Best Free Parental Controls

Take control of your home internet without losing control of your wallet.

  • Best overall
    Kurupira Web Filter
    • Automatic web filtering
    • Options for both blacklisting and whitelisting
    • Time controls and scheduling
  • Best monitoring app
    Life360 Family Locator
    • Geolocation tracking
    • Place alerts
    • Family Driving Summary
  • Best freemium
    Qustodio Free
    • Free version with no time limit
    • Web filtering
    • Time controls

Our pick: Which free parental control software is best?

The best free option for parental controls is easily Kurupira Web Filter. It gives parents a huge amount of control. It even has features like blacklisting and whitelisting options that many paid programs lack. It doesn’t place arbitrary limitations on the number of users or devices, and it doesn’t try to upsell you after a brief trial period. Unfortunately for Mac users, it’s only available on Windows.

The 3 best free parental controls

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Best free parental control software

Model/servicePriceWeb FilteringDevicesGet it
Best overallKurupira Web FilterFree
  • Automatic smart filtering
  • Blacklist
  • Whitelist
Unlimited Windows devicesGet for Free
Best monitoring appLife360 Family LocatorFree
  • None
Unlimited iOS or Android devicesGet for Free
Best freemiumQustodio FreeFree
  • Automat smart filtering
1 iOS or Android deviceGet for Free

What should you look for in free parental control software?

Finding good options that are also free adds an additional challenge. Most parental controls provide a free trial period, but an actual free solution has to give you permanent access to the features you need. Freemium options can be good choices because while they give you the ability to upgrade for more features, you still have a fully-functional piece of software at no cost. A free 3-day trial is not the same as an actual free version.

There are a lot of good free options out there, but each generally specializes in one or two things. You probably need to use different pieces of software for different purposes. If you want a single parental control system that covers all your devices and gives you all the tools you need for both mobile and desktop, you’re not going to find one for free.

If a more versatile option sounds worth paying for, check out our review of the best parental control tools to see if one of these options works for you.

Best overall—Kurupira Web Filter

Best overall

Specs:

  • Automatic web filtering
  • Options for both blacklisting and whitelisting
  • Time controls and scheduling

Kurupira Web Filter is a simple and robust program for setting up parental controls on your computer. Kurupira offers a wide range of parental control features:

  • Web filtering
  • Time scheduling
  • Social media filtering
  • Application blocking
  • Activity reports

Importantly, while the default web filter uses a smart filter to block potentially inappropriate websites, it also gives parents the ability to set up a blacklist (only blocking specific sites) or a whitelist (only allowing specific sites) for internet use. You can also opt to allow access to any website and simply enable tracking.

Kurupira Web Filter is Windows-only, so it can’t fill the role of a comprehensive parental control system across all your devices, but it’s a simple and powerful tool for setting up parental controls on your computer.

Pros:

  • Full free version
  • Robust, customizable features

Cons:

  • Windows only compatibility

Best monitoring app—Life360 Family Locator

Best monitoring app

Specs:

  • Geolocation tracking
  • Place alerts
  • Family Driving Summary

Life 360 is a location monitoring app that allows parents to keep track of their kids while giving them the freedom to safely roam about on their own. It gives parents several tools, such as customizable alerts when someone reaches places like home or school, location history, and weekly reports to keep track of activity.

Life 360 focuses on one thing and does it well, but it lacks many of the features you’d find in a more general-purpose parental control app. It doesn’t monitor or filter web activity on your child’s devices, it just keeps track of location. Even so, its geolocation features make it a great supplement to other parental controls or a simple solution for those who just want to keep track of their kids.

Pros:

  • iOS and Android availability
  • Real-time geolocation info

Cons:

  • No web or activity monitoring

Best freemium—Qustodio Free

Best freemium

Specs:

  • Cross-platform
  • Screen time scheduling
  • Smart web filtering
  • Daily and weekly activity reports

Qustodio is one of the best paid parental control apps available, but it also has a free version available. Unlike many free trials of parental controls that let you try it out for a few days, you can use the free version of Qustodio indefinitely.

