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Best Parental Control Software for Windows in 2020

Microsoft Store
Microsoft Store (Image credit: Microsoft)

The modern age is nothing like when we, the parents, grew up. Our own parents probably didn't have to worry so much about our online activity, but the present day is very different. With more time spent working and schooling from home, it's essential to have the right control over what your children are doing on the PC, and that's where these fine pieces of software come into play, like the built-in Windows 10 Family.

First Choice: Windows 10 Family

Family

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Windows 10 Family

Built-in tools to keep your kids safe

Reasons to buy

+
Built into Windows 10
+
Easy to use and completely free
+
Regular reports on activity
+
Protects against unauthorized spending

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires a Microsoft Account for the child

What better way to protect kids than built-in parental controls right in the Windows 10 settings as you're able to set up a whole family within Windows 10 and monitor access per person. That's not just limited to what they can see online, either.

You can set time limits for their PC use and which apps and games they're allowed to use, as well. And because it's linked to the cloud, you get regular parental reports on your kids' usage.

Another of the top features is piece of mind over buying things from the Microsoft Store since paid downloads can be protected, and the parents are emailed asking for permission to purchase and install before anything will happen. It's simple to use, robust, and the only real downside is that you have to set up a Microsoft Account for your child.

Great for Social Media: Qustodio

Qustodio

Source: Qustodio (Image credit: Source: Qustodio)

Qustodio

Keep tabs on social media activity

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Great social media protection
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Mobile device support
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Free to start

Reasons to avoid

-
Best features are behind paywall

Qustodio is a highly-rated parental control application, and best of all, it's free. Or rather, it's free to a point. To get the most from it, you'll need to pay, but at least you can check out the core product first. What you pay depends precisely on what you want from Qustodio.

Particularly helpful is the ability to manage how much time your kids spend accessing social media, and it's also not just limited to your PC. Qustodio can help monitor what your kids are accessing on compatible mobile devices, too.

There's a lot you can do with Qustodio, but if you're trying to protect older kids and teenagers, especially those who are now using social media, this is the software to get.

Good All-Rounder: Norton Family Premier

Norton Family Premier

Source: Norton (Image credit: Source: Norton)

Norton Family Premier

Covers all the features you want

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Social media protection
+
Mobile device support
+
Free to start

Reasons to avoid

-
Best features are behind paywall

Norton Family Premier has all the same key features as the other software mentioned here, making it a solid all-rounder.

Your reports will show you precisely where your kids are spending their time online, and the tools in Norton Family Premier will also let you protect sensitive information as well as prevent access to inappropriate content.

It's also available for some mobile devices, too, so you're able to keep in control of everything they're using on whatever device they're accessing.

Best for Mobile: Kaspersky Safe Kids

Kasperky Safe Kids

Source: Kaspersky (Image credit: Source: Kaspersky)

Kaspersky Safe Kids

Keep tabs on phones and tablets

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Great for mobile devices
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Check device battery status
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Free to start

Reasons to avoid

-
Best features are behind paywall

Kaspersky Safe Kids has some excellent controls not only to restrict access to online content but also to limit access to specific applications and categories of applications.

It comes into its own, though, with the mobile device features that you unlock with a paid subscription. These allow you to keep tabs on your kid's entire activity, even check things like their battery life if they're out and manage their social media time.

If your kids have mobile devices that they access a lot, then this is the best solution to protect and monitor activity across all of those devices.

Best for Time Management: Content Watch Net Nanny 7

Net Nanny 7

Source: Net Nanny (Image credit: Source: Net Nanny)

Content Watch Net Nanny 7

Closing loopholes on device usage

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Cross-device time limits
+
Mobile device support
+
Good notification system

Reasons to avoid

-
Mobile devices are behind paywall
-
Pricier than some others

Net Nanny 7 is a paid product, but it's a robust parental control solution. One of its best features is a cross-device internet time allowance, meaning that the cheeky rascals can't play the system by moving to another PC to get around your time limits.

All of this is configured in the cloud too, and the software has some pretty powerful filtering and a great notification system.

For an additional cost, you can include mobile devices into your protection plans, too. But if you have many devices and want a singular time limit to cover use on all of them, this is the one to get.

Keeping the young ones safe

With so much of life now driven by interacting with a PC and the Internet, in particular, it's super important to make sure that what your kids are accessing isn't harmful and that they're not spending too much time glued to a screen. And fortunately, Windows 10 Family is built right into every Windows 10 PC, so there's already a quick and easy solution on hand.

It isn't perfect, though, and some parents may want a little more control or to expand beyond just the PC. In those cases you can run it alongside something like Qustodio (opens in new tab) or Kaspersky Safe Kids (opens in new tab) to add controls also to mobile devices, and limit time spent on things like social media.

It's a scary digital world out there, but it's still possible to have peace of mind when it comes to the most important people in your life. Be sure to also check out the best antivirus software to help keep your computer clean and operating well.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.