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Planning on giving your kids an Android tablet? Perhaps you want them to have a smartphone so they can get in touch with you? Either way, it’s a good idea to stay in control of how they use the device. Making calls is one thing — accessing inappropriate content, installing apps, and running up large bills for in-app purchases is quite another.
On a desktop computer, you would employ parental control software to oversee your child’s activity, and the same is true for mobiles. Here we take a look at five parental control apps for Android, that you can use to unobtrusively and responsibly monitor your offspring’s mobile endeavors, ensuring that they are using the device safely and dependably.
Parental Control Apps: What They Do
Before we proceed, however, let’s think about parental control apps. It might be that you’re aware of such software, or perhaps you’ve been unable to find any that you felt was suitable (or configurable). On the other hand, you might be concerned about breaching the privacy of your youngsters.
With a parental control app installed on your family’s Android smartphones and tablets, you’ll be responsible for overseeing what online and app activities take place. This may not be a popular move, depending on how old your children are, but as long as they’re behaving responsibly, and feel that you’re putting trust in them, you should be able to make the whole arrangement work. Remember that installing parental control software is primarily about your offspring’s safety.
Whatever the situation, understanding what a parental control tool actually does can help you make a more informed decision.
A good place to start is with Kids Place – Parental Control, an app launcher that restricts access to data stored on your phone. The custom home screen displays only apps that you have authorized for your little ones to use, and this prevents children from downloading new apps, making calls, and sending text messages — and it blocks in-app purchases.
Additionally, Kids Place can block incoming calls and wireless signals, and it provides website and media filtering via an optional plugin.
Profiles for different users can also be set up, making this an ideal tool for Android phones and tablets whether your children have their own tablets or they share one. Also, Kids Place is free to use!
While the name might suggest that SecureTeen Parental Control is aimed at older children, it can also be used on devices handled by your younger mini-mes. Another free service, SecureTeen comes in two stages: a mobile appp for Android, and a secure web console at cp.secureteen.com/login, where the activity taking place on the phone can be monitored.
But this isn’t a remote desktop situation, more of an administrative oversight, where you can manage blocked content and apps and prevent your children from stumbling into adult material.
Note that recent updates seem to have affected the app’s ability to accurately block blacklisted websites, though this is likely a minor hiccup that will be resolved with a subsequent update. In the meantime, you can use other methods to block websites on Android.
The focus with this app — as the name suggests — is all about time, and how long your descendants spend on apps, games, and browsing. Screen Time comes with various timing mechanisms that can allow and deny access to apps, games, and other activities depending on the time of day.
If your children are prone to playing games when they should be doing homework or when they should be asleep, then Screen Time Parental Control can be employed to combat this, helping them focus on the more important activities in their lives.
While free, you’ll need the monthly subscription option ($30 annually) to get the most out of this app, which also offers a daily summary to parents.
Describing itself as a “parental lock”, Kids Zone enables you to create a profile for your children and add suitable apps to it. Additionally, you can block calls and text messages, prevent Internet access and avoid clicks on adverts too.
With Kids Zone installed, children will be unable to install apps or make in-app purchases, and apps that have been installed that you don’t wish them to use — even ones aimed at children — can be blocked. Additionally, notifications, the home screen and system menus, and device settings can all be restricted from access by minors.
If you upgrade to the Pro version (in-app purchase), Kids Zone gives you the ability to create profiles for each child and a quick unlock feature for parents to use to answer incoming calls.
Kids Launcher with Parental Control
Kids Launcher is essentially a shell designed to stop children from accessing apps and websites you’d prefer they didn’t see, and it also offers location tracking. This is a service that can be accessed by installing a second app, Remote Control.
App time limits can be established, and only permitted apps can be displayed and launched in the Kids Launcher. Calls and text messages can be blocked, while device settings can be disabled, preventing them from being changed. Scheduling is also in place, enabling limits on how long apps can be used, and the premium version — available with an in-app purchase — can set up a more detailed schedule.
It’s worth noting that Kids Launcher can be difficult to exit, resulting in you having to restart your phone or tablet.
Do You Use a Parental Control System?
The parental control market for Android is growing all the time as more and more children find that they are given phones and tablets. Rather than let their offspring make mistakes that could affect them for life, many parents are employing parental control tools to restrict transgressions and encourage responsible use of devices.
What do you think of this approach? Does it work, or are children more prone to find ways around the restrictions of parental control apps?
Is your family already protected, or you planning to make the move into parental control tools as your children mature? Perhaps you don’t consider smartphones or tablets suitable for children? Is there a mobile parental control app that you feel we overlooked? Tell us in the comments.
Image Credit: children with smartphones by Syda Productions via Shutterstock