ESET Parental Control (for Android)
They may be competitors, but all the parental control apps we’ve reviewed at PCMag agree on one thing: You must save your kids from the Internet. With these services, parents can protect their children from online unpleasantness wherever youngsters browse the Web. And mobile versions of these programs include extra features tailored for the platform. ESET Parental Control for Android is a solid solution for families, though it lacks call and text blocking.
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An annual subscription to ESET Parental Control for Android costs $29.99 per year. This looks more expensive than the other standalone Android parental control app, Net Nanny, but Net Nanny’s $12.99 per year just covers a single device. A five-device (cross-platform) Net Nanny license lists for $74.99. ESET truly is more expensive than Kaspersky, though, as Kaspersky offers unlimited installations for $14.99 per year.
You can now also acquire the app as part of ESET Multi-Device Security 10, which starts at $84.99 per year for six licenses. A single license lets you install the app on an unlimited number of children’s devices, and you can try out all the premium features in a 30-day free trial. Note that there’s no version for iOS devices, however, so if your family is a mixed mobile-platform environment, you’re out of luck.
The Android app can function in child mode, for applying the rules, or in parent mode, for creating the rules. Norton and Kaspersky Safe Kids (for Android) also offer a single app that works both ways. You also need to set up a My ESET account, which lets you apply a child’s profile configuration to multiple devices.
To start, you install ESET Parental Control from the Google Play Store, optionally associate it with your My ESET account, and enter the license key. During installation, you choose whether this is a child’s or a parent’s device. If it’s a child’s device, you select or create a child profile, enable ESET for app monitoring, and register it as a Device Administrator.
Like Norton Family Parental Control (for Android), ESET emphasizes letting the child know what the rules are. Launching the app shows the child exactly what’s being monitored, and what activities aren’t permitted.
Whether from the My ESET online page or from the parent-mode app, you can choose which of 35 categories the content filter should block, or accept the defaults based on your child’s age. There’s also an option to monitor visits to inappropriate sites without blocking access.
Net Nanny and Mobicip (for Android) manage their content filtering by forcing the use of a proprietary browser. Like Norton, Kaspersky, and several others, ESET has no such requirement.
When the child tries to visit a blocked site, the browser displays the simple message, “This site is not right for us. Let’s try something else!” Other products, Norton among them, offer a more specific explanation of what triggered the block. There’s a button at the bottom to request parental permission for access to the blocked site. In testing, I couldn’t find any nasty sites that weren’t blocked.
ESET blocks inappropriate sites even when they use a secure HTTPS connection. That’s good, because otherwise a child could evade its monitoring using a secure anonymizing proxy.
Application Guard lets you manage your child’s use of Android apps. Based on five age ranges, it marks apps as appropriate, inappropriate, or Fun & Games. Naturally you can tweak these settings if you wish. ESET always permits appropriate apps and always blocks inappropriate ones.
As for apps marked Fun & Games, ESET handles those differently. You can set a daily time budget for school days and for nonschool days, and also define a weekly schedule for when the child can use such apps.
Net Nanny (for Android) applies time limits to Internet access, not to specific apps. Kaspersky and Norton limit overall device use, but still allow emergency phone calls outside the time limits.
From the parental control home page, you can see an overview of the child’s website and app usage, as well as a location map. Norton and Qustodio also let you view the child’s location. Kaspersky, Familoop Safeguard (for Android), and FamilyTime, among others, take this concept a step farther, letting parents define safe and unsafe locations, and sending a notification when the child crosses into or out of a defined location.
Parents can click on the Web Guard and Application Guard overviews for detailed reports. Web Guard reports blocked websites and visits to appropriate websites, summarizing each by category, with the option to dig in for specifics. If you set it to simply monitor rather than block, you also see visits to inappropriate websites.
Application Guard reports on the child’s most-used apps, and also displays what it calls a usage heat map. This is an hour-by-hour chart that highlights the hours with the most app usage. If you see a spike at 3am, it’s time for a little chat. The Fun & Games chart shows the daily cap for the last seven days, along with how much time the child spent using such apps.
Like Norton and Kaspersky, ESET uses a single app for parent and child. Unlike Kaspersky, ESET’s mobile app gives parents full control over all configuration settings.
In fact, you can at any time pick up your child’s device, enter the parental PIN, and switch it to parental mode. From the app, you can do everything that’s possible online, and more. And when you turn the device off, access to parental features is over.
One useful app-specific feature gets the attention of a child who’s ignoring your texts. The Parental Message feature locks the child’s device on receipt of a text from a parent’s phone number, unlocking only after the child responds. If that seems too draconian, you can set it so that it locks only for texts beginning with an exclamation mark.
That’s a healthy amount of extra functionality, but there could’ve been more. Kaspersky monitors calls and texts. Qustodio Parental Control (for Android) and Norton can block unwanted calls and texts. Norton lets parents manage just who can contact the child. Qustodio and FamilyTime include a panic button to call for parental help. Even so, ESET holds its own among Android parental control apps.
ESET Keeps Kids Safe
ESET Parental Control for Android is a great service, and a fantastic addition for users of ESET Multi-Device 10. Symantec Norton Family Parental Control, the PCMag Editors’ Choice for Android parental control apps, surpasses it—slightly—when it comes to usability and number of quality features, but it isn’t a standalone app. If you’re a parent who only cares about securing your children’s Android phones and tablets, ESET might be the better option.