After my son’s Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 got infected by ransomware, I realized that the parental control apps I had been using were not offering enough protection. I ultimately needed to find an antivirus solution that could provide powerful malware protection alongside strong parental controls.
During the last few months, I downloaded and tested 17 different antivirus programs with included parental controls to make sure each program’s malware and child protections could provide my family with the features we all need to stay safe, both online and offline.
The bad news? The vast majority of antivirus programs come with parental controls that are just low-budget add-ons and don’t offer anything beyond basic levels of protection. But the good news is that I found 3 antivirus programs with valuable parental control features that help me protect my kids from the dangers of the digital world.
Since I have a grade schooler and a teenager, they both require different security features — not only for protection against hackers, but also for responsible device usage. The apps on my list all offer browsing restrictions, usage monitoring, app controls, location sharing, and remote access, so I can have peace of mind while my family’s online.
Short on time? Here are my favorite antivirus programs with parental controls in 2020:
- 1. Norton 360 Deluxe — #1 antivirus suite with parental controls to manage device usage, filter content, and track location.
- 2. Kaspersky Total Security — Powerful malware protection, includes geo-fencing and strong YouTube controls.
- 3. Bitdefender Total Security — Cloud-based active scanning, geo-fencing, and advanced monitoring.
- How I selected the top antivirus programs with parental controls.
- Top brands that didn’t make the cut.
- FAQs about antivirus software and parental controls.
1. Norton 360 Deluxe — Best Antivirus Software with Parental Controls in 2020
Norton 360 Deluxe is my favorite program for keeping my kids and their devices safe. It offers 100% malware protection along with the excellent Parental Control feature, which I prefer over all the other standalone parental control apps I’ve tried.
Norton’s Parental Control feature has:
- Time supervision. Set daily time limits on device usage or schedule device use so kids aren’t texting at school or browsing the internet after bedtime.
- Video supervision. Log YouTube usage and thumbnails so you can be sure your kid isn’t watching inappropriate content.
- App, searching, and website supervision. Select which content your child can access and get notifications when they look for specific keywords.
- Location. Track your child’s device location as far back as 30 days.
- Social. Keep an eye on your kid’s Facebook page (Windows only).
All of these features are contained in one intuitive dashboard — I had no problem checking notifications and adjusting settings for my children’s devices. A lot of less tech-savvy parents will appreciate the 4 built-in age templates. These automatically adjust all the permissions and settings for different developmental stages, so you don’t have to go digging through settings menus.
But I wanted to see what the program could do, so I decided to make a custom template. I believe that trusting my children’s autonomy is the best way to teach them to be a good digital citizen. While I put content blocks on hateful, violent, and pornographic content, I set Norton to simply notify me about other potentially risky internet activity.
For me, restricting device usage is one of the most important parental controls. I have a 1 hour usage limit on weekdays, 3 hours on Saturdays, and a firm no-device rule on Sundays. Setting up this schedule with Norton was quick and easy.
Norton’s location tracker is also pretty good. I had no problem keeping track of my grade schooler’s location through her tablet, and it gave me peace of mind knowing that in an emergency I could check the tablet’s location as far back as 30 days.
One of my favorite features of Norton is Smart Talk — it’s a detailed template for setting up parental controls with your kids. After walking through Smart Talk, my children better understood why parental controls mattered, and we all created a detailed plan for their device usage. Smart Talk worked wonders — my children have begun working together with me to be responsible tech users instead of fighting all of my rules!
Norton 360 Deluxe is my favorite antivirus suite for malware detection and online security (full Norton 360 review is here) — and the parental controls included in the bundle are the best on the market. The intuitive dashboard makes it simple to juggle settings and notifications for multiple kids on as many as 5 devices. If you need to keep your system safe from malware and keep your kids safe online, Norton 360 Deluxe is the best there is.
2. Kaspersky Total Security — Best for YouTube Monitoring + Geo-Fencing
I was really impressed by the depth of Kaspersky’s Safe Kids feature, but I’m not surprised since Kaspersky Total Security is a powerful antivirus with millions of users around the world. Kaspersky’s malware protections are some of the best in the industry, so it makes sense that Safe Kids is also really good.
