ByJordan Minor, Neil J. Rubenking
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? That ancient Latin question seems as unanswerable to us today as it did to the ancient Romans, but at least there are parental control tools to guard your children from the dangers of the Internet. Qustodio Parental Control packages the powerful Web-filtering service into an Android app. With phone-friendly protection features such as call blocking and app management, Qustodio Parental Control for Android guards your child on all fronts.
There’s an iOS version as well.
Getting Started To install Qustodio on your child’s Android device you must purchase a subscription for the full service first.
For $44.95 per year you can manage up to five child profiles on up to five devices.
The free trial only lasts three days.
Fortunately, this impressive parental control system includes just about every feature you might want, and it’s stylish, too.
For more details read our in-depth review of the full Qustodio Parental Control 2015 service.
Parents set up their child’s profile on an Android phone or tablet, complete with a racially diverse avatar, and grant the app the powerful security permissions it needs to work. We did our testing on a Moto X.
From there, though, parents do most of their work from the Web interface.
The only monitoring option from a mobile device is to navigate a website built for desktop browsers on a cramped phone screen, a problem only Editors’ Choice Norton Family Parental Control for Android has managed to overcome out of the services we’ve tested.
From that Web interface you gain access to Qustodio’s treasure trove of parental control features, all of which apply to users on Android devices.
By default, Qustodio’s browser-independent content filtering blocks all access to websites matching any of ten undesirable categories, among them Gambling, Pornography, and Drugs.
Another 19 categories (none of which are Anime, sadly) are available for parents who want to fine-tune Web content filtering. You can optionally choose to just receive an email alert when an older child accesses a particular category, without blocking access. You can also see a timeline of your child’s social activity, regardless of what device is used.
This includes Facebook posts, picture, and comments, as well as the identity of any friends involved in online chats.
Qustodio can block secure (HTTPS) websites if they match a banned category, so your clever teen won’t be able to evade its notice by using a secure anonymizing proxy website. Quite a few parental control systems manage that feat, but Qustodio goes farther.
It can actually filter HTTPS traffic, so even if you turned off blocking of “Loopholes” (a category that includes secure anonymizing proxies) your teen still wouldn’t be able to, say, view nudity online.
You can define a weekly schedule for when each child is allowed online, in one-hour increments. Qustodio also lets you set limits separately for each device associated with the child’s profile.
For example, you could ban smartphone use during school hours, and block computer use when the child is supposed to be asleep. However, if your aim is to limit overall screen time, you simply turn off per-device settings. Now your child can’t, say, use the computer for two hours, and then switch to a tablet for another two.
What’s New On AndroidOn an Android device, Qustodio includes all features of the desktop edition, and more.
As with iOS, you can configure it to report your child’s location periodically. Unlike the iOS edition, the Android version of Qustodio manages its Web content filtering regardless of which browser the child uses.
Each application your child launches shows up in the online console. You can block access to any app by clicking a simple yes/no control. However, you may need to give Qustodio some time to refresh after you alter settings.
During testing, newly installed questionable apps, WWE for example, didn’t always appear in the Web interface, and newly restricted apps weren’t always blocked on the phone. Possibly a related problem, sometimes we would catch a glimpse of a blocked website while browsing before the filtering kicked in.
Depending on the website, that could be a traumatizing glimpse for a child.
On an Android device, Qustodio monitors all calls and text messages. Parents can set it to block contact from specific phone numbers, or set it to block all contact except for a whitelist of approved phone numbers. Naturally this feature is only available on Android smartphones, not on tablets.
This is a very useful phone-specific safety feature that we’re disappointed competitors such as Net Nanny and Mobicip don’t have.
Another nifty smartphone-specific feature is the panic button.
To start using this feature, you define up to four trusted contacts, each with an email address or mobile phone number.
A child who’s lost or in trouble can tap the panic button icon, or click the headphones button three times.
Doing so sends the child’s location and an alert to each trusted contact, and updates the location periodically until the panic mode is turned off.
Who Guards the Guardians?Since you have to subscribe to the full Qustodio service to get the Android version anyway, and using its Web interface is essentially mandatory, we recommend reading our review of the complete package to have a better understanding of what you’re in for.
But along with the powerful Web filtering of its parent program, Qustodio’s extra Android functionality—including app, call, and text blocking, along with a panic button and location tracking—make it a strong, mostly independent app.
It falls just shy of our Editors’ Choice for Android parental control tools, Norton Family Parental Control.