3 (Quick + Easy) Steps to Remotely Track Your Child’s Phone in 2023:
- Step 1. Get a good parental control app. I recommend Qustodio because it provides tons of useful insights about your child’s web and app usage. It also lets you monitor their current and previous locations and their phone calls and text messages.
- Step 2. Install the provider’s kids app on your child’s device. The whole process won’t take more than 2–3 minutes — just follow the installation wizard’s instructions. Make sure you give the app all the permissions and rights it requests, otherwise it won’t be able to fully track your kid’s phone.
- Step 3. Remotely track your child’s phone. Use the provider’s parental app on your device to remotely monitor and restrict your child’s web and app usage.
Smartphones and the internet are very important for a child’s development — they make it simple for kids to stay informed about world events, learn new things, study better, and stay in touch with their friends and family.
Unfortunately, they can be very harmful. Smartphones make it easy for them to become victims of cyberbullying, or to be exposed to adult and toxic content that might scare or traumatize them.
That’s why tracking kids’ phones has become more and more acceptable, and even necessary — it helps parents make sure kids develop healthy digital habits and don’t get exposed to or influenced by inappropriate content.
The best way to remotely track a child’s phone is to use a parental app, which is monitoring software that lets you keep an eye on your child’s web, app, and device usage. Parental apps consist of 2 apps — the kid’s app, which you install on your child’s device, and the parental app, which you install on your device to monitor their phone.
I tested dozens of parental apps and found that most are bad at tracking kids’ phones — they either can’t monitor which sites kids access or what apps they use, or they have buggy apps that are difficult to use.
But all of the parental control apps I mention in this article are really good at tracking children’s internet, app, and device usage. Plus, they also provide information about their location (and many other things) and are also simple to install and use.
Best parental control apps for remotely tracking kids’ phones
- 1. 🥇 Qustodio — Best parental app for remotely tracking children’s phones in 2023. Provides very helpful insights about your kid’s web and app activity, what they watch and search for on YouTube, how much time they spend on their devices, where they currently are and where they’ve been, and who they’re exchanging phone calls and text messages with.
- 2. 🥈 Norton Family — Best for tracking multiple phones. Allows you to monitor an unlimited number of devices. Also provides information about which sites your kids access, what they search for on popular search engines, what they watch and search for on YouTube’s site, which apps they use, and where they’re currently located.
- 3. 🥉 Bark — Good pick for non-invasive tracking. Monitors emails, photos, videos, text messages, and 30+ apps that are popular with kids, like Discord and Instagram. But it doesn’t let you see what your child is doing online, instead it only sends you alerts if it detects anything problematic or concerning.
- 4. FamiSafe — Good for tracking children’s driving habits. Provides access to detailed reports about your child’s driving, helping you make sure they’re not engaging in reckless driving. Also monitors web and app usage, and kids’ real-time location.
- 5. Net Nanny — Great for remotely tracking kids’ internet searches. Shows you what your kids search for, and on which sites they do it. Also displays which blocked sites kids tried to access, your child’s screen time and real-time location, and what kids watch and search for on Youtube’s site.
- Comparison of the Best Parental Control Apps for Tracking Kids’ Phones.
🥇 1. Qustodio — Best Parental Control App for Remotely Tracking Kids’ Phones in 2023
Qustodio is the best parental app for remotely tracking your child’s phone in 2023 — it has kids apps for iOS and Android that track the following:
- Web activity — Allows you to see which websites your kids access and how much time they spend on each site. I think it’s really great how Qustodio displays helpful information about the sites your kids access, such as how trustworthy they are or how safe they are for kids. Also, I like how it displays which words kids use the most in Google searches.
- App activity — Lets you track which mobile apps your kids use the most and how much time they spend on each app.
- YouTube activity — Shows which videos your kids watch and what they search for on YouTube. Qustodio is actually one of the only parental apps that can monitor your child’s activities on both the YouTube site and app (and is also the best parental app for keeping kids safe on YouTube).
- Screen time — Displays how much time your kids spend on their devices.
- Location — Shows your child’s real-time location and also displays a list of all their previous locations, which I think is very helpful for locating your kid’s phone if they accidentally lose it. There’s also a geofencing feature, which allows you to set up predefined zones (like your child’s home or school) and receive notifications when your kid arrives to or leaves those zones.
In addition, Qustodio allows you to track your child’s phone calls and text messages — it’s one of the only parental control apps on the market that allows this type of functionality. It shows who your child exchanges phone calls and text messages with, and it also displays the contents of the text messages. What’s more, it allows you to blacklist or whitelist specific contacts — for example, if you see that someone is bullying your child through text messages, you can block their phone number to prevent them from contacting your kid.
