The internet puts the world at your fingertips. From laughing at your favorite shows to shuddering at the news, anything you want to access is just a click away. But that may be worrisome if you’re a parent or teacher.
Children often have access to multiple devices. Make sure to project each of them by implementing parental controls. They are available on most major internet-enabled devices such as computers, smartphones and gaming systems.
Parental controls help reduce the risk of your child viewing inappropriate content on the web. In addition to setting parental controls, it’s important to monitor your child’s internet activity and use age-appropriate settings on devices.
What Can Parental Controls Do?
Parental controls are software or device-specific options that allow parents to monitor their child’s internet use. They prevent children from accessing inappropriate or unsuitable content online. They can be implemented within your internet service provider, search engines, video streaming sites and more. Parental controls can practice the following prevention methods:
- Control or block the video games your child can access
- Filter web browsers and only show pre-approved websites
- Prevent children from using certain services
- Manage search engines to limit what a child can search online
- Manage types of videos that are searchable
How to Set Parental Controls
Parental controls can prevent and filter a variety of inappropriate content for little ones. However, figuring out how to set parental controls on each device can be confusing. We explain how to set them on the following devices and services:
- Computer Operating Systems
- Internet Browsers
- Search Engines
- Video Streaming
- Cell Phones
- Parental Control Apps
Computer Operating System Parental Controls
Most computer operating systems contain parental control settings to ensure your child is safe from the minute they turn on their device.
Content restrictions include:
- Blocking inappropriate apps, games and media
- Requiring children to ask a parent before purchasing in the Microsoft Store
- Blocking inappropriate websites
Blocking inappropriate apps, games and media:
- Head to this page and sign in with your Microsoft account.
- Set up a child account through Windows Settings. If you already have one, find your child’s name and choose Content Restrictions.
- Go to Apps, games & media and toggle Block inappropriate apps, games and media to On.
- Under Allow apps and games rated for, choose the age limit you’d like to apply for your child.
- When your child requests to access a blocked application or game, you can approve it by going to Content restrictions and adding it to the Always allowed list.
- In the case that your child downloaded something prior to these limitations, you can block it by going to the Activity page. Your child will need permission to use it again and you can approve or disapprove via email.
Blocking inappropriate websites:
- Sign into your Microsoft account using this page.
- Find your child’s name and click Content restrictions.
- Scroll to Web browsing and toggle Block inappropriate websites from off to On.
- For blocking specific sites, add their URLs under Always blocked.
- To limit your child to only browse specific websites, check the box next to Only allow these websites.
Require kids to ask a parent before purchasing in the Microsoft Store:
- Find your child’s name and then choose Content restrictions.
- Toggle Needs adult approval to buy things On.
- Approve or deny their requests through your personal email or on account.microsoft.com/family.
Learn more at Microsoft Support
Mac OS X v10.5, 10.6 Parental Controls Internet content filter
To enable internet content filtering:
- From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.
- Select Parental Controls.
- Choose the user account on the left side of the window that you want to enable filtering for (your child’s account).
Note: Parental Controls cannot be enabled for administrator accounts. Make sure your child’s account has managed access and is not an admin.
- Select “Enable Parental Controls.”
- Click the Content tab.
- Choose one of the three modes under Website Restrictions (unrestricted, automatic, whitelist).
Apple’s Internet content filter three modes:
- “Allow unrestricted access to websites” (unrestricted): This logs websites that the account visits, but does not restrict web browsing. Parents can view visited websites under the Logs tab of Parental Controls preferences.
- “Try to limit access to adult websites automatically” (automatic): Filters websites with inappropriate content similar to the way mail applications identify “junk” mail. This filter can identify whether a web page is safe or not by inspecting the website’s text and structure. It also blocks websites if the website identifies as adult-oriented using RTA or Safe Surf rating systems. This setting logs all visited and blocked websites, and flags blocked websites in the Logs tab of Parental Controls preferences.
- The internet content filter cannot examine the encrypted content of a page (https or SSL encryption). For this reason, encrypted websites must be allowed using the Always Allow list. If not, the encrypted websites will automatically be blocked.
- “Allow access to only these websites” (whitelist): This will restrict any website that is not listed.
Learn more at Apple Support
Chrome OS on Chromebook
- Sign into your Chromebook.
- Click on your account photo located in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
- When the pop-out window appears, choose the gear-shaped icon for Settings.
- Scroll down to the section People and click Manage other users.
- The Users interface should be visible. Select a check mark next to the Enable supervised users setting. Then select Done to return to the previous screen.
- Click on your account photo again and select Sign out. Select Click More at the bottom of the screen with three vertical dots.
- Then select Add supervised user. Click Create supervised user.
