November 27, 2019

The Ultimate Guide To Cell Phone Monitoring For Parents

So, your child has a cell phone. They are attached at the hip with it and won’t keep it out of their sight. Even if you trust them, do you really know what they’re up to on it? Are they putting themselves in danger? The only way for a parent to reveal these answers is to monitor their kid’s cell phone. Below, we cover every point relating to cell phone monitoring for parents.

What Is Cell Phone Monitoring?

Cell phone monitoring is when someone regularly reviews their own or another person’s phone contents and activities. This can be done by either viewing the phone directly, using a cell phone parental monitoring app or utilizing built-in phone settings.

When monitoring cell phone, there are a number of activities one can view:

  • Phone location history
  • Screen time
  • App usage
  • Texts and private messages
  • Phone call log
  • Photos and videos stored
  • Mobile browsing history
  • Social media activities and messages
  • Incoming and outgoing emails
  • And more!

Reasons To Monitor Your Child’s Phone

Protect Them From Online Dangers

There are countless dangers children face on social media, messaging apps, and while browsing online. The key threats parents need to watch out for when monitoring mobile devices are:

  • Scammers
  • Sexual Predators
  • Cyberbullies
  • Catfishers
  • Hackers
  • Phishing
  • Inappropriate Content

Ensure They Aren’t Doing Anything Illegal

As children grow up, they like to try new things, often being peer pressured by their friends. This includes illegal actions like underage drinking, taking drugs, and committing crimes. All parents want to make sure their child isn’t involved in such activities.

See Who They’re Talking With

Teenagers usually don’t share with their parents what they’re up to, who their friends are, and what they are texting about. Teens want to be independent of their parents, not wanting a “helicopter parent”. However, it’s a parent’s job to know what their teen is up to, whether their teen wants them knowing or not.

Ask Yourself: What Are You Looking To Track?

Before actually monitoring your child’s phone, ask yourself, what information are you looking to view? Do you want to see all of their phone activities or just their text messages? Also, are you looking for additional monitoring features like the ability to block apps and set time limits? You need to answer these essential questions before jumping right in.

Is Parental Cell Phone Monitoring Legal?

Monitoring your child’s cell phone is legal as long as you are their legal guardian and they are under the age of 18. However, it’s advised to check your state and local laws as they may be different.

Built-In Phone Monitoring Features Parents Can Use


Family Sharing and Ask To Buy

If you have Family Sharing, you will be able to use the “Ask To Buy” iPhone setting. When it is enabled, you must review any download or purchase your child makes in the App Store. To use this setting:

  • Open Settings and tap on your name.
  • Choose Family Sharing, and click on your child’s name.
  • Click on Ask to Buy.

Screen Time

This feature enables parents to restrict the content their child has access to. This includes viewing adult websites, downloading apps, and games with certain content ratings, and more. Parents are also able to create a passcode for themselves, so their children cannot change the settings.

To get to these settings:

  • Settings → Screen Time → Continue.
  • Choose This is my child’s [device], and create your passcode.
  • Click on Content & Privacy Restrictions.

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Google Play Controls

Within Google Play, parents can use controls to limit what content their children have access to. This includes TV shows, music, books, apps, games, and more. To navigate to these settings, follow these directions:

  • Go to the Google Play app on your child’s device.
  • Tap on the menu icon ☰ → Settings
  • Click on Parental controls, and tap the button to turn on parental controls.
  • Create your parental PIN code, which is used to access the store parental control settings.
  • Filter and restrict what content you want your child to have limited or no access to.

App Timer

Don’t want your child using a certain social media or game for too long? With the App Timer setting, you can limit how much time they spend on certain apps.

  • Go to SettingsDigital Wellbeing Dashboard
  • Tap the drop-down menu next to the app you want to limit.
  • Set the timer based on your desired amount of time.

Wind Down

Sometimes, like before bed, you don’t want your child to use their phone and be disturbed by notifications. By using the Wind Down feature, you can block notifications immediately or at scheduled times.

  • Open SettingsDigital WellbeingWind Down
  • Press the button toggle button next to Turn on now or Turn on as scheduled to activate Wind Down.
  • If you’re scheduling Wind Down, click on Set schedule and choose your start and end time.

Apps Parents Can Use To Monitor Their Child’s Phone Use

Cell Phone Monitoring Apps

If you are looking to view your child’s phone activities, you should consider using a cell phone monitoring app. With these apps, you can view phone content such as photos, videos, social media posts and likes, emails, texts, and more. So, you’ll be in the know regarding your child’s phone use without controlling their use of it.

Parental Control Apps

Going one step further than mobile monitoring apps are parental control apps. These app types let parents monitor their child’s mobile device, plus providing them the ability to control their use of it. Depending on the app you use, you may have the ability to block apps, filter out web content, and detect any issues on social media platforms.

Google Family Link

You can use Google Family Link on iOS or Android. Once you have linked your Google Family Link account with your child’s phone, you can view their current location, and app activity and downloads. Within the parent settings, you can set Google Play controls, place Google Chrome and web filters, and place app time usage limits.


Within the Google app, you can activate SafeSearch. This feature helps filter out inappropriate and explicit content, photos, videos, and websites. This would be an additional feature you could use on top of any other app you use. To learn how to activate it, click here.

Teach Your Child The Basics Of Phone Safety

Sometimes, monitoring your child’s phone just isn’t enough. Parents need to take it a step further by teaching their children the basics of phone and internet safety (as listed below).

  • Don’t message or text with anyone you don’t know.
  • The only friend/follow people on social media that you know. Make sure your accounts are set to private.
  • Avoid sharing personal information (ex: where you live) through text, social media, or online.
  • If you are being targeted by trolls, cyberbullies, or predators on your phone, let your parents or an authority figure know.
  • Be careful what you post on social media. If you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, then don’t post it.
  • Avoid connecting your phone to public Wi-Fi networks you’re not familiar with.
  • Don’t be on your phone 24/7. Take up other activities like sports or reading.
  • NEVER text and drive. Texting increases your risk of getting in an accident by 23%.

Cell phone monitoring is a great method for parents to not only know what their child is up to but to keep them safe. Technology use among children is going to continue to rise, and parents must be able to keep up with the times.

About the author 

Imran Uddin

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