How to Choose The Best Parental Control Software
Good antivirus software will do a lot more than just protect your computer from things like viruses and spyware. In fact, additional features such as parental control can sometimes be even more important for your day-to-day computer usage than anything else. If you have children using your computer or other internet-capable devices, this feature is non-negotiable. Parental controls help you supervise what your children can and cannot do on the computer, and more specifically, while on the internet, so you can protect them from the growing risks online.
Today, you’ll find children as young as two years old completely fluent in computer usage and internet activity. While this era has heralded in a new age of learning, discovery, and development the likes of which we’ve never seen before, it’s our job as caring parents to make sure that our children are navigating this explorative tool safely. One of the best ways to ensure your kids are surfing safely is to utilize the smart parental control features that come with many of the more popular antivirus software packages.
Not convinced that the internet poses a real threat for your kids? Keep reading, and you’ll soon change your mind. Once you do, we’ve summed up a few of the best names in the antivirus industry so you can get the most for your money, keeping your kids safe and protected whenever they’re on the computer. Take a look below, or view our top picks to compare the best antivirus software.
The Threat is Real: The Need for Parental Controls
The internet is a vast portal of information, activities, and exciting opportunities for learning and skill development. It can be an excellent resource for children, providing easy access to endless information, usually for free. What’s more, there are also plenty of fun and entertaining games, projects, and activities for kids to do online, and in many modern day households, people have even replaced their traditional TV service for the cheaper and more convenient online video streaming options.
Yes, the internet is a wonderful tool when utilized properly, but attentive parents are also keenly aware of the fact that there are many dangers lying in wait for children who go online unsupervised. While almost ¾ of parents surveyed said they don’t supervise their kids’ internet usage after the age of 14, a frightening 72% of internet-related child abductions involve kids who are 15 and older. That is a clear indication that most parents are letting their kids use the web unsupervised before they are ready. Some of the risks your child faces each time they surf the web will include:
- Sexually explicit content
- Content that is unsuitable for children
- Online bullying
- Unsavory characters who may try to befriend them in chat rooms
- Downloadable viruses or spyware while using peer-to-peer file sharing networks
- Downloadable pirated materials that are illegal and often conceal pornography
- People who will try to trick them into divulging personal information or lure them into a private meeting
Any of these risks is enough to make a parent’s hair stand on end, but the question remains - what are we doing to safeguard our children from these daily assaults? Antivirus software parental controls is a proven and reliable method for keeping predators, hackers, and other attackers at bay, and parents need to implement these tools in order to keep internet usage safe for themselves and their children.
Top Antivirus Software Parental Control Features
Parental controls can be purchased separately, but with so many reliable antivirus software programs offering a whole suite of these tools within their repertoire of features, the added expense is unnecessary. After all, when you buy a quality antivirus, you get parental controls along with the all-important antivirus.
The package deal is certainly enticing. While the parental control features that are frequently offered within antivirus software will vary from company to company, most will allow parents to customize the exact restrictions they want for their child, blocking any internet websites that contain the type of content you do not wish your child to see.
Some of the most relevant features include:
Control which sites your kids can visit using programs that won’t grant access to high-risk websites without a password. You can usually filter these websites based on your child’s age as well as the content of the sites themselves.
You can also limit the amount of time that your child spends online each day, by setting time limits through the parental controls or by blocking access to the internet at certain times during the day (for example, when you are asleep or not home to supervise). This can also include history logs so you can check where your child has been surfing.
Social media and content monitoring
The software can monitor social networks such as Facebook for potential risk behaviors like chats containing flagged words, personal information, or inappropriate content, which brings us to…
Filtering and blocking
Probably the most important feature of all, parents can filter websites based on keywords, content type, website type, and more, to keep kids off of websites that pose a threat to their safety. In addition to blocking categories like social media sites or chat groups, parents can flag specific key phrases such as "let's meet up" or "how old are you." This way, if anything like that comes up in a chat window, you’ll be notified immediately.
Restricted areas or files
You can also prevent your child from accessing certain programs or files on the computer. This is a useful tool if you have downloaded movies or other content that you do not wish your child to access. More importantly, it also means that any work documents you have on the computer will be kept safe from hackers who can make their way into your computer files via an unsuspecting child. Often, children will unwittingly download a virus or allow access to a hacker. From there, these criminals can steal anything off of your computer with ease. Restricted areas or privileges make it difficult for kids to grant such entrance to hackers, keeping your private information and files safe.