- You’ll be prompted to choose the managing account for your new supervised user profile. Choose the desired account from the list and its password. Select Next to continue.
- Enter a name and password for the supervised user. Add an image and click Next.
- You now have a supervised profile and if successful, you’ll receive an email with more details.
Learn more at Chrome Support
Internet Browser Parental Controls
Now that you have the device’s OS system controlled, it’s time to start on internet browser parental controls. We have detailed instructions for the three most common internet browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
Listed above, safari parental control is the same as Mac OS parental controls.
- Log into your Google account.
- Click on the main menu button in the top right-hand corner with three vertical dots.
- Once the drop-down menu appears, select Settings.
- Select the section called People.
- Select Add person and select an image and a name for the new user.
- While creating this person, put a check in the checkbox next to Control and view the websites this person visits from [active user’s email address].
- Next, click on Add and a new Chrome window will open.
- Once the profile for your child is created, you’ll want to select Supervised Users Dashboard and click on My Child.
- Here you can add parental control settings in the Permissions section and choose to “lock” SafeSearch.
Learn more at Google Support
You can also see which sites your child visits in the Activity setting and approve/disapprove their requests to access sites.
Firefox automatically checks the parental controls on your device and sets itself to Prefer:Safe mode. This will auto turn on the safety feature on each website your child visits as long as there are active parental controls on your computer. The feature can only be turned off through password-protected parental settings on your operating system. That way your child will not be able to deactivate this feature through the Firefox browser. Here are Firefox add-ons for parental control.
Learn more at Firefox Support
Search Engine Parental Controls
While your OS system and internet browsers may be secure, it’s important to implement search engine parental controls. Kids will most likely use search engines to find websites for recreational use or educational use. Make sure their search is monitored by adding parental controls using our guide below.
- Go to the Google search engine.
- Go to Search Settings.
- Under “SafeSearch filters,” check the box next to “Turn on SafeSearch.”
- At the bottom of the page click Save.
Learn more at Google Support
- Visit https://www.bing.com/account.
- Under Search and SafeSearch toggle on Strict.
- At the bottom of the page click Save.
Learn more at Bing Support
- Open the Yahoo search engine in a browser or open the Yahoo search app and sign in.
- Search for a term, then scroll down to Settings at the bottom left of the page.
- Click Settings.
- Select Preferences.
- Select your SafeSearch preference, then tap Done (if on iOS).
Learn more at Yahoo Help
Video Streaming Parental Controls
When it comes to video content, there are millions of videos getting published daily. Keep your children protected from PG-13 to R-rated content with these parental controls for video streaming. We have added parental controls for the most common video streaming sites: YouTube, Netflix and Hulu.
YouTube Kids has become available on both iOS and Android platforms. It is parental control enabled and filtered just for kids. YouTube Kids focuses its content on music, education and other categories. We recommend downloading this to their iPhones (if applicable) and/or keeping YouTube locked/passcode enabled if downloaded on your phone. If you still want to use the original YouTube app, follow these steps.
- Launch YouTube and sign in.
- Click on your profile picture on the top right of the screen and select Restricted Mode.
- It will then open a drop-down menu where you can toggle Restricted Mode on.
- For iOS, click on your profile and under Settings toggle on the Restricted Mode button. For Android users, the option can be found under Settings – General.
Learn more at YouTube Help
For Netflix, there are a variety of controls that you can choose from. They have hard and soft controls that parents can set up along with maturity levels for each individual profile.
Here are the types of age-limiting parental controls:
- Little Kids: Only shows and movies suited for “all ages” will be available.
- Older Kids: Media rated all ages, 7+ and some 13+ will be available.
- Teens: Movies and shows suitable for teens (13+) will be shown.
- Adults: All listed media will be available.
Account-level hard controls:
- Requiring a PIN for specific maturity ratings: Set a 4-digit PIN that is required to play any video content above a selected maturity level on any profile. The PIN ensures that your child doesn’t watch content rated above the selected maturity level.
- Requiring a PIN for specific video content: Set a 4-digit PIN that must be entered to play specific video content on any profile. This ensures your child does not watch the particular video content.
Setting up your PIN:
- Go to your Account page from a web browser.
- Choose the link for Parental controls in the Settings section.
- Enter your Netflix credentials and select Continue.
- Enter four numbers into the PIN field — this will be your PIN.
- Set your PIN protection level from the following choices:
- Little Kids: all ages
- Older Kids: 7+, some 13+
- Teens: 13+
- Adults: 16+, 18+
- Choose Save.
Account-level soft controls
- Choose a maturity level for a profile: Set a maturity level for a profile to control the video content available for that profile. The parent or guardian then ensures their child only uses their correct profile.
