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Parental control software

Get complete peace of mind while your children surf the web. Parental control software blocks unsafe websites, masks obscene language, monitors email and instant message conversations and controls access to mobile devices and computer games.

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What to look for

FAQs

Jargon explained

Parental control software comparison chart for 2022

Rank 1 2 3 4 5
Net Nanny
McAfee Safe Family
WebWatcher
Cybersitter
Spytech SentryPC
Excellent
Five stars means excellent
Very good
Four stars means very good
Good
Three stars means good
Average
Two stars means average /
Poor
One star means poor
Net Nanny has been awarded best buy Product image of net nanny Product image of mcafee safe family Product image of webwatcher Product image of cybersitter Product image of spytech sentrypc
 
 
Ratings
Overall
net nanny has a rating of five  overall mcafee safe family has a rating of four  overall webwatcher has a rating of four  overall cybersitter has a rating of four  overall spytech sentrypc has a rating of three  overall
Setup
net nanny has a rating of five for setup mcafee safe family has a rating of four for setup webwatcher has a rating of four for setup cybersitter has a rating of four for setup spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for setup
Filtering & blocking
net nanny has a rating of five for filtering & blocking mcafee safe family has a rating of four for filtering & blocking webwatcher has a rating of four for filtering & blocking cybersitter has a rating of four for filtering & blocking spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for filtering & blocking
Effectiveness
net nanny has a rating of five for effectiveness mcafee safe family has a rating of four for effectiveness webwatcher has a rating of four for effectiveness cybersitter has a rating of five for effectiveness spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for effectiveness
Time controls
net nanny has a rating of five for time controls mcafee safe family has a rating of four for time controls webwatcher has a rating of four for time controls cybersitter has a rating of four for time controls spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for time controls
Administration
net nanny has a rating of five for administration mcafee safe family has a rating of four for administration webwatcher has a rating of four for administration cybersitter has a rating of four for administration spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for administration
Reporting
net nanny has a rating of five for reporting mcafee safe family has a rating of four for reporting webwatcher has a rating of three for reporting cybersitter has a rating of five for reporting spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for reporting
Ease of use
net nanny has a rating of five for ease of use mcafee safe family has a rating of four for ease of use webwatcher has a rating of four for ease of use cybersitter has a rating of four for ease of use spytech sentrypc has a rating of four for ease of use
Help & support
net nanny has a rating of five for help & support mcafee safe family has a rating of five for help & support webwatcher has a rating of three for help & support cybersitter has a rating of four for help & support spytech sentrypc has a rating of three for help & support
Filters & blocks
Websites
net nanny filters websites mcafee safe family filters websites webwatcher filters websites cybersitter filters websites spytech sentrypc filters websites
IM & chat
net nanny filters im & chat mcafee safe family filters im & chat webwatcher filters im & chat cybersitter filters im & chat spytech sentrypc filters im & chat
Social networks
net nanny filters social networks mcafee safe family filters social networks webwatcher filters social networks cybersitter filters social networks spytech sentrypc filters social networks
Games
net nanny filters games mcafee safe family filters games webwatcher filters games cybersitter filters games spytech sentrypc filters games
Peer-to-peer (P2P)
net nanny filters peer-to-peer (p2p) mcafee safe family filters peer-to-peer (p2p) webwatcher does not filter peer-to-peer (p2p) cybersitter filters peer-to-peer (p2p) spytech sentrypc does not filter peer-to-peer (p2p)
Email
net nanny filters email mcafee safe family does not filter email webwatcher filters email cybersitter filters email spytech sentrypc filters email
Chatrooms
net nanny filters chatrooms mcafee safe family filters chatrooms webwatcher filters chatrooms cybersitter filters chatrooms spytech sentrypc filters chatrooms
Blogs
net nanny filters blogs mcafee safe family filters blogs webwatcher filters blogs cybersitter filters blogs spytech sentrypc filters blogs
Forums
net nanny filters forums mcafee safe family filters forums webwatcher filters forums cybersitter filters forums spytech sentrypc filters forums
Search engines
net nanny filters search engines mcafee safe family filters search engines webwatcher filters search engines cybersitter filters search engines spytech sentrypc filters search engines
Filter methods
Keyword
net nanny filters by keyword mcafee safe family does not filter by keyword webwatcher does not filter by keyword cybersitter filters by keyword spytech sentrypc does not filter by keyword
URL
net nanny filters by url mcafee safe family filters by url webwatcher does not filter by url cybersitter filters by url spytech sentrypc does not filter by url
Category
net nanny filters by category mcafee safe family filters by category webwatcher does not filter by category cybersitter filters by category spytech sentrypc does not filter by category
Admin settings
Password settings
net nanny includes password settings mcafee safe family does not include password settings webwatcher does not include password settings cybersitter includes password settings spytech sentrypc does not include password settings
Settings for users
net nanny does not include settings for users mcafee safe family includes settings for users webwatcher includes settings for users cybersitter does not include settings for users spytech sentrypc includes settings for users
Pre-defined users
net nanny includes pre-defined users mcafee safe family does not include pre-defined users webwatcher includes pre-defined users cybersitter includes pre-defined users spytech sentrypc includes pre-defined users
