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  • With good parental controls, you can set screen time limits, keep an eye on how your child uses the internet, and even track their location on some devices.
  • Qustodio gives you granular control over your child's device time with the option to block or limit specific apps or games, filter out objectionable content, and keep a close eye on all their online activity. 
  • The Qustodio software works well across a variety of platforms and devices including Android, Kindle, Windows, and Mac OS, but iOS functionality is very limited and there's no Chromebook support.
  • An annual subscription to Qustodio will cost you $49.46 for five devices, $87.26 for 10 devices, or $124.16 for 15 devices.
  • In our tests, we found it to be too invasive and it lacked some features found in free parental control software, making it hard to justify the high price.
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Table of Contents

Kids have a world of entertainment at their fingertips nowadays, and most will spend hours each day online or playing games … if you let them. To keep your children safe, it's vital to consider parental controls that can filter out objectionable content, limit overall screen time, and give you some insight into what they're getting up to on the internet. Qustodio aims to do exactly that, offering an in-depth look at online activity, web filtering controls, screen time limits, and more.

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While the top device manufacturers all offer some form of parental control, they don't play nicely together. Third-party options like Qustodio aim to bridge that gap by offering a single point of oversight and control that will cover your child's phone, tablet, and laptop or desktop computer. The software is easy to use and it gives you granular control and real insight into what your kids are doing, but it doesn't work well on every platform, it raises some privacy concerns, and the subscription is expensive. 

As the father of an 11-year-old boy with a serious "Fortnite" habit and an 8-year-old girl who is often online, I was interested to try Qustodio. I was provided with a year's premium subscription to test Qustodio for this review.

Specs

Qustodio works on the following platforms:

  • Windows (Windows 7 SP1 or later)
  • Mac OS X (Mavericks 10.9 or later)
  • Android (Android OS 4.4 or later)
  • iOS (iOS 11 or later)
  • Kindle (Kindle OS 4.0.3 or later)

The web filtering is limited to the following browsers:

  • Windows computers: Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge.
  • Mac computers: Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
  • Android devices: Google Chrome and Firefox.
  • Kindle devices: Amazon Silk Browser.
  • iOS devices: Google Chrome and Safari.
Setup © Qustodio Qustodio

To get started, you'll log in on your own computer and create profiles for your children. The Qustodio app must be installed on every device that you want to monitor. You can mark devices as parental or belonging to children and add them to the relevant child profile during the setup process. It's relatively straightforward on most devices, but you will need to grant a lot of permissions on Android, which takes a bit longer. 

You can choose to hide the Qustodio app on Windows or Mac OS computers, but not on mobile devices. 

What it's like to use

Qustodio gives you a lot of control. You can set daily time limits for overall screen time, and you can schedule times when devices can't be used. It's important to note that you need to choose what happens when the limit is reached. I found that it only locked web browsing and internet access by default, so my son was able to continue gaming beyond the limit. You can also choose to completely lock the device or simply trigger an alert to let you know they've hit their limit. 

If you choose to lock the device, your child will see a message telling them time's up when the limit is reached, and they'll be unable to use the device until the next day. I recommend going with the alert instead, as the block will cut them off in the middle of whatever they were doing, which can cause upset if they were chatting to a friend or in the middle of a game. 

Qustodio also offers in-depth categorized web filtering controls that block pornography, gambling, weapons, drugs, and a few other kinds of content. You can choose which categories you want to block or allow, and you can set up exceptions to always block or allow specific websites. By default, Qustodio will block the installation of any unsupported browser. The web filtering seemed to work well and successfully blocked most objectionable content when I tested it, though not all. 

The games and apps section allows you to set specific daily time limits for individual apps or games, though you can only configure them once your child uses the app or game for the first time after installing Qustodio. There's also a special YouTube monitoring tab. Qustodio allows you to see all the videos your child watches and what they searched for in YouTube. The Calls & SMS tab shows a call log and you can even have it show your child's SMS messages on Android phones, but this feature doesn't work on iPhones. There is a social media tracking option, but it only covers Facebook.

The location tab shows your child's last known location for Android phones or iPhones, provided their phone is on and connected to the internet. It seems fairly accurate when they're somewhere for a while, but it's not unusual for it to be anywhere up to 100 feet out, depending on the location and how fast they're moving.  

Your child's summary tab shows you how they spend their time each day and flags questionable activity. It's easy to review at a glance and gives you all the pertinent details. You get a daily report via email that shows the same information. If you want to dig deeper, there's an activity timeline that logs every single action, including time spent in apps or games, web searches, web pages visited, and location information for Android phones or iPhones.

© Qustodio Qustodio What makes it stand out

Most of the features that Qustodio offers, including screen, app, and game time limits, web filtering, and location tracking, can be found for free in software like Google Family Link, Microsoft Family Safety, Amazon Parental Controls, or Apple Screen Time. By jumping through a few hoops, you can also see their web and search history. These companies have all vastly improved their parental controls in recent years, so the need for third-party software is questionable. 

One problem is, if your child owns an iPhone, a Fire tablet, and a Windows computer, for example, you must use three different sets of parental controls. What Qustodio allows you to do, is set one limit that applies across all devices from different manufacturers. It provides an easy to use, one-stop interface, gives you a complete running commentary of everything they do on their devices, and offers finer control in certain areas, such as web filtering by category.

The cons

While Qustodio is easy to use, it didn't work well for our family. My daughter has a Chromebook and there's no Chromebook support at all. Qustodio is also very limited on iOS, so you can't set specific time limits for many apps or games on iPhones or track calls and SMS messages. Compared to Google's Family Link, which I currently use the most, Qustodio doesn't offer a great deal extra. In fact, it lacks an easy system for granting bonus time or locking down a device instantly.

Every parent must make their own decisions about how to monitor their child's online activity, but I find Qustodio to be a little too invasive for my tastes. The option to hide the software on computers or to read the content of your child's text messages on Android shows a fundamental lack of trust that no child will respond well to. Even if you do decide that you need to review your child's online communications, the fact that Qustodio only tracks SMS and Facebook renders it pretty useless for that purpose. Most kids use messaging apps to chat with friends nowadays.

It's also important to note that Qustodio is only able to show you details of your child's online activity because you are effectively routing their online traffic through Qustodio's servers. You are putting a lot of trust in this company. I recommend reading the privacy policy to decide whether you are comfortable with this. You are essentially setting up a VPN (virtual private network) with Qustodio. 

The bottom line

While Qustodio is easy to use, features a good set of granular controls, and provides lots of insight into your child's online activity, I have reservations about how invasive it is. Perhaps if you want parental controls that are simple to use across a mix of Android, Kindle, Windows, and Mac OS devices, Qustodio will suit you. The limitations on iOS make it tougher to recommend for kids with iPhones.

Technically, there is a free version of Qustodio, but the feature set is limited, and it only works with one device, so you'll want to pay for the Premium subscription. Qustodio is expensive with annual subscriptions priced at $49.46 for five devices, $87.26 for 10 devices, or $124.16 for 15 devices. Considering that the parental controls offered by Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon are completely free and give you almost the same functionality, that price is too high for us to recommend you buy it. 

Pros: Web filtering, screen time limits, app and game limits, full browsing and search history, location tracking, easy to use

Cons: Expensive, limited iOS support, no Chromebook support, privacy concerns

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