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Best apps to put on your kid’s phone: Content monitors and screen-time limits

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Fabio Principe / EyeEm/ Getty Images

So you bought your kid their first phone. Now what? Simply handing over the device — especially if you bought them one that uses Wi-Fi or has apps — might make you nervous. But it’s likely you’ll have to think about these things: Odds are, you didn’t get your 16-year-old a Nokia 3310

“A lot of parents will try to avoid full-featured phones so that their kids don’t end up spending hours on them, but that’s tougher as the kid gets older,” said James Banta, home security and safety expert for home security consumer advocacy firm SecurityNerd.com. “Parental control options are a must for a kid’s phone.”

Here are a few parental control apps we think are a good idea to consider putting on your child’s phone:

Net Nanny

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Net Nanny/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Net Nanny is an app that uses AI to block questionable or dangerous content before your child sees it. The app can filter certain websites and monitors your child’s digital activity, and can also monitor and limit screen time. The software’s Family Feed feature can report what your child is searching online and what apps your child uses and can alert you to content such as pornography, weapons and drugs. Net Nanny is compatible with Android and iOS, as well as Windows, Mac and Fire. The software costs $55 per year to cover PC, Mac and mobile.

Read more: 7 parental controls you can use right now on your kid’s iPhone

Bark

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Bark/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Bark is another option for parents who want to keep kids safe online. The app monitors texts and emails, along with YouTube and over two dozen social media networks for questionable content your child might be searching or viewing. Bark sends parents alerts if it detects signs of cyberbullying, depression, online predators, adult content and more. You can also decide which platforms you want to monitor, if you want to give your child some privacy. Bark costs $9 per month per family and works on iOS and Android.

Goya-Move

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Goya-Move/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Goya-Move is an app that focuses more on monitoring a child’s physical activity than their online activity, to keep them from being glued to their phone all day. Goya-Move lets parents lock certain apps until their child meets a certain step count or completes a chore list. Parents can also set a “blackout” time for homework, family time or bedtime. The app costs $1.99 per month for your first child and $1 a month for each additional child. 

Google Family Link

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Google/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Google Family Link lets you create a Google account for your child (if they’re under 13 years old) with access to most Google services, including Gmail and Photos. If your child is over 13, they have to consent to using Google Family Link. The app lets parents keep track of their kid’s Google account and guide them to age-appropriate content. Parents can also approve or deny which apps their kids want to download. Family Link shows parents apps that teachers recommend, which parents can add directly to the child’s phone. The service includes other parental controls such as screentime limits, locking the phone for family time and location tracking.

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