Set the maturity level for a profile:
- Go to your Account page and select Manage Profiles.
- Choose the profile you’d to edit.
- Under Allowed TV shows and movies, choose your desired maturity level.
- Little kids only – G, TV-Y, TV-G: video content suitable for all ages
- Older kids and below – PG, TV-Y7, TV-Y7-FV, TV-PG : video content suitable for older kids
- Teens and below – PG-13, TV-14: video content suitable for teens
- All Maturity levels – R, NC-17, TV-MA: watch all video content, including mature content
- Select Save.
Learn more at Netflix Help
Hulu parental control is based on the age associated with your Hulu profile. User accounts who specify an age under 17 will not be allowed to watch mature content (films rated R or TV-MA shows) using their individual profile. Hulu will also respect your device’s parental controls on devices such as an Xbox One. For Hulu Plus subscribers, there is a Hulu Kids section you can set up for your little ones.
Learn more at Hulu Help
Gaming Parental Controls
In many households, gaming is a popular choice for children and teens. It can even be a more popular activity than spending time online, so it’s important to make sure your parental controls are secure. Follow these how-tos for the most popular gaming systems.
Block inappropriate apps, games and media:
- Sign in with your adult account on your Xbox.
- Select the Xbox button on the controller to pull up the guide.
- Select System > Settings > Account > Family.
- Choose the account you want to update, select Access to content and then select the appropriate age limit you’d like.
- When your child requests to use a blocked app or game, you can approve and add it to the the Always allowed list under Content restrictions.
- If your child has downloaded something prior to setting these restrictions, you can block it on the Activity page. They will need your permissions to use it again. The permission request will be sent via email.
Block inappropriate websites:
- Sign in with your adult account on your Xbox.
- Press the Xbox button to open up the guide and then choose System > Settings > Account > Family.
- Select your child’s account that you wish to add the web filters to and then select Web filtering.
- Select the drop-down to view all of the options.
- Choose the desired level of web filtering.
Require kids to ask a parent/guardian before purchasing on Microsoft Store:
- Sign in with your adult Account on the console.
- Press the Xbox button to pull up the guide, then choose System > Settings > Account > Family and choose your child’s account.
- Select Privacy & online safety > Xbox Live privacy > View details & customize > Buy & download and select On from the drop-down.
Learn more at Xbox Support
Set Up Monthly Spending Limits:
- Go to Settings > Parental Controls/Family Management > Family Management
- Choose the user you want to set a spending limit for then select Applications/Devices/Network Features under the Parental Controls section.
- Select Monthly Spending Limit and press X.
Restrict Access to Network Features:
- Go to Settings > Parental Controls/Family management > Family Management. You might have to enter your PSN account password.
- Select the user you want to set restrictions for and then select Applications/Devices/Network Features under the Parental Controls feature.
- Under Network Features you can choose to allow a child family member to communicate with other players on PSN or view content created by other players.
Set Rating Levels for Games/Blu-ray Discs and DVDs:
- Go to Settings > Parental Controls/Family Management > Family Management. You might need to enter your PSN account password.
- Select the user you want to set the age level for, then select Applications/Devices/Network Features and choose the content you would like to restrict. Information on age level here.
Disable use of Web Browser and Playstation VR:
- On your system, go to Settings > Parental Controls/Family Management > Family Management. You might need to enter your PSN account credentials.
- Choose the user you want to set restrictions for. Then select Applications/Devices/Network Features.
- Scroll down to Use of Playstation VR/Use of Internet Browser and select not allowed.
Set a login passcode:
- On your PS4 system, go to Settings > Login Settings > Login Passcode Management.
- Set a 4-digit passcode with the corresponding buttons on your DS4 controller.
- Enter the 4-digit passcode again to confirm.
- Once you’ve set the passcode, you can change or delete the login passcode at any time.
Learn more at PS4 Help
- Log into Wii account.
- Access System Settings.
- Click on the blue arrows on the right to access Wii System Settings 2.
- Select Parental Controls, then Yes.
- Click “Ok” three times to begin the setup.
- Add your desired PIN and select OK.
- Input the PIN again and select OK.
- Choose a security question and then click OK.
- Add an answer and select OK.
- Select Game Settings and PIN then The Highest Game Rating.
- Using the blue arrow, scroll through the ESRB ratings.
- Choose the desired rating restriction and then OK.
- Select Restrict for each desired setting and then proceed.
- Once your selections are made, select Confirm.
- Log into Nintendo account.
- On the Nintendo DSi Menu, select the Settings icon.
- Choose the right arrow twice to reach the third page, then select Parental Controls.
- Choose Yes, Next, then OK to reach the PIN screen.
- Select Next, enter your desired four-digit PIN then tap OK. Enter the PIN once again to confirm, then tap OK.
