Parental controls are the digital equivalent of a helicopter parent. They’re supposed to keep your kids safe online, but they can also be a nuisance to set up and manage. So how are parents really using them?
We surveyed 11,200 parents to find out. And the results? They’re kinda mind-blowing.
Whether you’re a tech-savvy parent or just someone who wants to keep your kids safe online, you’re gonna want to see what we found out. If you’re keen to understand the latest parental control trends and perhaps even pick up a few tips, read on!
11 Key Findings From Our Parental Controls Survey
Here’s a summary of the most interesting findings and key parental controls statistics:
- 51% of parents use parental control apps on their children’s devices.
- A significant 86% of parents begin using parental controls when their child is under 5 years old.
- Parental control app usage decreases as children get older. While 77% of parents with kids aged 5-11 use these apps, the figure drops to 59.5% for parents of 12-17-year-olds.
- The primary reason for using parental controls is to block inappropriate content (66%), followed by screen time limitation (54%), online activity tracking (43%), and social media monitoring (39%).
- A substantial 85% of parents allow their 13-17-year-olds to own smartphones, primarily for safety (91%), contact (72%), and educational purposes (63%).
- 68% of parents let their teenagers use social media on their phones, with YouTube being the most accessed platform by children 3-17 years old (89%).
- A high 79% of parents allow their 5-11-year-olds to use computers for gaming.
- Over half (57%) of parents report their children encountering inappropriate content online, with pornography being the most common.
- An impressive 94% of parents have discussed internet safety with their children.
- Most parents find parental controls effective in reducing screen time (73%) and blocking inappropriate content (79%).
- 44% of parents believe using parental controls infringes on their child’s privacy, yet many still use them, balancing privacy with safety.
About Our Survey
To understand how parents use parental controls, we surveyed 11,200 parents of all backgrounds and with children of all ages. Among the respondents, we had a diverse range of parents, including working parents, stay-at-home parents, single parents, and parents of multiple children.
Our main focus was on parents using parental controls, and we reached out via newsletters, social media, and targeted ads. We categorized our participants based on their tech-savviness and divided them into three sets of Extremely Tech Savvy, Somewhat Tech Savvy, and Not Tech Savvy.
Our findings reveal fascinating insights into the parental control landscape. We found differences in usage patterns between tech-savvy parents and others and between parents of older vs. younger children. We’ll dive deep into these nuances in the following sections.
Since we surveyed a diverse group of parents, our findings offer a comprehensive overview of parental control usage, minimizing any bias towards a particular group or niche and making our results representative of the broader parenting community.
51% of Parents Use Parental Control Apps on Their Children’s Devices
51% of parents use parental control apps on their children’s devices.
In this 51%, we observed a notable difference in the use of parental control apps based on the age of the children. Specifically, parents of younger children, those aged between 5 and 11, are more likely to use parental control apps. A significant 77% of these parents reported using parental control apps to monitor or limit their child’s device usage.
On the other hand, the percentage dropped for parents of older children in the age bracket of 12 to 17 with only 59.5% of parents using such apps. This suggests that as children grow older, parents might feel more confident in their child’s ability to navigate the digital world safely.
Plus, parents who are concerned about their children’s online safety are more likely to use parental control apps (67%) than parents who are not concerned (36%).
The most common reason parents give for using parental control apps is to block inappropriate websites and apps (66%). Besides, 54% of parents use parental control apps to limit screen time, 43% use these apps to track their children’s online activity, and 39% use them to monitor their children’s social media use.
Apart from these four main reasons, 27% of parents use parental control apps to prevent cyberbullying, 23% use parental control apps to prevent online predators, and 21% use these apps to protect their children’s privacy.
86% of Parents Start Using Parental Controls When Their Child Is Under 5
86% of parents start using parental controls when their child is under 5. This suggests that parents are aware of the importance of protecting their children online, and they are taking steps to do so at a young age.
This number slightly decreases as the children enter early childhood, with 74% of parents of 5 to 8-year-olds engaging with parental control tools. As children approach the pre-teen years, ages 9 to 11, the percentage dips further to 71%.
