Short on time? Here’s the best free parental control app in 2023:
- 🥇 Qustodio: Its free plan comes with excellent web filtering (that not even top VPNs can bypass), screen time monitoring, time limits and scheduling, and activity reports. It works on iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Kindle, or Chromebook platforms, but you can use it on 1 device only. Its paid plans add support for 5–15 devices, app filtering, call and text message monitoring, a panic button, and more — and you can test all features with a free 3-day trial. Qustodio backs all purchases with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
I tested all of the most popular parental control apps to find the best free parental apps in 2023.
I don’t really like free parental apps, as many of them are dangerous to use since you give them tons of permissions, which allow them to access your data and control your device. In addition, most free parental apps lack essential parental control features like time limits, web filtering, scheduling, or activity reports, so it’s nearly impossible to fully protect your child from online threats and screen addiction.
That said, I understand that some parents are on a tight budget, so a free parental app is the only option. The good news is that I managed to find a few great parental apps that either provide a good free plan or a free trial that lets you fully test the paid services (which are also very affordable). Qustodio, my top pick, has a completely free (but limited) plan, a 3-day free trial, and a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee, which gives you plenty of time to test it and see if it’s the best fit for your family.
Quick summary of the best free parental control apps:
- 1. 🥇Qustodio — Best free parental control app in 2023. Very accurate web filtering and screen time monitoring and web filtering, easy-to-use time limits and scheduling features, and in-depth activity reports. Its paid plans provide access to even more features, including text message and call monitoring, and are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- 2. 🥈Norton Family — Really good 30-day free trial + works on unlimited devices. While it lacks a free plan, its free trial (which doesn’t require credit card details) gives you access to all features and provides enough time to test them. Has good web and app filtering, location tracking, time limits, and comes with very affordable paid plans.
- 3. 🥉Bark — Great 7-day free trial + monitors 30+ social media apps. Its free trial lets you fully test all features, which include web and app filtering, text message monitoring, and location tracking.
- 4. Kaspersky Safe Kids — Decent free plan for big families (monitors up to 500 devices). The free plan also provides access to web filtering, app filtering, and time limits, and it lets you enforce safe search on YouTube and search engines.
- 5. FamilyKeeper — Good location tracking on Android. Has a very limited free plan, but it provides accurate location tracking and also lets you use a calendar to check your child’s wearabout on specific dates.
- Comparison of the Best Free Parental Control Apps in 2023.
🥇 1. Qustodio — Best Free Parental Control App in 2023
Qustodio has the best free parental control plan in 2023 — it provides essential parental control features that help you keep your kids safe on the web while also providing them with enough online independence.
Upon signing up, Qustodio gives you access to a free 3-day trial (no credit card details needed) of its paid features, so that you can see the paid subscription in action.
When the free trial is over, Qustodio downgrades you to the free plan, which includes access to:
- Web filtering. Restricts access to harmful or distracting websites. Qustodio has 25+ predefined website categories, which is very convenient, and it also allows you to block or whitelist specific websites. I really like that top VPNs can’t bypass Qustodio’s web filtering, and that there’s an option to block unsupported browsers (so that your kids can’t use them to bypass Qustodio’s web filtering). What’s more, there’s also an option to enforce safe search on Google, Bing, and YouTube.
- Screen time monitoring. Lets you see how much time your kids spend on their devices — if you see that they spend too much time, you’ll know you need to take measures to prevent screen addiction.
- Time limits. Qustodio allows you to set screen time limits for each day of the week in increments of 15 minutes. It’s extremely easy to set time limits, and Qustodio also lets you choose what happens when the time is up — either you block navigation (disable web access or block all apps except basic applications) or lock the device (block apps on Android, hide apps on iOS, and log out of sessions on desktop).
- Scheduling. Qustodio’s Restricted Times feature allows you to set time limits for specific time periods. For example, you can restrict your kids’ access to their devices when you’re all having dinner or when they’re doing their homework.
- Activity reports. The free plan provides access to daily and weekly email reports that include information about your child’s device usage and online activities.