Here are some of my favorite features:
- Monitor, schedule, and block usage. Safe Kids makes it easy to track and limit usage for entire devices as well as certain apps. I set a daily time limit on my teenage son’s social media apps, as well as scheduling my daughter’s tablet so she can’t use it after bedtime. I also blocked apps like Snapchat and TikTok on my daughter’s tablet — there’s no way to filter the content there, so blocking these apps is the best way to keep her safe.
- Location tracking. The Child Locator feature provides real-time GPS location updates as well as a helpful geo-fencing feature — I use it to make sure my son isn’t cutting class and to put a perimeter around my daughter’s elementary school. If they leave their designated areas, I’ll get an alert.
- YouTube controls. Safe Kids prohibits certain searches either with a pre-set, age-specific template or with a custom template you can create to fit your kids’ needs. Safe Kids also tracks viewing history — this feature is a little better than Norton’s YouTube controls because Kaspersky works both on the YouTube website and on Android’s YouTube app.
While these three features are all I need, I also found the battery life notifications to be extremely useful — I appreciate knowing that when my teenager’s phone is low on batteries, I can get in touch with him and make plans before his phone dies.
And while there is a Facebook monitoring feature, it only allowed me to access my teenager’s public Facebook posts (and he barely touches his Facebook). It didn’t give me access to messages or even private groups. And since most inappropriate behavior happens on apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, Kaspersky can’t offer a lot of help with monitoring social media content.
Kaspersky Total Security is a powerful antivirus suite with the best geo-fencing and YouTube controls on the market. Safe Kids Premium comes bundled for free with Kaspersky Total Security, and it’s got everything I need to keep my kids safe. The location controls are some of the best around — not only could I see where my children were, but I could also set notifications if they went outside of a specified area. Monitoring, limiting, and blocking certain apps was simple, and the YouTube controls even work inside the YouTube app for Android devices. Kaspersky offers a 30-day free trial on their Total Security plan (antivirus review here), so you can try it out and see if it works for you.
3. Bitdefender Total Security — Powerful Antivirus Engine with Good Value Parental Controls
Bitdefender’s Parental Control feature comes bundled with Bitdefender’s Total Security package — which comes with one of the best and most powerful antivirus scanners on the market, scoring a perfect score in my malware tests. This package comes with 5 devices across all operating systems, whereas the Internet Security package (which also includes the Parental Control feature) only works on Windows.
While Bitdefender is a bit cheaper than Kaspersky and Norton, it’s a lot less intuitive to use. That said, it still has all the essential parental control features:
- Safe browsing. Limit websites from a categorized list or set up your own custom template.
- App monitoring. Block the download of certain apps and monitor app usage time.
- Screen time limits. Lock devices when a specified time limit is reached.
- Location tracking and geo-fencing. Track location and get an alert if the geo-fencing is breached.
There’s also a call management feature that prevents specific numbers or anonymous calls, but it’s only available for iOS.
If you are not tech-savvy, this is probably not the app for you. I spent a long time just getting the basic content filters set up. With lots of trial and error, I finally got it running smoothly on both my daughter’s tablet and my son’s phone. I’m a tech guy, so it wasn’t extremely difficult for me to figure out, but I’ve seen a lot of reports around the web from users getting locked out of their phones and being unable to reconfigure the settings.
Bitdefender Total Security is one of the best antivirus packages on the market, and it’s got some really solid parental controls (full Bitdefender review here). It has all the essentials — limiting internet usage, blocking dangerous apps and websites, setting screen time limits, as well as tracking and geo-fencing. But the settings are a bit of a challenge to configure, so I would only recommend it for experienced computer users.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut:
- Panda Dome. Panda’s cloud-based malware engine is an effective antivirus scanner, and their affordable software comes loaded with features. The parental controls are pretty minimal, however — it was easy to block access to certain websites and receive notifications when my kids tried to access them. But there’s no location tracking, usage limits, or app controls.
- McAfee Total Protection Family. McAfee offers this upgrade to their Total Security package for a reasonable price, and it’s got a lot of the best parental control functions — location tracking, web and app usage limits, and geo-fencing. However, it’s not supported on Mac computers, and it slowed down my son’s Android tablet significantly.
