on iOS is extremely limited.
In some respects, mSpy’s social media monitoring is better than Bark’s, which will only show you messages that contain content that may require a conversation or intervention, such as bullying, violence, or suicidal ideation. On the other hand, I like how Bark’s monitoring is designed to be less invasive, which may be something that’s important to you. Bark also supports monitoring for some major social media platforms that mSpy doesn’t cover, such as Reddit, TikTok, Tumblr, and Twitter.
|Social Media Apps mSpy Can Monitor||Android||iOS|
mSpy’s other app monitoring tools are much less impressive. For example, mSpy can only block apps on Android devices. In addition, it doesn’t let you set usage limits or tell you how much time your child spends using a particular app. In contrast, Qustodio has all of these features and is capable of detecting and blocking 9,000+ iOS apps.
Overall, I like mSpy’s ability to monitor social media apps, but its other app supervision features leave a lot to be desired. So unless all you care about is seeing what your child sends and shares on social media apps, I strongly recommend checking out Qustodio, which is the best overall parental control app with excellent app supervision tools, or Bark, which is a great alternative for monitoring social media apps.
Calls & SMS Monitoring
mSpy allows you to monitor all of your child’s calls and text messages on both Android and iOS devices — you can also see the images they send. The feature worked flawlessly during my tests, and I found the records very easy to inspect.
mSpy’s call and SMS monitoring is a lot more powerful than the SMS monitoring of many other top parental control apps. Net Nanny and Norton Family, for example, don’t have this feature, and Bark lacks call monitoring — plus, as previously mentioned, it won’t let you read every text message.
However, mSpy’s call and SMS monitoring compares less favorably to Qustodio’s because it lacks the ability to take any action beyond surveillance. With Qustodio, you can create blacklists or whitelists to block incoming or outgoing calls and texts to help keep your child safe from bullies or potential predators.
Overall, mSpy’s call and SMS monitoring is pretty good for keeping tabs on your child’s communications. However, you can’t actually do anything to control it — mSpy’s call and SMS monitoring is for surveillance only.
mSpy’s location tracking is decent, but it only works on Android devices. During my tests, it was able to easily and accurately locate my child’s device. The location timeline also let me quickly see all of the places they’ve been recently and when they were there. These features can be a great way to make sure your child is where they’re supposed to be and doubles as a way to find lost devices.
mSpy also offers a geofencing feature, which allows you to set up an unlimited number of “allowed” or “restricted” areas on the map covering up to approximately 6.21 miles or 9,999 meters — which is really good compared to Qustodio (0.12 miles or 200 meters) and Norton Family (2 miles or 3,200 meters). If your child enters or leaves any of these defined areas, you will receive an alert.
Some parental control apps offer more features than mSpy for location supervision. Norton Family, for example, which has one of the best location supervision features among parental control apps, lets you set up an alert that will notify you of your child’s location at scheduled times — which can be super handy for a busy parent. It also offers an optional, less invasive form of location tracking, where your child can perform a check-in on their kids app to share their current location with you.
Overall, I have few complaints about mSpy’s location monitoring. It’s quite accurate, and its location history and geofencing features will give you peace of mind. That said, it’s a shame location monitoring doesn’t work on iOS devices.
Web Filtering & Supervision
mSpy’s web filtering feature is pretty basic. It consists solely of a website blacklist, which is only available for Android. There’s no mature content filter (such as a way to enforce Google’s SafeSearch function, which is something all of our top parental apps can do), and you can’t filter what your child can see by content categories.
This means you have to manually input every single website you want to block, and you have little control over search engine results. This stands in stark contrast with other parental control apps like Qustodio, NetNanny, and Norton Family, which let you block all websites in broad, predetermined categories like Abortion, Death/Gore, Gambling, Nudity, etc.
However, mSpy makes up for its poor web filtering with a plethora of other web supervision features, which are available on both Android and iOS devices. You can easily track your child’s browsing history, which allows you to see which websites they visited and when. You can also block certain Wi-Fi networks and see which websites they bookmarked.
One of mSpy’s more unique features is that it lets you read all of your child’s emails (Android only). This is something few other parental control apps offer. Even the ones that do (like Bark) will only show you emails that trigger an alert (if an email contains alarming content like bullying, violence, suicidal ideation etc.).