We observed a more noticeable decline during early adolescence as parents of 12 to 14-year-olds reported a 62% usage rate of parental controls.
Finally, as children mature into later teenage years, ages 15 to 17, the reliance on parental controls decreases to 57%, indicating a trend where parents possibly give more freedom to older teenagers or a growing sense of trust in their ability to self-regulate their online activities.
Content Filtering Is the Most Common Type of Parental Control Used by Parents
Content filtering is the most common type of parental control used by parents. According to our survey, 66% of parents who use parental control apps use them to block inappropriate websites and apps. We found that 38% of parents have blocked access to certain apps or websites on their child’s devices.
Besides content filtering, other types of parental controls include usage controls, monitoring, and computer usage management tools. 56% of parents of children under 18 use usage controls on their child’s devices. We also found that 46% of parents have set limits on how long their children can spend on their devices each day.
47% of parents of children under 18 use monitoring tools on their children’s devices to monitor their online activities. Plus, 33% of parents of children under 18 use computer download management tools to restrict the types of software that can be installed on their child’s device.
84% of Parents Use Parental Controls Primarily for Safety Concerns
According to our survey, 84% of parents who use parental controls do so primarily for safety concerns. This is understandable, as parents are worried about their children being exposed to inappropriate content or being harmed online.
Some specific safety concerns that parents have include exposure to pornography and other inappropriate content (62%), cyberbullying and online harassment (43%), online predators and child grooming (36%), access to harmful websites and apps (52%), and excessive screen time and addiction (41%).
Other reasons why parents use parental controls include academic performance (35%), screen time management (27%), and other varying reasons (8%), like promoting healthy media use habits, encouraging kids to engage in activities besides using media, preventing kids from accessing harmful websites and apps, limiting children’s exposure to advertising, and protecting their privacy.
It is important to note that these reasons are not mutually exclusive. Many parents use parental controls for multiple reasons. For example, a parent may use parental controls to limit screen time, promote healthy media use habits, and protect their child’s privacy.
73% of Parents Monitor Their Children’s App Usage
According to our survey, 73% of parents with children ages 5 to 11 check the apps their children use, while 47% of parents of younger teens and 33% of parents of older teens use parental controls to monitor their child’s app usage.
This suggests that a majority of parents monitor their children’s app usage in some way, but the percentage of parents who use parental controls specifically to monitor app usage is lower. It means parents are aware of the importance of monitoring their children’s app usage, but they may not be using parental controls to do so.
This could be for several reasons, like parents may not be aware of all of the features available on parental controls. They may find parental controls to be too complicated or time-consuming to use. Or they may trust their children to use their devices responsibly and not to access inappropriate content.
85% of Parents Allow Their Children Between 13 and 17 to Have Their Own Smartphones
85% of parents allow their children between the ages of 13 and 17 to have their own smartphones.
There are several reasons why parents choose to allow their children to have smartphones. Parents let their kids have smartphones for safety (91%), to maintain contact with friends and family (72%), and for educational purposes (63%), as they provide access to information and resources beneficial for school success.
We also found that parents of younger children (ages 13-14) are more likely to allow their children to have smartphones (81%) than parents of older children (ages 15-17) (89%). Plus, among our respondents, we found that parents with high school educations (86%) were more likely to allow their children to have smartphones than parents with less than a high school education (71%).
When we asked the parents who don’t allow their kids to have their own smartphones about the reason, we got varied responses. These parents said they would worry about their children being exposed to inappropriate content (73%), being cyberbullied (66%), or becoming addicted to their devices (61%).
66% of Parents Monitor Their Children’s Internet Browsing
66% of parents monitor their children’s internet browsing in some way. We also found that parents of younger children (ages 5-11) are more likely to monitor their children’s internet browsing (75%) than parents of older children (ages 12-17) (64%).
Additionally, parents are more likely to use parental controls specifically to monitor their children’s internet browsing (62%) than they are to use parental controls to monitor their children’s app usage (47% for younger teens and 33% for older teens).
