Be it a simple smartphone or a tablet, if the device randomly reaches your kid’s hands, you might want to consider filtering the content that can be accessed at an early age. As you may already know, the Internet is filled with content not suitable for kids and even some of the games/apps found on Google Play can be way to violent or sexual for kids. Now, the fact that an Android device is deemed smart from the get go, that means you can actually tweak its settings or even install some applications that can enforce parental control.
On newer versions of Android, there are some system features that can help parents filter content seen by their kids. Even though these options are not quite so sensitive and delicate, they are able to offer a minimum level of protection against most risks out there: applications and internet browsing. As you are about to see, some of these settings can only be done for tablets, while others work for smartphones as well.
Parental Control Settings on Android
First of all, Google’s view over the matter is that a smartphone is the personal property of a single individual, while a tablet can be shared between multiple family members. With this concept in mind, the settings which can be applied for each device are different, and as you may already guessed, more advanced for a tablet. Also, this capability is restricted to newer Android versions. For starters, we’ll commence with setting up an Android tablet, which runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or above.
In a few words, we’ll set up a child profile that comes with a restrictive set of applications, no Internet browsing access and without the ability to install new applications from Google Play. Now here’s how to do it:
- Access the Settings menu by pulling down the top bar and by clicking on the wheel icon.
- Scroll down to Users and then tap the Add user or profile option.
- Chose to create a new Restricted profile.
- The system will now ask you to create a login PIN for your current user, if you haven’t got one already. This option makes sense as there is no point in creating a restricted user, as long as someone can log into the main account without credentials. By the way, this doesn’t need to actually be a PIN, you could also chose for a pattern lock.
- The new profile will have a default name given by Android, so to change this you’ll have to click the settings icon near to its name and give it a new one.
- After the name has changed, you are going to see a full list of forbidden and accessible applications listed under the name of the restricted profile. These settings have been automatically tweaked by Android, and they usually restrict access to critical bits from the Android system, such as the File Manager, Calendar, etc. Manually change these settings after your liking, and chose to enable or disable the apps in question. Also note that even the Android Browser or Google Chrome are listed here as apps.
- Now log out from the account and you’ll see that a PIN / pattern lock is protecting your account, while the restricted user can be accessed right away.
Now, if you have chosen to disable installing applications from Google Play, you’ll also have to make sure that apps are not being installed manually, through a downloaded .apk file. To do so, follow these steps, which are applicable for both tablets and Android smartphones:
- Tap on the Android Settings button.
- Now go to the Security menu which should be visible right away, or hidden under the More heading.
- Turn off the option to allow installation of apps from unknown sources (it should be off by default).
What about smartphones?
Well, on smartphones, things are not so easy. For instance, you may not create a separate account for your children, but you can filter what applications can be purchased from Google’s Play Store. Considering the scenario where you purchase a new smartphone that is going to be used by your kids, most of the work is going to be done through applications. It is here where these filters are going to be set-up, and in brief, they will either ask for a password whenever apps need to be installed or, choose only the apps recommended for a certain age. Also note that the settings that we are about to enable below are applicable to both smartphones and tablets as well.
First things first, we’re about to add a password protection setting for Google Play:
- Open Play Store and in the main window, tap on the menu button, found in the upper-left corner.
- Now press on Settings and then navigate to the User controls heading.
- Simply tap on Require authentications for purchases, and pick the manner in which this password should be inserted. You could configure the system to ask your Google’s account password every time an app is being download or, once at every 30 minutes inside the Play Store. The main drawback to this process is that you cannot manually configure a separate password for this.
From my point of view, the setting above comes more in handy when you are actually lending your own smartphone to a child, letting him play or something like that.
A more advanced level of protection would be to filter the content seen on the Play Store. In this way, the parent can filter the store to only display apps that are appropriate for children.
As seen in the image above, to enable this Android feature, you will have to manually open the Play Store and then press the Menu button. Here, choose Settings and then scroll down to the User controls heading. Now press Parental controls, like seen in the first image from the left. Enter a PIN to make sure that your child is not going to disable these settings, and then tap on a category to start with.
For each and every category, such as Apps, Games, Movies, TV and Music, manually select an age rating and then press the Home button when you’re finished.
In our next article, we will see how to go beyond the system settings and use apps to enhance and better Parental Control on Android.