On top of excellent tracking, you also get access to many features that allow you to restrict your child’s web and app access, so that you can help them develop healthy digital habits. For example, Qustodio allows you to block specific websites or inappropriate sites using 25+ predefined categories — and children can’t use VPNs to bypass those restrictions. Plus, you can also block access or set time limits for apps that might be too distracting, such as Discord, YouTube, or TikTok.
Qustodio’s paid plans start at $54.95 / year, allow you to monitor 5–15 devices and include all of the features mentioned above. Qustodio also has the best free plan on the market, which is great for basic tracking since it includes web filtering, screen time monitoring, time limits, and daily and weekly activity reports — but it only lets you monitor 1 device. Each purchase is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Qustodio provides the best parental app for remote phone tracking in 2023. It tracks tons of things, including your child’s web and app activity, how they interact with YouTube’s site and app, their real-time and previous locations, how much time they spend on their devices, and even their phone calls and text messages. It also provides excellent web filtering, app filtering, and time limits. Qustodio has the best free plan out there, affordable plans, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥈 2. Norton Family — Best for Remotely Tracking Multiple Devices
Norton Family allows you to monitor an unlimited number of devices, meaning it’s a good fit for large families or if your kids use multiple mobile devices. It also lets you track tons of things, such as your kids’ web activities (including watched videos and searches), app usage, and real-time location.
You can see which whitelisted sites your kids accessed, and which blocked websites they tried to access. The parental app also displays how many times your child tried to access each site, when they did it, and which device they used.
I also like how Norton Family can monitor what your kids search for on YouTube’s site and search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. It can also monitor what they watch on YouTube’s site. That said, it’s a little inconvenient that the search and video monitoring features only work on specific browsers, and that Norton doesn’t automatically block incompatible browsers — Qustodio can track similar activities but can do it on most browsers and automatically blocks unsupported ones (Qustodio can also monitor what your child does on YouTube’s app).
Norton Family also lets you track which apps your kids install or uninstall from their devices, and which apps they use the most. On top of that, it lets you track kids’ real-time location and where they’ve been — there’s also an option to receive notifications about your child’s current location at scheduled times.
In addition, you get access to really good web filtering and the ability to block apps popular with kids, such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. What’s more, there are easy-to-use time limits and scheduling features, and School Time, which allows you to separate web filtering rules during school hours.
Norton Family is bundled with the Norton 360 Deluxe ($24.99 / year) and Norton 360 Advanced ($54.99 / year) subscriptions, which also include Norton 360, the best antivirus on the market. Alternatively, you can get Norton Family as a standalone purchase for only $54.99 / year. Each purchase is backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Norton Family allows parents to remotely track an unlimited number of devices. It also provides useful insights about kids’ browsing activities, what they search for and watch on YouTube’s site, their app usage, and their real-time location. Plus, you get great web and app filtering, time limits, and scheduling. This parental app comes bundled with the Norton 360 Deluxe and Norton 360 Advanced subscriptions or as a standalone purchase. There’s also a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Norton Family review
🥉 3. Bark — Good for Non-Invasive Tracking
Bark is the least invasive parental app on this list — it doesn’t allow you to see everything your child does online, but instead only sends you alerts when it detects problematic or concerning content. That’s why I think this provider is most suitable for parents of older kids who have a lot of trust in them.
The parental app tracks text messages, photos, videos, emails, web browsing, and 30+ popular apps, including Reddit, Discord, Instagram, and TikTok. It uses machine learning to scan content for potential issues (like profanity, violence, bullying, depression, hate speech, and more), and it alerts you if it detects anything concerning.
Bark also allows you to view your child’s location, but not in real-time — instead, you need to request a check-in, which will notify your child to manually share their location with you. I honestly think Qustodio and Norton Family provide better location tracking, as it’s real-time, and you don’t need to request access to your kids’ location data.
You also get access to web and app filtering, plus screen time management, which lets you set up web and app filtering rules for specific times of the day. But I think the app filtering needs improvement, as it only stops apps from accessing the web, so kids can still use apps that work offline — Qustodio and Norton Family can block all access to apps.
Bark allows you to monitor unlimited devices with its 2 paid subscriptions, Bark Jr. ($49.00 / year) and Bark Premium ($99.00 / year). I recommend getting Bark Premium because it comes with all features, whereas Bark Jr. only comes with location tracking, screen time management, and web and app filtering. Unfortunately, there’s no money-back guarantee.