Overall, mSpy’s lack of good web filtering options is a tremendous downside for most parents. The ability to control website access and search engine results using broad filters is one of the most basic functions of a parental control app. On the other hand, few parental control apps can match mSpy’s email monitoring capabilities.
Keylogger & Screen Recorder
mSpy’s keylogger and screen recorder features give you more ways to monitor your child’s chats and phone usage on Android devices. The screen recorder takes a screenshot of your child’s phone every time it detects a change in an app (such as when there’s a new message). That said, the list of compatible apps is fairly small. At the moment, it only includes WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Telegram. The keylogger, on the other hand, isn’t limited to specific apps. It tracks everything your child types on their phone, whether it’s in their messaging apps or in browser search bars.
Using the keyword alert feature, you can even set the keylogger up so that you’re alerted if a particular word or phrase is detected, which lets you get on top of a potential issue immediately. Compared to parental control apps with similar content monitoring features like Bark, mSpy gives you finer controls — you can’t specify what words or phrases will trigger an alert in Bark. That said, Bark is a lot better for general content monitoring as its machine-learning algorithms can detect potential issues in over 15 categories, including anxiety, bullying, and depression, without any input from you.
Overall, I like the keyword alerts feature, but I’m not quite sure what the utility of the keylogger and screen recorder are. Most of their functions are already covered by mSpy’s app monitoring, SMS monitoring, and web supervision features. And if there is an advantage to using the keylogger and screen recorder over those, then frankly mSpy doesn’t do a good job making that clear.
mSpy’s web app’s home page is supposed to be a centralized location from which you can easily see data on your child’s most recent activities, but I found it less than helpful. The prominently displayed graph which shows “Target Device Activity” is fancy looking but doesn’t really provide any actionable information. This also applies to most of the other information available on the dashboard. For example, I would be far more interested in seeing exactly when my child called someone rather than how many times they called them within an unspecified period of time.
The baffling decisions made regarding the dashboard continue with its color coding. I don’t understand why the graph colors text message activity green, but the information on the contacts your child has messaged recently right below it is blue. In the first place, I’m uncertain as to the value of having those colored bars there at all. Like the graph, it feels more decorative rather than functional.
I much prefer the activity reports of other parental control apps such as Qustodio. It does a much better job of summarizing the most critical and relevant information and of presenting it to you neatly without unnecessary bloat. This makes it easy for you to take it all in at a glance and determine if intervention is necessary.
Overall, I’m very disappointed in mSpy’s activity reports. If you want usable information, you’re much better off clicking into every individual feature’s tab on the sidebar.
mSpy also comes with the following additional features:
- Access multimedia files — This feature lets you browse the photos and videos stored on your child’s Android phone, so you can check to make sure there’s nothing inappropriate in there.
- Stealth Mode — mSpy is a great way to monitor your child without them knowing. Once it’s been installed on your child’s phone, it’s very difficult to detect. It creates no app icon, nor does it generate any alerts or notifications. In short, your child won’t have any idea that they’re being monitored. That said, if your child’s access to certain apps or websites is blocked using mSpy, they’ll inevitably suspect something is wrong with their phone, even if they don’t know exactly what.
mSpy Plans & Pricing
mSpy’s doesn’t make it easy for customers to find out what plans they offer, what features are included in each plan, and how much the plans cost, which is incredibly frustrating. But here’s what I was able to gather:
|mSpy Basic||mSpy Premium||mSpy Family Kit|
|Monthly price||$26.99 / month||$48.99 / month||$50.00 / month|
|Call & SMS||✅||✅||✅|
|Current GPS location||✅||✅||✅|
Priced at $48.99 / month, mSpy’s Premium plan gives you access to the full range of parental control features. Notably, geofencing and the ability to block websites and applications are only available to Premium users. Parents with more than one child will find the Family Kit plan ($50.00 / month) to provide the best value.
Unlike most other parental control apps, mSpy doesn’t offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee. In fact, its refund policy is very strict. You’ll only be able to get a refund if you experience a technical problem that its support can’t solve. mSpy does have a “Demo” on their website which you can use to get a general sense of how things work, but it’s no substitute for real, hands-on experience using the product.
mSpy is also pretty pricey, especially considering that its plans only cover 1-3 devices. For comparison, Qustodio’s plans start at $54.95 / year and cover 5 or unlimited devices, whereas Bark (starting at $5.00 / month) and Norton Family ($49.99 / year) can monitor an unlimited number of devices.