This suggests that parents are aware of the importance of monitoring their children’s internet browsing, and they are taking steps to do so. However, the percentage of parents who use parental controls specifically to monitor internet browsing is lower, suggesting that some parents may not be aware of all of the features available on parental controls.
68% of Parents Allow Their Children to Use Social Media on Their Phones
68% of parents with children ages 13 to 17 allow their children to use social media on their phones. This number has increased significantly in recent years, as social media has become more and more popular among teenagers.
We also found that a majority of children under 13 had their own profile on at least one social media app or site. And surprisingly, only a third of parents were aware of the correct minimum age requirement for social media.
Here are some insights for specific social media platforms that parents let kids use:
- YouTube: 89% of children aged 3-17
- TikTok: 57% of children aged 3-17
- Instagram: 54% of children aged 12-15
- Snapchat: 53% of children aged 12-15
- Facebook: 49% of children aged 12-15
79% of Parents Allow Their Children to Use Their Computers for Gaming
According to our survey, 79% of parents with children ages 5 to 11 allow their children to use their computers for gaming. We also found that 48% of parents play video games with their children.
There are many reasons why parents allow their children to play video games. 72% of parents believe video games can have a positive impact on their children’s cognitive development. 69% said that video games helped their children learn new skills, like problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
According to 57% of parents, video games helped their children develop hand-eye coordination and 55% of parents believed that video games improved their children’s social skills.
53% of parents believe that video games can help their children develop sportsmanship. However, 63% of parents are concerned about the impact of video games on their children’s mental health.
57% of Parents Have Children Visit Inappropriate Websites or Download Inappropriate Content on Their Computers
57% of parents said their children have visited inappropriate websites or downloaded inappropriate content on their computers. We also found that 39% of teens have seen pornography online.
Parents also shared the most common types of inappropriate content they found on their child’s computer with pornography topping the list with 73%. Besides pornography, 57% of children downloaded or viewed content related to violence, 49% were involved in or a victim of hate speech, 44% were involved in or a victim of cyberbullying, and 39% were involved in other dangerous or illegal activities.
This suggests that a significant percentage of children are being exposed to inappropriate content online, through websites or downloaded content. This is a concern for parents, as exposure to inappropriate content can hurt children’s development.
When we asked the respondents how they tackled the situation when they discovered that their child had been exposed to inappropriate content online, we got different answers.
86% of parents talked to their child about what they saw and why it was inappropriate, 66% of the respondents restricted their child’s access to the internet or specific websites, 61% of the parents monitored their child’s online activity more closely, 54% of the respondents used parental controls to block inappropriate content, and 12% did nothing.
94% of Parents Have Talked to Their Children About Internet Safety
According to our survey, 94% of parents with children under 18 have talked to their children about internet safety. This suggests that a vast majority of parents are aware of the importance of talking to their children about internet safety and are taking steps to do so.
However, it is important to note that talking to children about internet safety is just one step in the process of keeping them safe online. Parents also take other steps, such as setting clear rules and expectations for internet use, monitoring their children’s online activity, and using parental controls.
51% of Parents Have a Family Media Plan
51% of parents have a family media plan. This means nearly half of parents have a plan in place for how their children use media devices.
A family media plan is a written agreement between parents and children that outlines the rules and expectations for media use. It can include things like screen time limits, device curfews, and types of content that are allowed. Family media plans can help parents ensure their children are using media in a safe and healthy way.
73% of Parents Reported a Decrease in Their Child’s Screen Time After Implementing Parental Controls
73% of parents who use parental controls reported a decrease in their child’s screen time after implementing them. This suggests parental controls can be an effective way to reduce children’s screen time.
Parents can use parental controls to set screen time limits, block access to certain apps and websites, and monitor their children’s online activity. This can help parents to ensure their children are spending a healthy amount of time on their devices and engaging in other activities.
79% of Parents Find Parental Controls to Be Very Effective in Blocking Inappropriate Content
79% of parents find parental controls to be very effective in blocking inappropriate content.
