How do you make your kids’ time on their tablet or phone safer? Or at least less expensive? Talking with your kids and teaching them better ways to use their Android is a great start, yet there are many ways they can make mistakes and get into trouble with a tablet, smartphone, or phablet.
Being able to lock down your kids’ Android device, effectively eliminates all these issues. One app that does this that I can recommend is LOCKiosk Pro – ($8 USD), by Telelogos. They do provide a free version as well, but I can safely say that the $8 for the Pro app is worth it. Both versions have complete functionality, with the exception being that the free version will only allow you to have access to two applications in lock down mode.
Let’s take a look at how to set LOCKiosk up for your kids – or anyone else for that matter. Some of this might vary a little bit from device to device – this tutorial was written using a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone.
1. Install the LOCKiosk App
To cover the blatantly obvious, you will need an Android device, a Google account, and an Internet connection. Something interesting to note is that the Google account that you use to download and install the app does NOT have to be the same Google account that the Android normally uses. What this means is that you can use your account to set it up, even if the phone is for your kids. Then once the app is installed and configured, you can switch the phone back to their Google account so they can use their Google e-mail and other services. You will also need to have all the apps that you want your kids to have access to, already installed on the phone.
If you have all of that, then the first thing to do is to install the LOCKiosk app on your Android device. Head on over to Google Play and do that. Once the app is downloaded and installed, come back here and we’ll configure the app to work for you and your kids.
The first time you run LOCKiosk is when you will perform the initial configuration. It will tell you that LOCKiosk has been activated, and then ask you to choose LOCKiosk Pro as the the default welcome page. Depending on your phone, there might be a few choices here. Choose LOCKiosk and click on Always.
You can now add the applications to which you want your kids to be able to have access. Simply tap three times, fairly quickly, on the screen and you will get the Settings menu. That’s where you can add the applications. You’ll see a screen come up that reads Access to settings is secured by the administrator password. The password is empty. Please set your Administrator password in the Settings menu. Don’t set the password just yet! You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you make all the changes you want first, and only then set the password.
From here you can work with Applications, Pages, Title, Background Image and the Administrator Password. Right now, let’s focus on the Applications Management menu. Tap on that menu item.
On the Application Management menu, there is a button at the very bottom that reads Add a [sic] application. Tap on that and the resulting window will appear. This window will give you a scrolling list of all the applications installed on the phone. Here, you can choose what applications you want to be available to your kids.
Scroll through the list and add them one by one, by tapping on them. If you accidentally add one you didn’t want, don’t worry. It’s easy to delete them. Simply long-press on the application and a menu will pop up allowing you to delete it. As you can see on the menu, you can also change the order of the applications and edit them.
Editing the applications probably isn’t necessary, however if you decide to change the name of an application you can do that from here. For very advanced users, you can also block off certain parts within an application. The application refers to these components as ‘windows’, although they are technically known as components. Doing this is well beyond the scope of this article and may cause applications to not work. Basically, you need to be an Android application developer to know what components you can, and cannot, block in an application.
Adding the applications is the part that will take the most time. However, once you are done, you can rest easy knowing that your kids won’t be getting into trouble with their Android device. Take for example using GMail. You can allow your kids to use GMail and LOCKiosk Pro will prevent them from following links out to the rest of the web. In this example, there is an e-mail with a link to a YouTube video. If your kids click on the link, they’ll get a message reading, Access forbidden to the application window. with some other system information.
Since it is the kids’ Android device, why not customize it a bit and make it friendlier for them? You can set the Kiosk Title to your child’s name. This is especially helpful if you have a few kids and they have otherwise identical devices. Being able to look at it and tell that it is Caleb’s Phone may help keep his brother or sister from using it. Which should result in less arguing and more quiet for you.
Having a nice bright custom wallpaper also allows you to identify, with a passing glance, if they are using their own device and if they haven’t somehow circumvented the kiosk mode. Involve your kids in this and let them pick the wallpaper they would like.
Set The Password
All the real work is done now. Your child will have an Android device custom tailored to their needs and your wants. Just password protect it so that they can’t get outside of the safe zone of the kiosk mode.
When choosing a password, make it something that your kids won’t guess. There isn’t really a need to use complex passwords with special characters or a mix of letters and numbers, uppercase and lowercase. If you want to do that, fine, but it needs to be something that you will remember (or at least enter into a password manager such as KeePass. The only way out of the kiosk mode if you can’t remember your password is to wipe the phone completely and set it back to factory defaults. If you have more than one child, it is recommended to use a different password for each one. That way if one of them figures their password out and gives it to the other kids, it simply won’t work. Then one of them will probably come and tell you that the other has the password because they’ll be jealous. Parents, you know what I mean!
Summing It Up
Kids usually don’t intend to do bad or foolish things on computers, but it happens. We all make mistakes. Using a kiosk-style application like LOCKiosk Pro can help you narrow down their choices to help them make good ones on their Android devices. It’s cheap – you pay once and can use it on multiple devices. It’s easy – this tutorial shows that.
This same method can also be used for limiting choices for employee devices, using a tablet as a kiosk for a display in a store or museum, or any other application where you need to create a safe user environment.
If you have an older child, or teen that you’re concerned might be using their phone to get into really bad trouble, you might consider a smartphone surveillance app or a family check-in app like Life360.
If your kids use a phone or tablet that you normally use, consider these other ways to make it kid safe, and still easily usable by you. Of course, there’s always the route of buying a kid-specific Android device, if you’ve got the money. Often kids end up with hand-me-down devices.
Have you used any other kiosk-style software on an Android device? How did it work? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments and ask your questions there too! That’s how we can all learn and grow without making too many mistakes. We’re all in this together!