Block overide
net nanny includes block overide mcafee safe family includes block overide webwatcher includes block overide cybersitter includes block overide spytech sentrypc includes block overide
Uninstall overide
net nanny includes uninstall overide mcafee safe family includes uninstall overide webwatcher includes uninstall overide cybersitter includes uninstall overide spytech sentrypc includes uninstall overide
Warnings
net nanny includes warnings mcafee safe family includes warnings webwatcher includes warnings cybersitter includes warnings spytech sentrypc includes warnings
Access settings
Time limits
net nanny includes time limits mcafee safe family includes time limits webwatcher includes time limits cybersitter includes time limits spytech sentrypc includes time limits
Time remaining
net nanny does not include time remaining mcafee safe family does not include time remaining webwatcher includes time remaining cybersitter includes time remaining spytech sentrypc does not include time remaining
Time alerts
net nanny includes time alerts mcafee safe family does not include time alerts webwatcher includes time alerts cybersitter does not include time alerts spytech sentrypc does not include time alerts
Session limits
net nanny does not include session limits mcafee safe family does not include session limits webwatcher does not include session limits cybersitter includes session limits spytech sentrypc does not include session limits
Reporting & monitoring
Email alerts
net nanny includes email alerts mcafee safe family includes email alerts webwatcher does not include email alerts cybersitter includes email alerts spytech sentrypc does not include email alerts
Text alerts
net nanny includes text alerts mcafee safe family includes text alerts webwatcher includes text alerts cybersitter includes text alerts spytech sentrypc includes text alerts
Online reports
net nanny includes online reports mcafee safe family does not include online reports webwatcher includes online reports cybersitter includes online reports spytech sentrypc includes online reports
Email reports
net nanny includes email reports mcafee safe family does not include email reports webwatcher includes email reports cybersitter includes email reports spytech sentrypc does not include email reports
Remote management
net nanny includes remote management mcafee safe family includes remote management webwatcher includes remote management cybersitter includes remote management spytech sentrypc does not include remote management
Remote monitoring
net nanny includes remote monitoring mcafee safe family includes remote monitoring webwatcher includes remote monitoring cybersitter includes remote monitoring spytech sentrypc includes remote monitoring
Features
Automated screenshot capture
net nanny includes automated screenshot capture mcafee safe family includes automated screenshot capture webwatcher includes automated screenshot capture cybersitter includes automated screenshot capture spytech sentrypc does not include automated screenshot capture
Proxy server proof
net nanny includes proxy server proof mcafee safe family includes proxy server proof webwatcher does not include proxy server proof cybersitter includes proxy server proof spytech sentrypc includes proxy server proof
Browsers
Internet Explorer
net nanny supports internet explorer mcafee safe family supports internet explorer webwatcher supports internet explorer cybersitter supports internet explorer spytech sentrypc supports internet explorer
Firefox
net nanny supports firefox mcafee safe family supports firefox webwatcher supports firefox cybersitter supports firefox spytech sentrypc supports firefox
Safari
net nanny supports safari mcafee safe family supports safari webwatcher supports safari cybersitter supports safari spytech sentrypc supports safari
Chrome
net nanny supports chrome mcafee safe family does not support chrome webwatcher supports chrome cybersitter supports chrome spytech sentrypc supports chrome
Opera
net nanny supports opera mcafee safe family supports opera webwatcher supports opera cybersitter supports opera spytech sentrypc does not support opera
Help & support
Telephone support
net nanny offers telephone support mcafee safe family offers telephone support webwatcher does not offer telephone support cybersitter offers telephone support spytech sentrypc offers telephone support
Email support
net nanny offers email support mcafee safe family offers email support webwatcher offers email support cybersitter offers email support spytech sentrypc offers email support
Live chat
net nanny does not offer live chat mcafee safe family does not offer live chat webwatcher offers live chat cybersitter offers live chat spytech sentrypc does not offer live chat
Help files
net nanny offers help files mcafee safe family offers help files webwatcher does not offer help files cybersitter offers help files spytech sentrypc offers help files
Tutorials
net nanny offers tutorials mcafee safe family offers tutorials webwatcher offers tutorials cybersitter offers tutorials spytech sentrypc offers tutorials
FAQs
net nanny offers faqs mcafee safe family offers faqs webwatcher offers faqs cybersitter offers faqs spytech sentrypc offers faqs
Operating systems
Windows 11
net nanny is compatible with windows 11 mcafee safe family is compatible with windows 11 webwatcher is compatible with windows 11 cybersitter is compatible with windows 11 spytech sentrypc is compatible with windows 11
Windows 10
net nanny  windows 10 mcafee safe family  windows 10 webwatcher  windows 10 cybersitter  windows 10 spytech sentrypc  windows 10
Windows 8
net nanny  windows 8 mcafee safe family  windows 8 webwatcher  windows 8 cybersitter  windows 8 spytech sentrypc  windows 8
Windows 7
net nanny is compatible with windows 7 mcafee safe family is compatible with windows 7 webwatcher is compatible with windows 7 cybersitter is compatible with windows 7 spytech sentrypc is compatible with windows 7
Windows Vista
net nanny is compatible with windows vista mcafee safe family is compatible with windows vista webwatcher is compatible with windows vista cybersitter is compatible with windows vista spytech sentrypc is compatible with windows vista
Mac OS X
net nanny is compatible with mac os x mcafee safe family is compatible with mac os x webwatcher is compatible with mac os x cybersitter is compatible with mac os x spytech sentrypc is compatible with mac os x

