Skip to main content

Cell Phone Parental Control Options

I have been researching and writing about consumer electronics for over 13 years.

To monitor or not to monitor?

To monitor or not to monitor?

The Question of Cell Phone Parental Control

For some, the idea of monitoring a kid's cell phone is wrong. It's too controlling. It's equivalent to spying, which flies in the face of trusting your kids. For some, it seems that cell phone parental control is a crutch for not taking the time to develop the relationship you need with your child and teaching them the skills they need to be safe.

For many others, however, the ability to monitor and perhaps restrict cell phone use is merely good parenting. It's the equivalent of checking attendance at school, the completion of homework, meeting your child's friends, and knowing their social schedule. Cell phones have taken much of a child's social interactions out of the reach and awareness of parents; parental controls and monitoring applications bring it back.

Almost 70% of 11-14 year-olds have their own phones

Almost 70% of 11-14 year-olds have their own phones

Why Would a Parent Want to Monitor or Control Cell Phone Use?

Some reports show that as many as 69% of kids between 11 and 14 have their own cell phones while over 30% between 8 and 10 do. The issue of using parental controls is, therefore, an issue for most parents to consider.

Certainly, any tools used have to suit an individual's parenting style. However, the argument for at least some degree of control is fairly compelling for most parents, at least until a certain level of responsibility and maturity has been demonstrated.

  • For some parents, just being able to place limits on text messaging is critical to stay within a budget. Younger and younger kids are using cell phones. Many of these kids don't yet have a good grasp on the economics of the situation.
  • With nearly all of the traditional cell phones having web browsers, many kids have unrestricted access to most of the content on the web.
  • In most instances, these phones also give kids a camera and the ability to send, receive, and post picture messages, even if they aren't appropriate.
  • Many phones also give kids access to buy things; apps and more with just a click.
  • Certainly, news stories have spelled out the lure and dangers of "sexting". Many kids don't fully understand the implications of sending out revealing pictures and can live to regret such errors in judgment. Any embarrassing or inappropriate text or picture messages are particularly harmful because they are so easily broadcast to large numbers of others so quickly.
  • Another frequent media topic cyberbullying. It's so easy for bullies to target a child when that communication is silent and hidden from adults.
  • Then, of course, there are the predators. They lurk, they know how to befriend children, and how to lure them when no adult is watching.
  • Finally, there is the issue of teens' phone use when beginning to drive. If the good decision-making and reliability aren't there yet, parents have reason to worry about the safety of their kids on the road.

There's no doubt that cell phone parental control software and downloads can't substitute for educating kids about cell phone etiquette and the risks. However, like any skill, it might be best to teach, monitor, correct, and only then turn kids loose.

Education Is the First and Most Important Safeguard

Regardless how one feels about the use of parental controls, the first thing a parent needs to do with young children is to assure they know how to use the phone safely and responsibly. Of course the same is true with the use of tablets and computers.

At a minimum, kids need to know:

  • Usage and spending limits. Most downloads cost and they need to be particularly wary of recurring payments.
  • If and when they should use WiFi.
  • If there are texting or calling limits, or times of day when their phone is not to be used.
  • Not to respond to unknown callers/numbers.
  • To avoid posting videos and photos of others without their permission.
  • That you should be notified if they are bullied in any way or if unknown persons are contacting them.
  • That any texts and photos they send could potentially be made public.

Parents need to think through what the rules and limits will be and then make sure their child is aware of those limits.

Controls allow you to put limits on texting

Controls allow you to put limits on texting

Parental Controls for Younger Kids

Parental Controls for your kid's phone is often all about the apps. Here are a few ideas to keep young kids safe.

  • Some phones have built-in parental controls. The Kurio Smartphone, for example, has GPS to keep track of kids, allows you to set up safe web surfing, and allows parents to monitor calls, messaging, contacts, and more.
  • A basic phone without browsing capabilities can help assure your kid won't access bad content. The Nokia 130 is an example.
  • Android phones have available to them a great parental control app. Kids Mode allows parents to limit usage and content. It also offers access to plenty of fun and safe game content. It's PIN protected so your kids can't disable it.
  • For kids with an iPhone, parents can go to Settings and enable Restrictions via their own passcode. They can disable apps, limit access to certain types of content, adjust privacy settings, disable multiplayer games, and more.
  • Of course, there are quite a number of Parental Control apps out there. MMGuardian allows parents to set time limits, block apps, texts, calls, filter access to web content, locate their child via GPS, set up alerts and more.
    • Apps like Qustudio and Net Nanny Social give parents more control and monitoring of social network activity to help prevent problems with predators, cyberbullying, and so forth.
    • NetSanity allows parents to block apps and certain types of web content, block texts and calls, remotely lock the screen, set data limits, time limits, set up GPS location, and more.

Parental Controls Regarding the Use of Cell Phones When Driving

There are several products that work to eliminate dangerous cell phone use, both texting and calling while driving.

  • One option is Drive Safe Mode. It blocks cell phone use (while allowing emergency calls) and sends alerts to parents if it is shut off. It works with both Android and iOS.
  • Another product is Cell Control. It can block phone use while driving. It also provides speed alerts and reports routes, feedback based on harsh braking and cornering, speed, and more. It works with both Android and iOS and is a monthly subscription.