However, Qustodio’s free plan only allows you to monitor 1 device. On the plus side, Qustodio has the only free plan on this list that can monitor multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Chrombook, and Kindle).
Upgrading to Qustodio’s paid plans provides support for 5–15 devices and access to tons of other features — you get app filtering (Qustodio claims it can detect and block 9,000+ iOS apps), location tracking and geofencing, a dedicated YouTube monitoring feature that shows you what your kids search for and watch on YouTube, the ability to monitor your child’s text messages and phone calls, and the Panic Button feature, which lets your kids send out distress signals to trusted contacts if they’re in danger.
Qustodio’s paid subscription comes with 3 yearly plans, which all provide access to the same features but have different device limits: the Small plan ($54.95 / year) allows 5 devices, the Medium plan ($96.95 / year) allows 10 devices, and the Large plan ($137.95 / year) allows 15 devices. Qustodio is a bit pricey, but I strongly believe upgrading to its paid plans is worth it because Qustodio is the best parental control app on the market, so you get excellent value. Plus, Qustodio backs each purchase with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Qustodio is my favorite free parental control app in 2023. It comes with excellent web filtering (which even top VPNs can’t bypass), screen time monitoring, and easy-to-use time limits and scheduling features. In addition, you also get daily and weekly activity reports over email and can monitor almost any device — but Qustodio limits you to just 1 device. Qustodio’s paid plans, which are affordable and backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, provide access to 5–15 devices and many other excellent parental control features, including YouTube monitoring, geofencing, and the Panic Button feature.
🥈 2. Norton Family — Great 30-Day Free Trial (+ Works on Unlimited Devices)
Norton Family doesn’t have a free plan, but it comes with a free 30-day trial, which doesn’t require credit card details and provides access to all features and offers plenty of time to test the parental app to see if it’s right for you.
One of the best things about it is that it allows unlimited connections, meaning you can use it to monitor as many devices as you want — so I think this parental app is a good pick if you have a large family. However, Norton Family can only monitor iOS, Android, and Windows devices, so if you need to monitor macOS, Chromebook, and Kindle devices, I recommend checking out Qustodio instead.
Norton Family’s free trial gives you access to web filtering, screen time monitoring, time limits, and scheduling. All features are simple to use and work really well — I especially like that the web filtering and time limites allow kids to request access to a blacklisted site or more screen time inside the Norton Family app, which is very convenient because they don’t need to call or message you about that.
But while Norton Family’s web filtering is really good (top VPNs can’t bypass it), it’s not as great on Windows as Qustodio’s web filtering because it’s easy for kids to bypass it — Norton Family filters sites using browser extensions, and there’s nothing stopping your child from deactivating them (you’ll receive an alert if that happens, though).
The free trial also includes access to app filtering, activity reports, location tracking and geofencing, and features that track your kids’ searches and the videos they watch on YouTube’s site. There’s also a School Time feature, which allows you to set time limits and blacklist distracting sites during school hours.
Norton Family is available as a standalone subscription, which is priced at $49.99 / year, so it’s very affordable. In addition, it comes included with the Norton 360 Deluxe ($49.99 / year) and Norton 360 Advanced ($54.99 / year) subscriptions. These bundles also provide access to Norton 360, which is the best antivirus on the market, and Norton Secure VPN, which is one of the best antivirus-bundled VPNs on the market. Norton also backs all of its yearly plans with a very generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
While Norton Family doesn’t come with a free plan, it has a free 30-day trial that lets you fully test all of its features. The free trial comes with great parental control features, including web and app filtering, time limits and scheduling, location tracking, YouTube video and search tracking, and more. Norton Family is available as a standalone subscription or bundled with the Norton 360 Deluxe and Norton 360 Advanced subscriptions. It also has a 60-day money-back guarantee.
🥉 3. Bark — 7-Day Free Trial (Good for Monitoring Social Media)
Bark provides really good social media monitoring, supports unlimited devices (so it’s good for large families), and comes with a free 7-day trial, which requires credit card information. I think the trial length is enough to fully test Bark’s features, but if you think you’d need more time, I suggest checking out Norton Family instead — it has a free 30-day trial that doesn’t require credit card details and also provides good monitoring features.