Overall, mSpy’s pricing and plans aren’t great. It’s expensive, it offers no satisfactory way to trial its features, and its website is poorly organized and lacking in clear information regarding available plans, pricing, and features.
mSpy Installation & Setup
Parents don’t have to install anything and can access their dashboard from any device just by signing into their account on mSpy’s website. mSpy’s kids’ apps, on the other hand, can only be installed on Android and iOS phones and tablets — and unfortunately, the process is nowhere near as simple. You can’t just download mSpy from your device’s respective app store and follow the on-screen instructions as you can with most other parental control apps.
The installation process for mSpy differs significantly depending on whether you’re installing it on an Android or iOS device and whether or not the device is rooted/jailbroken. On an Android phone, you’ll need to disable Google Play Protection before you can start the installation process. On a non-jailbroken iOS phone, you’ll need to have your child’s Apple ID and password and enable iCloud backups on their phone.
If you want to use all of mSpy’s features, you’ll have to root or jailbreak your device. This is, as mSpy’s own Help Center admits, “…a very complicated procedure that must be done by a professional.” It’ll also compromise your phone’s security, so I would strongly recommend getting a good mobile antivirus like Norton to compensate. All of these things can make just starting to use mSpy a hurdle for non-tech-savvy parents.
mSpy’s poorly designed website only makes things worse. Installation guides are difficult to find, with the one for Android devices tucked away deep in their blog for some reason and the one for iOS devices nowhere to be found.
mSpy does offer installation assistance — but it comes at a price. You’ll have to pay extra to get personalized help by phone, and the Advanced mAssistance Package, which includes remote installation assistance (including rooting or jailbreaking your phone) is super expensive. The fact that these are options at all says volumes about the difficulty of the installation process.
Overall, installing mSpy is likely to be challenging for many parents. And taking into account mSpy’s unforgiving refund policy, it may be a good reason to check out one of our other top parental control apps instead.
mSpy Ease of Use
mSpy’s web app has a clean and intuitive interface. This makes it easy to navigate and to find all of the features you want. Most things are also clearly labeled, so even a beginner should have no trouble using it.
The activity reports on the home page aren’t particularly practical, though. The expandable menus on the side bar are also quite clunky despite being your primary means of navigating the dashboard. If you expand a menu with a lot of items underneath it (like the General Features or Social Networks menus), it pushes all the other menus down, forcing you to scroll if you want to access them. Finally, I feel like the interface overall could be a lot more compact. There’s a lot of wasted space on many of the pages that could be filled with useful information or alternatively cut to reduce the amount of scrolling required.
Overall, mSpy is straightforward to use, so long as you can get past the arduous installation process. At the same time, its design is certainly not as sleek or as modern as the apps for some of my favorite parental control apps like Qustodio or Net Nanny.
mSpy Customer Support
mSpy’s website is disorganized, so it can be challenging to find relevant information. Support articles are scattered across the FAQ, the blog, and a small “Help” button hidden in the bottom right corner of each page.
Some of the information on mSpy’s website is also unclear or just missing. For example, mSpy doesn’t provide an iOS installation guide or a pricing page to easily compare its plans. mSpy also has a bad habit of obfuscating what features you won’t get without rooting or jailbreaking a phone.
Besides support articles, mSpy offers 3 levels of customer support. The first level of support is for customers who are on mSpy’s Basic and Premium plans. They have access to the self-service help section, can send support emails and tickets, and can receive assistance through the 24/7 live chat. The second level of support requires an additional fee and allows you to get personalized support by phone. The third level of support called the Advanced mAssistance Package, costs a hefty amount, but gets you a professional who will assist you in rooting/jailbreaking your phone and help you install mSpy remotely.
The submit a request function on the support page doesn’t appear to work, and the live chat function can be a little hard to find, being hidden behind the small “Help” button in the bottom right corner. That said, when I tried using the live chat support, I got a very quick response, and the support rep was able to answer all of my questions very competently.
Overall, mSpy’s live chat support is good, but I’ve had a better experience with other parental control apps. Qustodio, for example, may not have a live chat feature, but it makes it easy for you to find answers to your questions with a clear and well-organized website and an extensive library of support articles, complete with pictures and video guides. If you still need help after that, its ticketing system is also highly responsive.