You may have your computer locked down solidly with the proper antivirus software and parental controls, but what about the rest of the devices your kids can access? Have you checked what your 10-year-old son is doing on his cellphone lately? Do you know which chat sites your daughter has been visiting with her tablet this week? Multi-device protection is of the utmost importance in today’s ever-connected society, and the best antivirus software will enable you to control multiple devices with one account. Bear in mind that some software only works for iOS or Android devices while others will accommodate both.
Additional Steps to Keep Your Children Safe Online
- In addition to using parental control features available with antivirus software, it is also recommended that parents:
- Keep the computer in a part of the house where it will be easy to monitor what children are up to.
- Sit your children down and discuss the potential dangers they may face online.
- Encourage kids to discuss their experiences and encounters while using the internet.
- Insist that your child speaks to you first before they download anything.
- Monitor their activity to see the types of websites they are visiting.
- Be clear with your children about your rules and expectations when using the internet.
- Encourage your child to let you know if they have experienced any upsetting or strange encounters while online. Open communication about these topics can significantly reduce the chances of more harmful or severe damage being done in the future.
How to Choose the Best Parental Control Software
Now that you understand the dangers, it’s time to arm yourself against these prevalent risks. Safeguarding your children and your computers is a simple matter when you know the right brands to turn to. Here are some of the best names in the industry with reputations for keeping kids and computers safe all the time:
Norton is one of the most highly-regarded brands in the antivirus industry. It has been safeguarding computers for more than 25 years, and its customer base continues to grow - so Norton is doing something right. In addition to having great customer support, competitive pricing, and a 60-day money back guarantee, one of the key features that Norton antivirus possesses to make it a strong contender for best parental controls software as well are:
- Customizable restrictions such as search, time, and website filters
- iOS and Android compatible
- Up to 10 devices
BullGuard is one of the smaller brands compared to bigger fish like McAfee and Norton, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. In fact, while BullGuard does lack some of the frills that bigger companies provide, what it does, it does really well! It’s known for having some of the lowest false alarm rates (an annoying inconvenience that more rigorous antivirus software is charged with frequently), and it is excellent with social media monitoring. Some of the best features include:
- Some of the highest detection rates in the industry
- SMS and call blocking for mobile devices
- Protected gaming modes
- Solid identity theft protection
Panda is another lesser-known company that offers a great antivirus product. Providing solid USB vaccinations, excellent malware protection, and firewalls, and real value for your money, Panda is an obvious choice for many parents because it also gives you:
- Tight URL restrictions
- Great mobile security option
- Safe Web sandbox of additional safety tools
Avira is a popular choice for many computer users because it runs so seamlessly in the background, you might never even know it was there (until you need it, of course). It’s also well-known for 24/7 customer support that’s manned by qualified technicians to help you troubleshoot any issues, better than average PC tests, and a whole trophy case of awards earned throughout the years. What’s more, parents can rest assured that their kids are surfing safely with Avira’s parental control features such as:
- Malicious URL blocking
- Avira’s SocialShield, a feature that keeps close tabs on kids while on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The system sends automatic notifications to a parent’s phone whenever one of the filter triggers are tripped (for example, cyberbullying terms, inappropriate content shared, or private information asked/given).
- iOS and Android functionality for mobile devices
McAfee is easily the biggest and most prominent figure in online security today. Its range of product offerings is tremendous, and, from home application to enterprise level security suites, McAfee seems to have something to fit every situation and security need. Not to be outshined by smaller brands, McAfee has some outstanding parental control features including:
- Multiple child accounts for varying settings and restrictions according to each child
- Easy time controls for internet access
- Comprehensive content filters and blocks according to content, website, or keyword type
Staying Protected at All Times
Parents need to take charge if they want to keep their kids safe in today’s technologically-driven times. Using an antivirus with parental controls packaged into the bundle is the easiest, smartest, and most economically sound way of doing this. These are 5 of the most reliable, trusted, and feature-rich antivirus software options parents have for keeping their kids safe while on the web. If you’d like to see more, check out our antivirus software reviews page for other brands that you can rely on as well.