Bark has some of the best social media monitoring on the market, as it can monitor your child’s activities on 30+ social media apps, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Discord, Steam, TikTok, Instagram, and Kik. Bark can monitor things like your child’s direct messages, social media posts, comments, and the videos they post. In addition, it can monitor kids’ text messages on iOS and Android. Bark works on iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Chromebook, and Amazon Fire Tablets.
One thing to keep in mind is that Bark won’t show you everything your child does online — instead, it will analyze the messages, images, and videos for harmful content (like bullying, depression, violence, and more) and send you an alert alongside recommended steps if it detects anything concerning. This is great for older kids, but may not be such a good solution for younger children who still need a lot of supervision and monitoring when using the internet.
Bark also provides scheduling features and allows you to block specific apps and websites, but it lacks time limits (which Qustodio and Norton Family have). And while its web filtering works well, I don’t like that it’s easy for kids to circumvent it on Android by simply deactivating the built-in VPN Bark uses — with Qustodio, kids don’t get access to such settings.
What’s more, Bark provides parents with access to location tracking, but it’s not real-time (like it is with Norton Family) — instead, you can only request a check-in, which prompts your child to share their location with you using Bark’s kids app. This is good if your kids are older and you trust them, but if your child is unresponsive or loses their device, Bark won’t be able to help you locate them or their device.
Bark Jr. ($49.00 / year) comes with screen time management, web filtering, and location tracking. Bark Premium ($99.00 / year), which is the plan I recommend, includes all of Bark’s features. Unfortunately, Bark doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee.
Bark doesn’t have a free plan, but it provides access to a free 7-day trial that gives you access to all of its features. Bark supports unlimited devices, it can monitor 30+ social media apps and also text messages, and also provides web and app filtering and location tracking. Instead of showing you everything your kid does online, it only alerts you if it detects concerning content like violence or cyberbullying. Bark has 2-tier based subscriptions, but it doesn’t provide a refund.
4. Kaspersky Safe Kids — Good Free Plan for Large Families
Kaspersky Safe Kids offers a free plan that’s suitable for big families because it allows you to monitor up to 500 devices — most free parental apps limit you to 1 device. While that is great, I have to say that I don’t understand why it doesn’t just let you monitor unlimited devices (like Norton Family and Bark). Kaspersky Safe Kids can monitor iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices.
Kaspersky Safe Kids’ free plan comes with web filtering, time limits, app filtering, and a feature that turns on safe search on popular search engines and YouTube. The web filtering is pretty good, and even top VPNs can’t bypass it, but I still think Qustodio’s web filtering is much better because it provides access to 25+ predefined website categories — Kaspersky Safe Kids only has 10+ categories, so you have to manually blacklist sites not covered by those categories, which is inconvenient.
Unfortunately, Kaspersky Safe Kids’ free version doesn’t include scheduling — so you can’t set specific intervals when your kids can’t use their devices (like during a family dinner or when they’re supposed to do their homework).
Kaspersky’s premium plan, which adds scheduling, location tracking, social media monitoring, and more, is available for only $14.99 / year — but you can also get 1 year of free access to it via the Kaspersky Premium subscription, which costs only $30.99 / year and comes with an antivirus, a password manager, a VPN, and more. Kaspersky backs all purchases with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Kaspersky Safe Kids’s free plan is really great for large families because it allows you to monitor up to 500 devices. The free plan also provides access to web filtering, app filtering, time limits, and the option to enable safe search on top search engines and YouTube. Kaspersky Safe Kids comes with a very affordable paid plan that provides good value and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
5. FamilyKeeper — Good for Tracking Kids’ Location on Android
FamilyKeeper’s free plan comes with location tracking, app usage information, and a battery tracker. However, it can only monitor Android devices, and it limits you to 1 device per child profile — Qustodio’s free plan limits you to 1 device too, but it can also monitor iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Kindle, and Chromebook devices.