Is mSpy Worth the Price in 2023?
mSpy is a good surveillance app and a poor parental control app. It’s excellent for monitoring SMS, messaging apps, and emails, but it’s missing many key parental control features.
mSpy allows you to read all of your child’s messages, see their browsing and call history, track their location, create geofenced zones, block specific apps and websites, and get alerts for certain predefined words or phrases.
However, mSpy doesn’t allow you to filter websites by category (so you have to manually block every website you don’t want your child to access), set screen time or app usage limits, supervise YouTube usage, or block calls.
Additionally, while mSpy is fairly intuitive to use, it can be very challenging to set up. Getting access to all of mSpy’s features requires that you root or jailbreak the target phone, which is a long and risky process.
I’m also disappointed that mSpy doesn’t have a free trial, a free plan, or even a money-back guarantee. Instead, it has a very strict refund policy, which states that you’ll only get your money back if you run into an issue that mSpy’s tech support cannot solve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is mSpy safe?
On Android devices, for example, you’re required to disable Google Play Protection in order to install and run mSpy. This will naturally make the target device more vulnerable to malicious apps. Additionally, some of mSpy’s advanced features, such as the keylogger, social media monitoring, and geofencing, require that you root or jailbreak your device. This will void your phone’s warranty, make it easier for malware to breach your device’s security, and if done incorrectly, can render your phone completely unusable. For these reasons, if you’re using mSpy, you may want to consider getting a good antivirus.
If you’re looking for a parental control app that shares many of the same features as mSpy but doesn’t require you to root or jailbreak your phone, check out Bark. Bark won’t let you read all of your child’s messages, but it’ll alert you if any of their messages contain signs of cyberbullying, depression, or other concerning and inappropriate content.
Is mSpy legal?
It depends on what country you live in, who you’re trying to monitor, and what your relationship with them is. For example, it’s perfectly legal in the US to install mSpy on your children’s phones, so long as they’re under the age of 18. But it’s illegal to install mSpy on the phone of an adult such as a partner, spouse, or employee without their knowledge and consent.
Can I use mSpy without rooting or jailbreaking the target phone?
Yes, many of mSpy’s features work without rooting or jailbreaking the phone you wish to monitor. However, some of its more advanced features, including the keylogger, social media monitoring, geofencing, and more, may not be available.
If you don’t know how to root or jailbreak a phone, mSpy has an Advanced mAssistance Package that you can purchase, which gets you remote installation assistance. But if the idea of rooting or jailbreaking a phone concerns you, you may want to look for alternatives. Qustodio is the best parental control app on the market and offers call and SMS monitoring, and Bark includes many of the same features as mSpy, such as the ability to monitor social media apps, without needing to root or jailbreak the target device.
Will my child know if I install mSpy on their phone?
No, mSpy’s app, once installed, will be undetectable to the average user — even most tech-savvy kids won’t notice anything has changed. This is because mSpy doesn’t show up in the apps list, generates no alerts or notifications on the target phone, and runs completely in the background.
Can mSpy be installed remotely?
No, you’ll need physical access to the phone you wish to monitor in order to install mSpy. That said, installing mSpy should only take between 5-10 minutes, not counting the rooting or jailbreaking process (which could take significantly longer).
Can I see my child’s WhatsApp messages using mSpy?
Yes, both the Android and iOS versions of mSpy allow you to read all of your child’s messages on WhatsApp. You won’t even need to root or jailbreak the target device in order to do so. That said, in order to read your child’s messages on most other social media apps such as Snapchat, Viber, Telegram for iOS devices or Skype, Facebook messenger, Line etc., the target device must be rooted or jailbroken.
If you don’t want to root or jailbreak the target device and you’re mostly concerned about monitoring your child’s SMS messages, Qustodio is a great alternative. And if you’re OK with only being able to read messages that contain concerning or inappropriate content like bullying, violence, or suicidal ideation, Bark could cover all of your needs.
Is mSpy able to record calls?
No. mSpy allows you to see your child’s contact list and logs all incoming and outgoing calls, so you can see who, when, and for how long your child talked to on the phone, but it doesn’t allow you to listen to the contents of their conversations.
Does mSpy offer a free trial?
No, mSpy no longer has a free trial period or a free version. This is very unfortunate, given that mSpy also doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee like other top parental control apps including Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Norton Family, and has a very strict refund policy, making it difficult for customers to evaluate the product before they purchase. It does offer a demo version of the product on their website, which you can play around with, but this is a poor substitute for real, hands-on experience.