- Select OK again and enter a password to the secret question, then select OK.
- Select OK and then tap the left/right arrows to scroll to the game rating icon for the highest-rated video game that you think is suitable for viewing on the system. Select OK to continue.
- Next the system will take you through a number of questions where you will decide which features to restrict. Select Yes to block the feature or No to allow.
- Select OK to confirm your selection. Select Yes to save the Parental Control settings.
Learn more at Nintendo Support
Levels of parental controls:
Choose the control setting based on the age of your child for both games and films.
If you are unsure which level to choose to prevent your child from playing a particular product, you can select the application or content from the XMB menu, press the Triangle button and then select Information.
Restrict the use of UMD and digital playback:
- Go to Settings > Security Settings > Parental Control Level.
- Input your password
- Set the parental control level.
- Once the levels are set, users who are restricted will see a padlock icon in place of the normal icon for the game or application. The default level is at 9, which is the 18 age rating.
Restrict the use of the internet browser:
- Go to your Settings and scroll down to Security Settings. Then press the X button.
- Select Internet Browser Start Control and press the X button.
- Enter your 4 digit password.
- Select On if you prefer to have the Internet Browser Start Control enabled.
- Then press the circle button twice to exit out of the Internet Browser Start Control menu.
Learn more at Playstation Help
Cell Phone Parental Controls
Whether your child has their own Android or Apple device or they use yours, it’s important to set up cell phone parental controls. You can turn off function such as in-app purchasing, restricting web search, and more.
iPhone Parental Controls
Settings for iPhone and iPad in iOS 12
Set content & privacy restrictions:
- Go to Settings and tap Screen Time.
- Tap Continue, then select Use Screen Time Passcode to create a passcode. Re-enter the passcode to confirm.
- Note: If you’re setting up Screen Time on your child’s device, follow the prompts until you get to Parent Passcode and enter a passcode. Then, re-enter the passcode to confirm.
- Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions. Enter your passcode if applicable, then turn on Content & Privacy.
Prevent web content:
- Go to Settings > Screen Time.
- Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions and enter your Screen Time passcode.
- Tap Content Restrictions, then tap Web Content.
- Choose Limit Adult Websites, or Allowed Websites Only.
Prevent iTunes & App Store purchase:
- Go to Settings > Screen Time.
- Select Content & Privacy Restrictions. If prompted, enter your passcode.
- Make your selections on which to Allow under Store Purchases & Redownloads.
- Select Always Require a password.
Prevent explicit content and content ratings:
- Go to Settings > Screen Time.
- Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions, then choose Content Restrictions.
- Choose the settings you want for each feature or setting under Allowed Store Content.
Learn more at Apple Support
Android Parental Controls
Set up parental controls:
- Sign in with your own Google account or use their account if they have one.
- Launch the Play Store app and tap the three horizontal lines at the top left.
- Scroll down and select Settings, and scroll until you see Parental controls.
- Tap the Parental controls and create a PIN code. Re-enter the PIN.
- The setting will be turned on and you can then tap each category to set how restricting you’d like each category to be.
Use Family Link:
- Download the Family Link app on your device.
- Launch the app and select Get Started.
- Choose Start on the Set up Family Link screen and follow the prompts to progress through the setup.
- Answer a few questions about whether your child has a compatible device and select that you want to create a child’s account and to start a family group.
- Enter your child’s first and last names and press Next.
- Add their birthday and gender, then press Next.
- Choose a Gmail username and press Next.
- Then add a password and press Next.
- Agree to the Terms and Conditions and add credit card information.
- To add the account on your child’s device, start by turning on their phone and signing in using their account.
- Then enter your own Google password and press Next. Family Link will now be installed on your child’s device.
Note: You can review any apps that have been preinstalled on the phone to decide if they should be allowed to use them
Note: Below the Parental controls master switch there is a summary of which restriction is set for each type of content.
Learn more at Google Play Support
Best Parental Control Apps
The final step you can take to secure your child’s online activity is with parental control apps. In the world of mobile phones and tablets, parental control apps are an added level of protection to keep your child safe. Read below for our top 10 parental control apps.
- The Phonesheriff
- The Spy Bubble
- Net Nanny
Parental controls are necessary to keep your child safe while spending time online. Because of the variety of devices and internet platforms your child may use, it’s important to keep your parental controls up-to-date and active at all times. You should always make sure you and your child’s devices are armed with antivirus to ensure safe and protected online browsing sessions. Panda Security’s antivirus allows system administrators to prevent users from accessing websites that contain unwanted content. It also features a GPS tracking system so you can always know where your children are. It can additionally block unwanted calls and allow parents/adults to block access to certain apps.