I tested FamilyKeeper’s location tracking on my Android phone, and it’s very accurate — it always displayed my device’s exact location. Plus, I like that FamilyKeeper displays tons of information about your child’s location (country, city, street name and number, postal code, date, and time) and also allows you to check your kid’s location history using a calendar, which is helpful if you quickly need to check where your child was on a particular date.
FamilyKeeper’s free plan is more bare-bones than Qustodio and Kaspersky Safe Kids’ free plans (it lacks web filtering and time limits), but I think it could be enough for parents who only need to keep tabs on their kids’ whereabouts.
Upgrading to FamilyKeeper’s paid plans, which start at $11.00 / month, adds support for unlimited devices and provides access to many useful parental control features, such as time limits, app filtering, an SOS button, call monitoring, and the ability to see what photos your child is taking, sending, or receiving. Unfortunately, FamilyKeeper doesn’t have a money-back guarantee.
FamilyKeeper has a basic free plan that only comes with location tracking, app usage information, and a battery tracker, and which can only monitor Android devices. On the plus side, the location tracking feature works really well and provides tons of helpful information. FamilyKeeper has affordable paid plans that provide access to many other great parental control features, but it lacks a money-back guarantee.
Comparison of the Best Free Parental Control Apps in 2023
|Parental Control App||Free Trial/Money-BackGuarantee||Premium Plan (Starting Price)||Web Filtering||Time Limits||Can Monitor||Number of Devices|
|1.🥇 Qustodio||3-day trial and 30-day money-back guarantee||$54.95 / year||✅||✅||iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Kindle, Chromebook||1 (free plan)
5–15 (paid plans)
|2.🥈 Norton Family||30-day trial and 60-day money-back guarantee||$49.99 / year||✅||✅||iOS, Android, Windows||Unlimited|
|3.🥉 Bark||7-day trial||$5.00 / month||✅||❌||iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Amazon Fire Tablets, Chromebook||Unlimited|
|4. Kaspersky Safe Kids||7-day trial and 30-day money-back guarantee||$14.99 / year||✅||✅||iOS, Android, Windows, macOS||500|
|5. FamilyKeeper||❌||$11.00 / month||❌||❌||Android||1|
How to Choose the Best Free Parental Control App in 2023
- Free access to the service. The parental app should either come with a free plan or provide access to a free trial, so that you can test its features before you get a paid subscription. For example, Qustodio (my top pick) has a free plan and Norton Family has a free 30-day trial.
- Has essential parental control features. The free plan or trial should provide you with access to most industry-standard parental control features, such as web filtering, app filtering, location tracking, activity reports, time limits, or scheduling. That way, you can actually test the parental app to see if it’s right for you.
- Good performance. The parental control app’s features should work well (for example, web filtering should be able to block sites that are not kid-friendly), and the app itself shouldn’t use too many resources, so that it doesn’t slow down your child’s device. All the apps on my list are lightweight and don’t slow down your devices or consume too much battery.
- Ease of use. The parental app should come with a beginner-friendly interface, so that even non-tech-savvy parents will have an easy time setting time limits and blocking inappropriate sites and apps. If the parental app also has a kids app that children can interact with (like Qustodio and Norton Family do), the design should be very intuitive, so that your child won’t get frustrated or annoyed with it.
- Great pricing. If the free parental app comes with paid plans, they should be affordable and provide great value by offering access to even more parental control features like geofencing or text message and call monitoring. Some parental app providers even back their plans with generous money-back guarantees — for example, Qustodio has a 30-day money-back guarantee, and Norton Family offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free Parental Control App
I normally don’t recommend using a free parental control app, as it can put your child’s privacy at risk. Running a parental control app requires a lot of money, so the only way the provider can offer such a service completely free of charge is if it logs and shares user data with advertisers — and when you install a parental app on your child’s device, you give it tons of permissions, so it has access to sensitive data.
In addition, using a free parental control app also comes with limitations. While all the free parental control apps in this guide are really good, some of them come with noticeable limitations — for example, Qustodio’s free plan doesn’t include location tracking or app filtering, and FamilyKeeper’s free plan is missing web filtering and time limits.
