Qustodio review

From bestreviews.com
Sian Babish

Considering parental controls to monitor and restrict your kids' internet usage? We put Qustodio to the test to see how parents felt about it.

Do you worry about what your kids are doing online?

Monitoring children's online activity can be challenging, especially because the increase in distance learning means they're on their computers and tablets even more. Many parents are considering parental control options for kids' devices -- but before paying for a new service, it's important to be sure it will actually work.

Qustodio is a parental control app that claims to keep kids safe and focused when they use the internet, while also offering parents peace of mind as they can monitor activity on their kids' devices and control access. 

We put Qustodio to the test to see if it actually helps parents feel more secure about their kids' internet usage.


How does Qustodio work?

Qustodio helps parents monitor their kids' activity across compatible devices that operate on Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and Kindle. Parents can control settings either through the app or the web dashboard. Depending on the plan purchased, it's possible to monitor between five and 15 devices. 

Our testers found that setup was straightforward and monitoring was fairly user-friendly (even for less tech-savvy parents) thanks to a simple interface. The app sends daily digests to parents that highlight features, provide tutorials, and share platform updates.


What does Qustodio monitor?

Qustodio monitors online activity in real-time, including social media usage, video gameplay, browser history, and messaging apps. Controls can be set up to block specific apps or sites, filter inappropriate content, and define usage limits. There are also options to log text messages and track the locations of registered devices.

Parents can choose the types of updates or alerts they receive: They can monitor activity as it occurs or opt for reports that track usage trends and provide an overview of activity.

Settings are customizable, and we were able to ramp up or roll back controls whenever necessary. Parents can create a list of allowed apps and websites, such as online portals for distance learning, or set up usage limits for others, like games or social media sites. For example, one of our testers decided to assign a time limit to the popular game, Roblox, on their 10-year-old's Fire Tablet.


How much does Qustodio cost?

Qustodio offers a free version that offers a limited number of features to protect a single device. It's a worthwhile option for parents looking for affordability, though we found the limitations to be frustrating -- especially because most families have more than one device for their kids.

There are three Premium Plans available, which cost between $54.95 and $137.95 per year. These plans all share the same features, so the price depends on how many devices you need to monitor. 


Is Qustodio effective at monitoring kids' online activity?

Qustodio's main operations are filtering, monitoring, setting usage limits, and setting controls. Here's what we thought of the functionality of each based on our testing.

Filtering: We found that Qustodio was mostly effective at filtering out inappropriate content. It was fairly easy to add sites manually, though that did become rather tedious. We also tried filtering sites based on broader categories provided by Qustodio, which was faster but less effective. 

One of our testers realized (thanks to Qustodio's logs) how much time their kids were spending playing games throughout the day, so they decided to block game sites altogether during online learning times. These restrictions were generally effective and the kids didn't find any loopholes or workarounds.

Monitoring: Monitoring can be done in multiple ways, ranging from alerts to timestamped reports and browser history summaries. Basically, parents can get as much or as little information on their kids' activity as they like. 

We had our testers try the report feature to determine whether their kids were indeed focused during online classes. Based on overlapping timestamps in the generated reports, one parent discovered that one of their children was visiting unrelated sites during class time, and therefore they were able to set up restrictions to prevent that from continuing.

Usage limits: Our testers implemented usage limits on their kids' devices, particularly to manage the amount of time spent on certain apps (especially games and social media sites). This was particularly helpful during the school year to moderate screen time. 

Unfortunately, we found that usage time wasn't always tracked accurately. This made it somewhat difficult for parents to assess and analyze kids' activity and made it even more challenging to export data to track trends in usage. 

Making changes to controls: Managing control changes to kids' devices was fairly straightforward. It was easy (though time-consuming) to manually add sites and apps to the blocked list. 

There were, however, occasional obstacles when it came to adjusting controls. One tester experienced challenges with changing controls across timezones. Since there's no way to set a timezone in Qustodio, their kids were unable to log into apps and sites during the times they were actually allowed. As a result, our tester had to manually allow the kids to log in without completely erasing the previous controls, which detracted from Qustodio's marketed ease of use.


Pros of Qustodio

Based on our testing, Qustodio mostly lived up to its claim of being user- and parent-friendly. Setup was simple and there wasn't much of a learning curve. It was easy to stay up-to-date with features and updates.

Qustodio covered most of our testers' basic monitoring needs. Reports provided an overview of recent activity, especially browser history and time spent on various apps and websites. It also filtered out most inappropriate or mature content based on specific control settings.

Qustodio also offers safety settings for kids' devices. Family Locator lets parents find their child on a map and track their whereabouts (provided their device is on hand). Kids with Android devices can add an SOS Panic Button that allows them to share their location with all trusted users if they feel they're in danger.


Cons of Qustodio

Our testers experienced a few quirks and glitches. Monitoring from a distance (especially across different time zones) presented compatibility issues that required troubleshooting. We also noticed that Qustodio can slow down devices (including parents' devices). 

While Qustodio was effective at blocking inappropriate content, it wasn't flawless. It was best at blocking sites manually added to the restricted list. 


Bottom line

Overall, Qustodio is a strong app with useful features that make device monitoring easy for parents. Premium Packages are priced competitively, and considering the features, it's worth considering for kids with multiple devices.

Unsurprisingly, the app isn't well-received by all. Older kids reported frustration with Qustodio, but we found the app to be most successful when parents had open conversations with kids about online safety -- which is necessary when raising children in a digital era.


Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.