This suggests the vast majority of parents are satisfied with the effectiveness of parental controls in blocking inappropriate content. Parents are using parental controls to protect their children from exposure to pornography, violence, and other inappropriate content online.
Of these 79% of parents, 53% reported that parental controls were effective in reducing exposure to pornography and violence. 68% of parents agreed that parental controls were effective in managing screen time, leading to improved online behavior in their children.
71% of Parents Learned About Parental Controls From Online Articles
71% of parents learned about parental controls from online articles.
While most parents turn to online articles to learn about the different types of parental controls available, how to set them up, and how to use them effectively, there are other sources of information.
51% of parents learned about parental controls from friends and family. 46% of parents learned about parental controls from technology companies, such as the manufacturers of their children’s devices. 39% of parents learned about parental controls from schools and libraries while 16% learned about parental controls from nonprofit organizations that focus on child safety.
Plus, 55% of parents learned about parental controls via social media. This suggests that social media is a growing source of information for parents about parental controls.
Some popular social media platforms where parents learn about parental controls include Facebook (36%), Instagram (23%), Twitter (16%), and TikTok (10%).
44% of Parents Believe Using Parental Controls Invades Their Child’s Privacy
44% of parents believe that using parental controls invades their child’s privacy. This suggests that parents are concerned about the privacy implications of using parental controls. These parents believe parental controls allow them to see too much of their child’s online activity or that their child will feel they are not being trusted.
In contrast, the remaining 56% view these controls as a necessary aspect of modern parenting, prioritizing safety over privacy. Despite privacy concerns, 51% of parents still implement some form of parental controls to protect their children from online dangers. This data reflects the complex decisions parents face in the digital age, balancing their child’s privacy with safety and open communication.
Further inquiry revealed that 30% of parents struggle to discuss the use of such controls with their children, suggesting a communication gap on digital surveillance issues. However, 94% of them have had conversations with their children about internet security and the reasons for using parental controls.
63% of Parents Find Phones More Effective for Implementing Parental Controls Than Computers
63% of parents find phones more effective for implementing parental controls than computers. This is likely because phones are more portable than computers, so parents can easily monitor their children’s phone activity even when they are not at home. Computers are often shared by multiple members of the family, so it can be difficult to implement and manage parental controls on computers.
Plus, phones have a variety of parental control features built-in, making it easier for parents to monitor their child’s device. 67% of parents use screen time limits, 54% use app blocking, 49% use location tracking, 44% use web filtering, and 39% use call and text monitoring.
76% of Parents Say Parental Controls Have Helped Them Keep Their Children Safe Online
76% of parents who use parental controls say that they have helped them keep their children safe online. This trend was higher among parents of younger children ages 4-11 (82%) than parents of older children ages 12-17 (73%).
We also found that 67% of parents believe parental controls have helped them keep their children safe from inappropriate content. 53% believe that parental controls protected their kids from cyberbullying and 46% believe that parental controls prevented online predators from contacting their kids.
61% of Parents Rate Their Parental Control Software as User-Friendly
A majority of parents, 61%, rate their parental control software as user-friendly.
When asked to evaluate the ease of use of their software on a scale from 1 (Very Difficult) to 5 (Very Easy), these parents scored their experience towards the higher end of the scale, indicating satisfaction with the interface and functionality of the parental control tools they are using. This positive feedback suggests software developers are succeeding in creating accessible tools that cater to the needs of parents looking to manage their children’s online activities effectively.
However, there is still room for improvement. 39% of parents find their parental control software to be somewhat difficult or very difficult to use. This suggests there is a need for parental control software that is more user-friendly and easier to set up and use.
Over 83% of Parents Are Satisfied With the Parental Controls They Use
We found that 83% out of 10 parents who use parental controls are satisfied with them. These parents are most satisfied with parental controls that allow them to block inappropriate websites and apps, limit screen time, and track their children’s online activity.
Most parents were satisfied with parental controls if they were easy to use (87%) and effective at keeping their children safe online (86%).
Plus, parents of younger children (ages 4-11) were more satisfied with parental controls (84%) than parents of older children (ages 12-17) (78%).