Cellular Providers Offer Some Control

Of course, most cellular service providers also give parents tools that can help protect their kids.

  • AT&T offers SmartLimits. It allows you to block cellular data, limit phone use to certain times of day, set purchase and text limits, block numbers and more.
  • Though Family Allowances, T-Mobile allows parents to set allowances for minutes, messages, and downloads and set up Never Allowed numbers to restrict calls and next. They can even block certain times during the day to block all calls and texts.
  • Verizon has FamilyBase which gives parents the power to set data usage limits, schedule when calls, text, and data can be used, monitor use and set alerts to see who is connecting with their kids. In addition, they can block unwanted contacts, apps, and web content.
  • Cell phone parental controls from Sprint provide the ability to block/restrict web access, block unwanted numbers, block downloads, and restrict incoming and outgoing calls completely or from a list.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Christine Mulberry


Cant Trust on December 18, 2018:

You cant trust kids, period. Spy if you have to or take there phone away. Kids will lie to get what ever they want.

James on May 31, 2011:

Great article..thanks for sharing valuable information

cell phone tracker on May 10, 2011:

I really love your articles, it is very useful. I will definitely follow it, Thanks for all of your hard work!

chopper on December 05, 2010:

My 15yr old got a cell phone from a 19yr old "friend" to avoid parental control. What can I do?

PaperNotes on October 04, 2010:

My 7-y.o. daughter has just started to use cell phone and now, she just texts her grandfather and her aunt. She also plays online dress-up games on the net but I make sure that I check the sites first to see if the contents are at least safe for her to see.

A Mom on September 05, 2010:

Great article! I just wish I had better web searching skills because it took me several hours to find this info regarding cell phone monitoring! I totally agree with the parents above. My 12 yr old daughter complains that she gets no privacy, but I tell her that she will have all the privacy she wants once she has demonstrated that she can behave appropriately, and make mature and responsible decisions.

SHREYA on July 30, 2010:


Art of legend india on July 28, 2010:

Thank you for information about cell phone.

Jeanne on July 19, 2010:

This is a necessity. Do not spy on your kids. As someone suggested, let them know you will have access to their phone, but you need to monitor. For the past six months, I have been telling my eldest she can not use her phone past 10pm and that the phone has to be downstairs not in her room. You violate, you lose the phone for a week. Does that stop her? No. I am on this site because at 11:30, my youngest was on her phone even though she knows the rules, so I am online searching for software to control the times they can be on. For those that think these controls are wrong, I hope they do not have young kids, because they are living in dream land. My daughter has Skype on her laptop. I had to work late last weekend and was using her laptop. She'd left her Skype running in the background and at 2:30 in the morning, to my shock, there is a notification that her 14 year old friend just logged on to Skype! Another was on at midnight from the pop ups that I was getting. Fortunately, unlike the phone, they listen with regards to the PC and keep it downstairs.

But apparently if you don't control your kids, they'll be doing their sleeping at school, since they will sneak and not go to bed till 4am.

Crazy Clay on July 03, 2010:

Very helpful information. Our 11 year old daughter is Downs. She would like a phone but would dial just anybody. To allow her to have a phone, so she can contact us, we need to be able to restrict her usage and to be able to monitor what she is doing to protect her. This is not being overprotective but looking out for our daughters safety as parents should.

Moosehead on June 14, 2010:

It's not about privacy it is about protecting children and fulfilling your responsibility as a parent! Cell phone parental filter services are great for preventing cyber predators from harming kids. Once kids are old enough and demonstrate the judgment to protect themselves then they can have a phone on their own....

Concerned Mom on June 09, 2010:

My seventeen year old son met some people that have a criminal background and we found out just in time when I took access to his phone I was able to confirm he had been with these people. Many teenagers go through a vulnerable time and unfortunately people prey on them. Monitoring can save your child's life.

theherbivorehippi from Holly, MI on April 18, 2010:

Great information. I think I would at least want to be able to track where my child is to know that they are safe.

James Ginn from Ohio on August 17, 2009:

Why would anyone be shy with their own children? Tell them from the word go that you will have access to their phone, computer, room and friends. Also, insist on meeting the parents of your child's friends. If your child refuses or keeps making excuses as to why you can't meet the parents, that relationship ends, now. Thank you for your article. There is a lot out there that can harm your babies. Heads Up!

Christine Mulberry (author) on August 10, 2009:

Glad you found it useful panicaway.

panicaway on August 09, 2009:

thanks for all those links to parental control apps... I have 2 boys just getting into the age where there'll be asking for phones and I want to let them have the priviledge but help them use it wisely... great hub

Christine Mulberry (author) on May 13, 2009:

I've heard arguments both ways. Some parents want to restrict usage, others don't. Some see it as taking responsibility for their child's safety, some see it as an invasion of their child's privacy. I guess it depends on the age of the child and how you see your role as a parent.

madi&bridget on May 10, 2009:

i think parents are rediculous when they try to be over protective with there kids by using any of these ideas

Nancy's Niche on April 07, 2009:

Great article and full of information on the safety of kids with cell phones...