Smartphones and tablets (especially of the Android variety) are some of the best forms of education and entertainment kids have nowadays. Whether your child is learning through an educational YouTube video, application or simply playing a kid-friendly game, our mobile devices work wonders when it comes to entertainment.
With that said, it can be understandably nerve-racking to hand over one of these expensive devices to a youngling, especially with all of the personal information that’s normally stored on these things – credit card information, email addresses, text messages and more. Luckily there are a few easy ways to implement restrictions on Android to keep your children safe, and today we’re going to walk you through some of the easiest methods out there.
Create a restricted profile (Android tablets only)
If you happen to own an Android tablet, this step is for you. On tablets running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and later, you have the ability to create a separate restricted profile that’s easy to manage. Unfortunately this feature isn’t available on smartphones, but we’d imagine it will be sometime in the future.
To create a restricted profile, here’s what to do: Head on over to your Settings menu, then scroll down until you see the Users tab. Click this, and it will bring you to a page that lists all of the users that have profiles on your tablet. Simply click on the “Add user or profile” tab, and you’ll be prompted to choose between adding a new User or Restricted Profile. For this method, you’ll want to add a restricted profile. This will allow you to add and remove applications to this user’s profile at will.
Once you give your restricted profile a name, you’ll be shown a long list of applications with toggles on the right side. Here’s where you can choose which apps and games are visible to the restricted user. You might want to hide personal applications such as Gmail, Facebook or Contacts. If you happen to see a small gear icon next to the toggle, this will give you more granular control over what the application can do.
Best Android tablets (July 2015)
To access your new profile, all you need to do is lock your device and click your profile icon on the top right of your screen. Select the profile you just created, and your tablet will switch right away. You can also switch between users from the notification shade from any screen, as well.
Create a separate user profile on your Android phone
If you own an Android smartphone, this method may help. While restricted profiles are a great feature (that should definitely be built into smartphones), creating a new user account without app restrictions will suffice for many users out there. To create a new user, follow the exact same steps that are listed above for creating a restricted profile. This time, though, you’ll only have the option to select a new User, not a Restricted Profile.
Once the new user profile has been created, your device will prompt you to set up your new profile now or later. If you choose to set it up now, your phone will switch over right away and prompt you to sign in to a new Google account. For this step, if you’re just creating a new user profile for you children, you can always enter your personal Google account information – just be weary that any purchases made from the Play Store attached to this Google account will be charged to your credit card (more on this later).
Remember - your kids can still purchase apps and games with your credit card
As the owner of the phone, you have the option to uninstall any application you see fit. You can also completely turn off the ability to place phone calls and send texts with this user account, and to do so is very easy. Simply select the user from the Settings menu, and you’ll see an option to toggle on or off phone call and SMS access. Check out the image below for a better look:
Since this method won’t completely stop your kids from accessing certain applications, you might want to try the next method listed in this tutorial.
Screen pinning is a unique feature that was introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop back in 2014. It’s one of the more handy features available in Android, though it’s admittedly a little difficult to access if you’re not familiar with the phone.
So, what is it? Screen pinning allows you to “pin” a single application to your screen and block access to everything else on your phone. This feature is great if your child wants to play a quick round of Candy Crush or Two Dots.
Here’s how to set it up: in your Settings menu, select the Security tab, and scroll down until you see the Screen Pinning option under the Advanced menu. Select this tab, and you’ll see a toggle up top, which will allow you to turn screen pinning on and off. Once you turn it on, you’re just a few steps away from pinning your first application.
To pin an app or game, open the screen you’d like to pin – this can be any app or game of your choosing. When the app is open, touch the overview button (the little square button on the bottom of your screen), and press the little pushpin icon that appears at the bottom of the application. And with that, you’ve successfully pinned your first app!
Unpinning an app is easy. Touch and hold the back (the little triangle button on the bottom of your screen) and overview buttons at the same time, and your app will become unpinned. Pretty cool, right?
Set a mobile data limit
If you’re not a fan of pinning individual apps and would much rather let you child have more freedom with your phone, you can set a mobile data limit. To do so, head to your Settings menu, then select Data Usage. From this screen, you can set your cellular data limit and even turn of mobile data access altogether.
Once you’ve turned on your mobile data limit, all you need to do is drag the red bar up and down until you’ve chosen your data limit. This will ensure that your child doesn’t exceed the data limit for the month, which will probably end up saving you some money. Take a look at the images above for more information.
App and game restrictions in the Play Store
You can also set some restrictions in the Google Play Store, letting you rest easy knowing that your children aren’t downloading any sensitive content. To enable restrictions, open up your Play Store app. Slide out the menu from the left side of the screen, then press Settings. Scroll down to the User Controls section and select Parental Controls. From here, press the toggle on the top of your screen to turn on Parental Controls.
The Play Store will ask you to set up a 4-digit PIN, which will stop your children from turning off these restrictions if they try. Once you enter your PIN, you can then choose from various restrictions, including Apps & Games, Movies, TV, Books and Music. Once you tap on one of these categories, you’ll then be able to restrict access by age.
You should also make sure the Play Store prompts you to enter your Google password every time you download a paid application. To do this, under the User Controls section in the Play Store Settings, select the “Require authentication for purchases” section. You’ll then see a box that lets you choose how frequently Google will ask for your password – never, every 30 minutes, or for all purchases through Google Play.
Try a third party application
If all else fails, or if you’re looking for a tad more protection that the above options can’t provide for you, there are a few third party applications available that can help you monitor your kids’ smartphone or tablet usage. Let’s take a quick look at some of the best apps available for these situations:
Kid Mode – Kid Mode provides a safe, educational environment for kids that puts parents in control. This app might be a bit too restricting for some parents, but it’s still a great option if you’re looking to keep your kids as safe as can be.
Screen Time Parental Control – If you’d like to restrict the amount of time your children have with your mobile device, this app is for you. Screen Time Parental Control allows you to set a daily time limit for application access, block games at bedtime while still allowing reading apps, block all apps at bed time, and much more.
Parental Control – This application is very similar to Kid Mode, but puts a secure, kid-friendly launcher in place atop your normal Android home screen. This will let your children roam freely around the device, giving them access to only the safest apps.
Net Nanny – Net Nanny is a kid-friendly mobile browser that becomes your child’s default browser. This is a highly customizable service, and is probably one of the better options out there if your child wants to browse the web. There’s a 14-day free trial available and after that, the service will cost $12.99 per year for each device. To learn more, visit NetNanny.com.
Android tablets for children
If your child is spending a ton of time with your mobile device, you might want to think about purchasing them their own Android tablet. There are a few good options aimed specifically at kids, but most of the time these tablets come with a terrible user interface and are locked down to a single app store. Instead, a good option would be to purchase an inexpensive Android tablet and install some of the apps and restrictions we’ve been talking about.
Cheap tablets: what to avoid, what to look for
Did we miss anything? If there are any parents out there who have something more to add, let us know! And like we mentioned previously, if you’re struggling with any part of this tutorial, tell us in the comment section, and we’ll be happy to help.