Ultimately, the best way to keep your kids safe online is to get a paid parental control app. Luckily, most top apps are pretty affordable — for example, Qustodio starts at $54.95 / year and Norton Family is only $49.99 / year. Plus, most top parental apps provide free trials or generous money-back guarantees, so you can test the service risk-free before you buy it.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Google Family Link. This parental app is free to use, and it lets you set time limits, block inappropriate Google Play downloads, and track your child’s location. However, Google Family Link has a lot of downsides — it can only track Android and Chromebook devices, it exposes your kids to ads, and it’s only effective for monitoring children under the age of 13 (you can monitor teenagers, but they can stop supervision at any time).
- Apple’s Screen Time. This parental app is built into iOS and macOS devices (so it can only monitor those platforms), and it allows you to block adult content and apps, set time limits, monitor device usage, restrict downloads, and require purchase approval on your child’s device. Unfortunately, kids can easily bypass Screen Time — for instance, they can change their device’s time zone to circumvent app filtering, and they can use iMessages to access blocked apps.
- Microsoft’s Family Safety. Family Safety’s free plan comes with web and app filtering, time limits, activity reports, and location tracking, and it can monitor Android, Windows, Xbox, and even iOS devices (but only location tracking works on iOS). Unfortunately, Family Safety is pretty buggy and displays frequent errors, its apps are not easy to set up and use, and some of its features don’t work well — for example, its location tracking isn’t accurate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best free parental control app?
I think Qustodio has the best free plan in 2023 — it provides access to really good web filtering, screen time monitoring, time limits and scheduling, and detailed activity reports. It can only monitor 1 device, but I really like that it can monitor tons of platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Kindle, and Chromebook.
But the other free parental control apps on my list are also good — Norton Family comes with a free 30-day trial and unlimited connections, and Bark has a free 7-day trial and can monitor 30+ social media apps. Kaspersky Safe Kids can monitor up to 500 devices on the free plan, and FamilyKeeper’s free plan provides good location tracking.
Why do you also recommend free trials instead of free plans?
I honestly spent a lot of time debating whether or not I should also include parental apps with free trials on my list — I ultimately decided to do it because I simply don’t trust most free parental control apps, as they are not safe to use. In addition, it’s actually really difficult to find a free parental app that works well, as many free options have annoying limitations or are very easy to bypass.
So, instead of trying to fill my list only with parental apps that have free plans (but might not provide any value), I chose to also include parental apps like Norton Family and Bark, which have free trials that provide you with full access to their services. Even though the access is only temporary, I really think both apps provide you with enough time to test all of their features and decide if their paid plans are a right fit for your family.
Is there a completely free parental control app?
Not really, as most free parental control apps (like Bark) also have paid plans that provide you with access to more features.
There are some built-in parental apps that are completely free to use, but they usually lack lots of essential parental control features, and they’re also easy to bypass — so they barely provide any value.
As for third-party parental apps that are completely free, there aren’t many out there. The only one that I was able to find is Spyrix Free Keylogger, but I don’t think it’s worth getting. While it can monitor app usage and alert you about specific keywords, it can’t block harmful websites and its missing time limits, scheduling, and location tracking. What’s more, it records your child’s keystrokes and takes screenshots of their screen, which I find extremely invasive and think it’s more likely to damage your relationship with your kids than improve it.
Can’t I just use free built-in parental control apps?
Apple and Microsoft provide free access to built-in parental control apps, but I don’t really recommend using them — it’s either very easy for kids to bypass them, or the parental apps are buggy and difficult to use or lack essential parental control features.
It’s much better to just try one of the free parental control apps on my list, as they provide significantly better value — Qustodio is my #1 pick because it provides excellent web filtering time limits and scheduling, and activity reports, and it can monitor iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Kindle, and Chromebook devices.
Can I monitor my kid’s device with a free parental app?
Yes, the free parental apps I listed in this article allow you to monitor children’s devices — for example, Qustodio’s free plan lets you monitor what sites your kids accesses and how long they use their devices for, and it also allows you to set time limits and block inappropriate sites.
However, keep in mind that a free parental control app won’t let you fully monitor your child’s device — you’ll need to upgrade to the paid plan to get access to all monitoring features.