Bark is good for parents who want non-invasive tracking. It doesn’t show you everything your kids do online. Instead, it only notifies you if it detects problematic or concerning content. It can scan text messages, emails, videos, photos, and 30+ apps that are popular with kids. There’s also location tracking, web and app filtering, and screen time management. There are 2 tier-based subscriptions, but there’s no money-back guarantee.
4. FamiSafe — Good for Tracking Kids’ Driving Habits
FamiSafe is good for parents whose kids just started driving, as it can monitor their driving habits if they have their mobile phone with them. It gives you access to detailed driving reports that include data like time spent driving, average and highest speeds, the number of hard brakes, and the number of times speeding. In addition, you can configure FamiSafe to send you alerts if your child is driving recklessly — like if they exceed the maximum speed limit you set.
Plus, you get access to information about your child’s web and app usage. You can see what sites your kids visited and what apps they used, and also which URLs they accessed the most. And there’s also really accurate real-time location tracking.
Other features include easy-to-use time limits and app filtering. There’s also web filtering, but it doesn’t work as well as Qustodio or Norton Family’s web filtering. FamiSafe also claims it provides live monitoring for TikTok and YouTube’s apps, but this feature didn’t work in my tests — Qustodio and Bark can monitor both apps without issues, and tons of other apps as well.
FamiSafe’s paid plans start at $10.99 / month and can monitor 5–10 devices. There’s a 3 day free trial, and each plan is covered by a 7-day money-back guarantee.
FamiSafe can monitor older kids’ driving habits, and notify parents if their children engage in reckless driving. It can also track children’s website visits and app usage, and it provides access to really good location tracking. The provider has a free plan, affordable paid plans, and a 7-day money-back guarantee.
5. Net Nanny — Great for Remotely Tracking Kids’ Web Searches
Net Nanny provides useful insights about your kid’s browsing activities. It also shows you when they performed searches, which sites they did it on, and which device they used.
You can block inappropriate websites by using 10+ predefined site categories or by manually blocking the website — and if your child tries to access restricted sites, you’ll receive an alert. While I think this is good, I prefer Qustodio because it displays your kid’s entire search history.
You can also track your child’s screen time usage. And there’s even a feature that shows you what they’re watching or searching for on YouTube — but it only monitors YouTube’s site, and not its app (like Qustodio does).
Net Nanny also provides really good web filtering. Kids can’t use VPNs to access blocked sites, and you can easily create custom filters you want Net Nanny to monitor. I’m a fan of the profanity censoring feature, too, as it replaces profane words on web pages with “####”.
Net Nanny has 3 paid subscriptions, which all provide access to the same features but monitor a different number of devices. However, the basic subscription only monitors desktop devices, so you need to get one of the 2 Family Protection Pass subscriptions to monitor your kids’ mobile devices. There’s a 14-day money-back guarantee for all purchases.
Net Nanny is really good for monitoring your kid’s online searches. It also shows you if they tried to access blocked sites, how much screen time they used, their real-time location, and their activities on YouTube’s site. Plus, it has good web filtering, app filtering, time limits, and more. There are 3 paid subscriptions, but only 2 of them can monitor mobile devices. There’s also a 14-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Net Nanny review
Comparison of the Best Parental Control Apps for Remotely Tracking Kids’ Phones in 2023
|Parental App||Starting Price||Web & App Tracking||Location Tracking||Phone Call & SMS Tracking||Monitors iOS & Android Devices||Number of devices||Money-Back Guarantee|
|1. 🥇 Qustodio||$54.95 / year||✅||✅||✅||✅||5–15||30 days|
|2. 🥈 Norton Family||$49.99 / year||✅||✅||❌||✅||Unlimited||60 days|
|3. 🥉 Bark||$5.00 / month||✅||✅||❌||✅||Unlimited||❌|
|4. FamiSafe||$10.99 / month||✅||✅||❌||✅||5–10||7 days|
|5. Net Nanny||$39.99 / year||✅||✅||❌||✅||1–20||14 days|
How to Choose the Best Parental Control App for Remotely Tracking Kids’ Phones in 2023
- Mobile kids apps. The parental apps need to come with kids apps for iOS and Android — otherwise, you can’t remotely monitor your children’s mobile devices.
- Essential tracking features. The parental control app should provide useful information about your child’s web and app usage, such as which blocked sites they try to access and which apps they use the most. All of my top picks also provide information about the child’s location or their screen time usage.
- Extra features. I recommend picking parental apps that also come with additional features that help you monitor your child’s digital habits or keep them safe online — for example, Qustodio has a phone call and text message monitoring feature, and FamiSafe has a feature that monitors driving habits.
