Most of us parents barely know or bother to care about half of our smartphone’s features; yet, precocious little hands about our house seem to know their way more around our smartphones and tablets than we do. As much as our devices stimulate and educate our kids, there are many things these devices can access which at best may be too much information and at worse, a danger to children and our security as well.
If your smartphone or tablet is not an Apple product, chances are you are touting an Android-based gadget. Google’s Android OS is one of the most ubiquitous operating systems in the digital world. You would be well-advised to know how this works…at least enough to know how to set parental controls on your device for limiting your kid’s access to the vast information highway that is the net.
Setting Up a Restricted Profile
First thing’s first. Place a universal limitation on how your child may access your Android-run device. This means setting up a Restricted Profile or creating another account in which the user is subject to your specified limitations. You, having the administrator’s rights over the device, can set permissions on what apps your kids can see or use or what content these apps can show.
To do these, modify your device’s Settings:
- Locate the Settings icon. This looks like a gear or cog. The fastest way to get to it is to swipe down on the navigation bar. Press on the gear icon to open up the Settings menu.
- Locate the choice, Users, in the menu. Tapping on Users opens up a new menu where you see your name (or You), Guest, and + Add User Profile.
- Tap Add User Profile. This opens up a submenu with two choices: User and Restricted Profile. Choose Restricted Profile.
- Now hit the back button twice to go back to the User menu. You will see your name (or You), New Profile, and Guest. The New Profile choice may be labeled Restricted profile. Lightly tap on New Profile to bring up another gear icon to its right.
- Tap on the gear icon to allow you to label the new account with your child’s name. Hit Ok to continue.
- Now you are in your child’s profile or account under the submenu, App and Content Access. You will see a list of your device’s apps. Go through the list, toggling an app On to grant access or Off to disallow use. Off-toggled apps won’t show up on the smartphone or tablet when your child uses his or her profile.
- Now some apps may even have the gear icon next to it, allowing you to further customize its settings. For instance, Google Play Movies allows you to determine what ratings would be appropriate for your child’s viewing. Other apps ask whether they can use the device’s location; so, you control this as well.
- Once you’ve done all these, your child’s account is good to go. Tap on the back button to bring you back to the Users menu. Select your child’s account to switch the device’s setting from yours to the new restricted account. With the customized profile, your child will simply see the apps you permit him access to.
The option to set a restricted profile is however not available on smartphones running Jellybean (Androids 4.2 and 4.3); but, tablets running on these older Android versions do have the capability.
Setting Parental Controls over the Google Play App
Google Play is Google’s app store which showcases all the apps anyone can enjoy with an android device. Games are a particular favorite among our little ones; but many do carry a price tag. Before your child racks up a huge bill for downloading willy-nilly from the playstore, better tweak some settings in Google’s Play App. To access it, look for the multi-colored arrow icon.
Setting Maturity Level Controls on Content
- Tap on the arrow icon . This opens up the Google Play menu.
- At the topmost left corner resides the Menu icon, depicted by three stacked parallel lines. Tap on this to bring up the Settings menu.
- Under Settings, choose Parental controls. Toggle to ON.
- Once On, Settings will ask for a PIN (Personal Identification Number) that only you must know about. This is a safety precaution should your child try to change your settings. Remember your PIN.
- After you have entered your PIN, set your filters or restrictions by choosing the maturity level for each content type–games, apps, TV, movies, music, and books. The highest restriction choice is Adults Only 18+.
Please note that setting restrictions on content in the Google Play store does not translate to setting restrictions on content your child may come across while using a web browser. You may need a specific app to apply restrictions to your kid’s browsing activities.
Setting Restrictions on App Purchases Including In-App Purchases from Google Play Store
- Go back to the Settings menu under the Google Play menu.
- Tap on Require authentication for purchases, the choice right under Parental controls.
- This brings up three choices which ask you how often you want Google Play to verify with you about an app purchase. If you are sharing your device with your kids, it is best to choose the option: For all purchases through Google Play on this device. The choice will require your password authentication, minimizing accidental or deliberate app purchases.
- It is also good to note that Google Play places an automatic password confirmation for purchases of apps rated for 12 year olds and under.
Setting Restrictions on App Purchases Outside the Google Play Store
The Google Play Store isn’t the only source for Android-based apps your child can enjoy. There are so called “third-party” apps sold on websites that may not be child appropriate. So be one step ahead of those questing hands by taking these precautions:
- Locate the general Settings of your device. Scroll down to Personal subcategory for the Security option. Tap on this.
- Under the subcategory Device Administration, make sure the box beside the option, Unknown Sources is unchecked. This ensures that no apps outside Google Play Store get installed.
Aside from these basic parental controls you can administer under the Android operating system, there are other Android-run apps out there that can refine your control, especially if your device is also accessible to an older (and therefore, “tech-wiser”) child.