- Avast Family Space. We no longer recommend any Avast product on this website due to allegations of selling user data. For more information about the allegations and our decision, go here.
How I Tested These Antivirus Programs and Their Parental Controls:
- Malware protection. Parental controls are nothing without an antivirus engine that can keep hackers from invading my family’s devices. I tested each program’s anti-malware engine to ensure that they could catch 100% of security threats.
- Parental controls. Content blockers are notoriously picky, either flagging innocent content or letting kids access dangerous parts of the web. Location trackers and geo-fencing features are great in theory, but it’s important that they are accurate and responsive. All of the parental controls here will offer peace of mind without driving you crazy with false notifications.
- Ease of use. I’m a tech guy, but a lot of parents are not computer experts. My list only contains products that have helpful user interfaces to ensure even the most sophisticated controls are easy to access.
- Value. Lots of companies offer standalone parental control apps, but they lack the basic cybersecurity protections that antivirus packages provide. The programs on my list bundle top-quality antivirus features with all of the best parental controls at a competitive price. You’re much better off picking up any one of these packages than buying both a standalone antivirus and a standalone parental control app.
Frequently Asked Questions About Antivirus Programs + Parental Controls
Do I really need to use parental controls?
Yes, you really do. There are all kinds of dangers hiding on the internet.
- Online predators can deceive children and get personal details and images.
- Scammers can trick kids into giving away sensitive social security and financial data.
- Media websites can embed malware in files that are aimed at children.
There are also numerous reports of children experiencing trauma after being exposed to violent, hateful, and graphic content on the internet.
Furthermore, studies have shown that children and teens are particularly susceptible to the harmful consequences of screen addiction. From mood disorders to developmental delays, there’s a ton of data that kids need limits on screen time.
All the programs on this list help protect kids against these threats.
Whether you’re trying to keep your child and your devices safe from predatory users, or you’re just trying to safeguard your child’s mental health against the consequences of screen use, parental controls are a necessity.
What is the most effective parental control for my family?
You are the most effective tool for protecting your family online. The fact of the matter is, no parental control app can completely protect our kids. Even if you block every potentially inappropriate app, read your child’s every text message, block every streaming site, and ban every sensitive word from your child’s search engine, kids will find a way to break the rules.
Many studies have suggested that honest, age-appropriate conversations are the best way to keep your kids and your devices safe online. That’s why Norton’s parental controls come with a Smart Talk template to help parents and kids come together to set smart limits for their children’s device usage.
Despite our best efforts, our kids are going to encounter the dangerous and disturbing parts of the internet some day. The tools on this list can help you keep track of your child’s browsing and search history, limit access to risky apps, and limit screen usage. But ultimately, it’s up to us as parents to help our kids navigate the digital world.
Can my kids deactivate their parental controls?
Sometimes, yes. There are different levels of control with different parental control apps — some of them can’t be changed without a password, while others send the parent’s device a notification if any changes are made.
Some applications, like Norton’s Parental Control, can even keep children from browsing to prohibited sites while Chrome is in Incognito mode.
Unfortunately, however, many apps like WhatsApp and Signal offer encrypted messaging, so there’s no way to track what our kids are doing there. That said, all the programs on this list include app blocking features, so you don’t have to worry about your children secretly downloading encrypted messaging apps.
What’s the benefit of using an antivirus with parental controls?
Standalone parental control apps are great, but they don’t protect against malware.
When I first started using a free parental control app, my only thought was keeping my kids safe from predators and making sure they weren’t using their devices too much. But after my son’s device got infected, I realized that malware and phishing sites are also targeting our kids. Children are at a very high risk of accidentally compromising their devices, and if that happens, your whole network could become infected with malware.
Bundling parental controls with antivirus software makes sense because it puts all cybersecurity protections into one place.
While there are some really powerful and comprehensive parental control apps on the market, if you want to keep both your kids and your kids’ devices safe, you’ll need an antivirus. The products on this list are some of the best antivirus programs around, and their included parental controls are better than many standalone apps.