- Ease of use. You should only use providers that have easy-to-install kids and parental apps — on average, it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to install both apps on your and your kids’ devices. Also, the apps need to have intuitive interfaces that are simple to navigate.
- Good value. All the parental control apps on this list allow you to monitor multiple devices at the same time (Qustodio monitors 5–15 devices and Norton Family monitors unlimited devices), have affordable plans, and most of them come with free plans, free trials, or money-back guarantees.
Are There Other Ways to Remotely Track Kids’ Phones?
Not really — the only other monitoring software you can use is a keylogger, but I strongly recommend against that. It can monitor your child’s key strokes and even take screenshots of your child’s screen, but this type of monitoring is extremely invasive. If your child finds out you’re using a keylogger on their device, it will seriously damage their trust in you.
I have also seen people talk about using spyware, but I recommend avoiding that type of tracking — it involves using malicious software, which could compromise your child’s privacy and the security of their device.
Overall, the safest way to monitor your kid’s phone is to use a top parental control app, like Qustodio or Norton Family — they’re less invasive than keyloggers, and much safer than spyware.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut
- Google Family Link. This parental control app is completely free to use and provides access to some tracking data, such as screen time and location data. But Google Family Link only tracks Android devices, it’s not user-friendly, and children can disable most monitoring and restrictions when they’re 13 years old.
- Apple’s Screen Time. This parental app is decent, but it has some noticeable drawbacks — it only monitors iOS devices, and it’s easy for kids to bypass some of its features, such as app monitoring or screen time limits.
- mSpy. Monitors iOS and Android devices and includes social media app message monitoring and email tracking — but I think this parental app is way too invasive, and it will only harm your relationship with your kids. Plus, you need to root or jailbreak your kid’s device to use most of its tracking features, which is difficult to do and can compromise the device’s security.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I track my kid’s phone without them knowing?
You can, as some parental apps provide features that prevent detection — for example, they hide the parental app’s icon and prevent the app from generating notifications on the child’s device.
But I strongly recommend avoiding this type of tracking — even if the parental app is hidden, your child will eventually realize you installed such software on their device. After all, they’ll have limited web and app access, and they might hear you talk about the sites they access (even though they didn’t tell you about them). And when this happens, it will seriously harm your relationship with them.
Should I talk with my child about tracking their phone?
Yes, I strongly believe it’s much better to be open with your kids about using parental control apps on their devices to monitor their web and app usage. Explain why you think this is important, how it helps keep them safe, and how it lets you know they’re safe. If you try to track your child’s device without their knowledge, it will seriously damage your relationship with them and their trust in you if they find out.
What is the best parental control app for remotely monitoring kids’ phones?
Qustodio is the best parental app for remotely monitoring children’s phones in 2023 — it lets you see which sites your kids access, what words they use in Google searches, which apps they use the most, what they watch and search for on YouTube’s site and app, who they exchange phone calls and text messages with, and their real-time location.
Is it legal to remotely track your child’s phone?
Yes, it’s legal to do this in most countries, as long as you use legitimate software (like parental control apps) and only try to monitor your kids’ devices, which you legally own. However, once your kids reach the legal age in your country and buy their own phones, you can’t legally use a parental app to remotely track their devices without their consent.
Since each country has different laws, I strongly recommend you research your local laws to make sure it’s perfectly legal to remotely track your child’s phone with a parental app. You should also check if there are any limitations to what you can monitor.
Can I remotely track my kid’s phone for free?
There are free tracking tools out there, but I don’t recommend using them because they’re pretty risky — after all, you give them tons of permissions that allow them to access your child’s personal data, which they might share with advertisers for a profit.
If you really need to use a free tracking tool, I recommend trying Qustodio’s free plan, which is the best free plan on the market and is pretty good for basic remote tracking because it comes with web and screen time monitoring. But I still ultimately recommend upgrading to one of the provider’s paid plans to get access to even more tracking features, such as app usage monitoring, YouTube (site and app) tracking, and phone call and text message monitoring.
Can I remotely turn off my child’s phone at night?
Yes, but only if you use a parental control app, which allows you to remotely track and control your kid’s device. Most top parental apps provide access to time limits and scheduling features, which allow you to choose when your kids can and can’t use their devices — during bedtime, for example.
If you don’t know which parental app to pick, I recommend Qustodio — it lets you set screen time allowances for each day in increments of 15 minutes, and it also allows you to restrict device usage during specific times of the day and week. In addition, it also provides excellent web and app tracking, accurate real-time location tracking, phone call and text message monitoring, and more.