Picture the scenario – you’re at the supermarket checkout or sitting in the doctor’s surgery and your cute wee angel morphs into a psychotic devil complete with a roaring voice that would have been at home in The Exorcist. Your quiet protestations and pleadings fall on deaf ears as your little monster starts to draw those special looks from surrounding adults that say “make them stop”. What do you do?
Well, there are lots of things you can do, but one that is guaranteed to work is to give them your phone. Your smartphone is like the Holy Grail for children. They see you peering into that screen and touching it countless times every day and nothing else could make them want something more.
You should always try to limit your children’s screen time and keep an eye on them, so we’re not suggesting your Android can serve as a makeshift babysitter, but to capture their quiet attention for short periods when you’re out and about it can be ideal. The trick is to child-proof it first.
Locking your Android
The first thing you need to do is lock the device down with some parental controls. If you make the mistake of handing your child an unsecured phone or tablet then you’ll learn why it’s a bad idea the hard way (prepare for random phone calls, deleted emails, and multiple in-app purchases). They may appear as though they’re not sure how it works, but they are surprisingly adept at pressing all the wrong buttons and causing chaos.
You can begin with the Play Store app. Load it up and tap Menu > Settings and then scroll down to User controls where you can set up Content filtering to prevent dodgy apps from showing up and also create a PIN which has to be entered before purchases can be made. This is a good place to start, but you’ll get more peace of mind with a parental control app.
Android apps for parental controls
We recommend a free app called Kid Mode by Zoodles. It provides a child lock so that you can dictate what apps they are allowed access to and prevent them from navigating around the phone. This app also safeguards against in-app purchases or ad clicks. When you install it you’ll see the Kid Mode icon and also the Parent Dashboard where you can set up the restrictions you want. The app also includes some good free content like a simple art package, storybooks, cartoons and games. You can set up multiple profiles for different children if you need to.
Another good child lock and parental control app that’s worth checking out is Kids Place. You can decide exactly what they have access to and block calls, texts, purchases, and disable certain phone features like Bluetooth. It’s free and very easy to use. It’s also PIN protected so there’s no risk of your child finding a way round the app.
Using Kindle Fire parental controls
If you have one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets then you can just pull down the Notifications bar from the top of the screen and tap More to find your built-in Parental Controls. You can block access to Wi-Fi so they can’t go online or you can restrict access to any kind of content on the device and prevent them from watching videos, for example. Vitally you can also password protect purchases.
The real power of Amazon’s parental controls is in the ability to set up children’s profiles. You can specify exactly which movies, apps, and games they have access to and you can even set time limits for different activities. So you could allow unlimited reading, but restrict videos to an hour or games to half an hour.
As your kids grow older and need less direct supervision you might consider some new apps that aren’t quite as restrictive. You can allow them online, but limit access to undesirable websites with things like Safe Browser, but you’ll need to use it in concert with one of the parental control apps so you can prevent your child from just using a different browser on the device to access dodgy content. You may also be interested in our tips for keeping kids safe online.
The real trouble kicks in when they have their own Android. You’ll need to decide whether tracking and spying apps like MobileMinder are worthwhile.
Android smartphones and tablets can be great for entertaining kids and there are lots of good educational apps available in Google Play as well. Try to engage in activities with them as often as you can and you can counteract the potential negatives of too much screen time. There are times when you’ll wonder how you managed without this magic device in your pocket, just make sure you child-proof it first!
Image via IntelFreePress Flickr.
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