Parental control software explained

The web is an integral part of our lives. But while the web brings a world of potential straight into our living rooms, the web also carries risks. The challenge of keeping children safe online grows harder by the day. Parents want a simple way to protect their children, without having to constantly watch over their shoulder.

Why is parental control software important?

Parental control software gives parents full control over their children’s access to computers. From setting time limits for computer access, blocking unsafe content, monitoring emails and instant messages (IM) or preventing kids from having undesirable conversations – parental control software allows children to explore the web in complete safety.

What does parental control software do?

Every parental control program offers different features and different levels of control over what your kids can see and do online. You can expect a few standard features, such as web content filtering and blocking of unsafe websites, to be offered by all programs. You may want a simple filter that detects obscene content online, or you may prefer the ability to monitor every button your child presses on the keyboard, every email they send or receive and every instant message that goes between them and their friends.

How does parental control software work?

Parental control software gives you choices about what your children can access using your home computers and mobile devices (like cell phones, iPods and iPads). Many programs offer pre-defined profiles for different age ranges. If you have children of different ages, you’ll want the ability to define different access levels for your children. Your children may attempt to work around the parental control software, so a key consideration when choosing your program is how difficult the program is to turn off or evade.


What to look for in parental control software

Filtering and blocking

Parental control programs can block access to websites that are unsuitable for children, so you can let them roam the web in relative safety. Programs can also filter out and mask obscenities – so your children can view entire web pages without seeing the profanity.

Time controls

Decide how long your children spend online and what times are acceptable for them to use the web. Ideal if you worry about your children spending too much time online or about them being online when you’re out or asleep.

Reports and alerts

Choose software that gives you regular reports of your children’s online activity, or set alerts to be notified whenever your children try to access unsuitable websites or use worrying language in their emails or instant messages with friends.

Total protection for cell phones, games and music

Just as you think you’ve protected your children online, you realize they’re accessing the web from their cell phones. Also, it’s worth remembering that kids are crafty and can easily get into trouble when they’re offline, or sending emails, or playing games, or downloading music. Parental control software can cover cell phones, emails and offline activities, but not all programs offer advanced features like iTunes download monitoring or age-restricted PC game blocking.