Although the free version lacks many of the features you get in the full version, you’re still left with a parental control app that has features for both time management and web filtering. It also comes from an established, reputable company, so you don’t have to worry about an open-source project running out of steam or breaking with your next software update.

The biggest drawback to the free version of Qustodio is that it allows you to use it on only a single device—not particularly useful if you have more than one kid. On the other hand, this freemium business model allows you to upgrade to a paid plan if you find the free version useful enough that you’re willing to pay for additional features.

Pros:

  • No expiration for free version
  • Web filtering
  • Time management tools

Cons:

  • 1-device limit
  • Limited features compared to premium version

Parental control features

Parental controls have a wide range of features. Many programs take a broad approach and try to do a little bit of everything, while others focus on one feature and try to do it better than everyone else.

If you limit yourself to free software, you don’t usually get the broad approach. Comprehensive parental control solutions usually require a paid membership plan. Fortunately, there are excellent free options that focus on specific features, so thrifty parents can mix and match programs that give them the most important features.

Web filters

Web filters are designed to block websites containing content that is inappropriate or potentially harmful for children. This can include malware, pornography, social media, instant messaging, and so forth. Any kind of automatic filtering suffers from two fundamental problems: overblocking and underblocking. Even fairly customizable filters can end up blocking content you want your kids to access while letting certain unwanted sites through.

The best content filters give parents the option to blacklist or whitelist individual sites. A blacklist blocks specific sites, while a whitelist allows access only to approved sites. Such fine-tuned controls take more work to manage properly, but they can make sure your kids don’t get locked out of the sites they need for their biology homework. It also can save you from listening to Baby Shark for the 50th time in a row.

Pro tip: Many routers come with built-in parental controls, such as web filters and time management tools. Buying a new router with parental controls can be a bit of an investment, but if your current router already has these features, setting them up doesn’t cost you a thing.

Activity monitoring

Web browsers keep an activity log by default, but activity monitoring software takes it up a notch. Activity monitoring can range from simply keeping a separate, uneditable browser history to detailed keyloggers that capture every keypress and mouse click.

Depending on how they’re used, activity trackers can be either the most hands-off parental controls or the most invasive. Choosing a tracker instead of a web filter can show trust in your children’s judgment and allows them the freedom to go where they want on the internet. On the other hand, keeping a tight watch over everything they do can feel more intrusive than outright blocking content.

Pro tip: Keyloggers are most closely associated with computer hackers, who use them to steal passwords and other information from unsuspecting users. Some parental controls come with keyloggers, though in most cases, we’d consider this overkill.

The difference between these scenarios has less to do with the software itself than your communication with your kids. When you have clear expectations and boundaries with your kids, monitoring software can be a way to build trust. If you make your kids feel like you’re spying on them, it can have the opposite effect.

Geolocation

Much like activity tracking, location tracking works best when you communicate with your kids. Most geolocation software has features that can help you set expectations and reduce the amount of effort it takes to keep track of your kids.

For example, geofencing and other location-based alerts let you know when your kids arrive at home, school, or work. Similarly, location history logs keep your kids accountable but don’t require constant monitoring.

Our verdict

If you’re a Windows user looking for parental controls, Kurupira Web Filter is the best free option we’ve seen. If you’re looking for parental controls for a Mac or mobile device, the free version of Qustodio is a solid choice, even if it doesn’t have all the features of the paid version.

Free parental controls FAQ

Is there a completely free parental control app?

Kurupira Web Filter is our top pick for a completely free parental control program for Windows. You can download the full version of the program free of charge and install it on as many machines as you want.

Can you use free parental controls indefinitely?

All the products recommended here can be used for free as long as you need them. Many parental control apps often listed as free offer only a limited free trial. The free version of Qustodio, on the other hand, has no time limit and can be used indefinitely, though it does limit some features and the number of devices it can be installed on.

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.