Child-proof parental controls

Clever, computer-literate children may notice that parental control software is being used, and they may try to turn it off, or work around it. One popular method of getting beyond the reach of parental controls is the use of proxy websites. Proxy websites are designed to obscure the identity of people online, and can undo the work of parental control software. So if your children are a bit older or slightly more determined you should choose software that can’t be evaded with proxies. Most parental control software is designed to be unobtrusive and to go unnoticed by your children. Invisible parental control software is desirable because children are less likely to tamper with something if they don’t know it’s there.

Ease of use

As much as you want to protect your kids, you don’t want to spend all day monitoring your kids online. Most programs are designed to take over and let you relax while your kids can explore the web, but for greatest ease of use look for parental control programs that allow you to create alerts – so you get an email as soon as your kids go astray. Or choose a program that generates automatic reports of children’s activity online.

Software licenses

Many parental control programs are sold for a one-time fee, but others are sold on a monthly or annual subscription basis. Check before you buy and make sure you understand what you’re buying before you click.

Help and support

You can typically find fast answers to your questions online, but many parental control vendors offer support by email too. Parental control software is designed to be easy to use and easy to set up – often giving you pre-defined settings that you can then adjust to suit your own children – so you may need very little help and support.


FAQs

Q. What is parental control software?

A. Parental control software prevents children from accessing unsafe material online, or seeing obscene language, or from having unacceptable conversations via email or instant messaging services. Parental control software is designed to let children explore the web safely, without the need for constant parental supervision.

Q. Does parental control software monitor websites like Facebook and Bebo?

A. Yes. Parental control software can monitor children’s activity on all kinds of social websites, including Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. Software can alert you when your children receive inappropriate messages and it can mask rude language on-screen, preventing children from seeing anything undesirable.

Q. Can I prevent my child from seeing obscene language online?

A. Yes. Choose a parental control program that includes language filters so you can prevent your children from seeing foul language. The program will then mask any words that you choose to block.

Q. Can I prevent my child from uploading pictures?

A. Yes. Parental control programs can prevent your child from uploading pictures – perfect if you have concerns about your child receiving unwanted attention from strangers online.

Q. Can I monitor the conversations my child is having?

A. Yes. The degree of control ranges from programs that monitor emails and instant messages (IM) to programs that monitor every keystroke typed on the keyboard.

Q. Can I prevent my child from commenting on forums and blogs?

A. Yes. Children can easily forget that everything that happens online is public and open to all. Look for a parental control program that prevents your child from leaving potentially-damaging messages on forums and blogs.

Q. Can my child work around the parental control software?

A. Most parental control programs are hidden from view. So they protect your children without their knowledge. However, children may realize that some websites are beyond their reach and they may use a proxy website to get around your controls. If your children are older or wiser then choose parental control software that can’t be bypassed with proxy websites.

Q. Can I prevent my child from playing violent or obscene games?

A. Parental control software can even block access to age restricted computer games. These filters depend on the game being officially rated and certified by an organization such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

Q. Can I see what emails my children are receiving?

A. Parental control programs can help you monitor all of your children’s communications – including emails, instant messages (IM) and posts on social networks like Facebook.

Q. Can I control what my kids do on their cell phones?

A. Yes. Cell phone web browsing is increasingly popular and allows children to explore the web wherever they are. Get comprehensive protection with parental control software that monitors cell phone activity.

Q. Can I control what my kids see via search engines?

A. Even an innocent search may deliver obscene search results, particularly when searching for images. Choose parental control software that prevents your children from turning off the safe search options.


Jargon explained

Alerts

Recieve an email whenever your kids attempt to view blocked websites or engage in unsafe behavior.

IM (instant messaging)

Applications like Gmail, Facebook, MySpace and Jabber let people send fast messages back and forth – or chat. Parental control software can monitor these conversations and help you spot damaging behavior early.

Masking

Software can hide (or mask) rude words, so your children can still view and use the website, without being bombarded by obscene language.

Key-logging

If you want to see everything your children type, choose a program that includes a key-logger.

Proxy

Proxy is a website that people use to hide their identity online. Proxies can sometimes be used to sneak around parental controls. So you may prefer a program that cannot be avoided with a proxy website.

Remote access

Software that you can access remotely, from other computers – such as your work computer or from a laptop from when you’re away from home.

Screenshots

A screenshot is a picture of a computer screen. Parental control software can take pictures of the screen - so you can see exactly what your children can see.

Search integration

Choose parental control software with search integration to prevent your children from discovering pornography or obscenities when they use search engines.


Related help & advice

Protecting yourself online

Information

Advice

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