Android Device Parental Controls: A Comprehensive Guide

Life today is sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent for young chil­dren grow­ing up dur­ing the age of the smart­phone. Unlike just 15 to 20 years ago, our kids don’t know a world before every­one had imme­di­ate access to almost any kind of con­tent and infor­ma­tion imag­in­able in the palm of their hand. Unlike their par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion, tech­nol­o­gy is instinc­tu­al and 2nd nature to chil­dren grow­ing up today. Con­se­quent­ly, kids are becom­ing adept at using devices at near­ly incon­ceiv­ably young ages and are increas­ing­ly at risk of being exposed to non-age-appro­pri­ate content.

This high­lights just how cru­cial it is to set a good foun­da­tion for your child’s dig­i­tal well-being. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, estab­lish­ing this foun­da­tion comes from tak­ing the nec­es­sary mea­sures and pre­cau­tions that pre­vent them from being exposed to harm­ful content.

For­tu­nate­ly, there are plen­ty of steps you can take when it comes to parental con­trols on var­i­ous mobile devices. In this arti­cle, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to set­ting parental con­trols on Android phones and tablets.

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Shared Android Devices Versus Dedicated Devices

Before we dive deep­er into the var­i­ous nuances of Android parental con­trols, there are a few things to consider:

  • Are your Android devices shared through­out the fam­i­ly? Do your chil­dren have their own ded­i­cat­ed devices? Your answer to these ques­tions impacts the way you’ll need to set parental controls.
  • Enact­ing total con­trol over a child’s screen time can actu­al­ly have a neg­a­tive effect. When peo­ple feel like they’re being watched close­ly, it’s proven to increase anx­i­ety. There­fore, offer­ing the right amount of inde­pen­dence and auton­o­my to your chil­dren is a must online. That said, it’s still nec­es­sary to main­tain the ide­al amount of pro­tec­tion over your child’s screen time.
  • Remem­ber that plac­ing lim­its on screen time requires a del­i­cate bal­ance. While some par­ents may think that strict­ly lim­it­ing screen time to one hour is ben­e­fi­cial, that’s not always the case. Research sug­gests that it’s the type of screen time ver­sus the length of expo­sure to con­tent that makes all the dif­fer­ence. If a child is watch­ing high-qual­i­ty kids’ videos for over an hour, for instance, slight­ly longer screen time can have a pos­i­tive effect vs. con­sum­ing con­tent such as unbox­ing videos or oth­er con­tent that pro­vides no edu­ca­tion­al value.

With these points in mind, here are a few step-by-step guides for set­ting parental con­trols on Android devices, depend­ing on your spe­cif­ic scenario.

Screen Pinning

For small­er tots and kids who may just be start­ing to explore tech­nol­o­gy, screen pin­ning is a great way to lock your Android device to one app with­out need­ing to wor­ry about them acci­dent­ly access­ing some­thing they shouldn’t. Before hand­ing over your device, take the fol­low­ing steps:

>1. Ensure the desired app you want your child to use is open in the background

  1. Open Set­tings and tap Secu­ri­ty
  2. Turn on app pinning
  3. Press the square Overview but­ton on your Android device to open the mul­ti­task­ing screen
  4. Find the desired app and tap the app icon
  5. Select Pin to acti­vate screen pinning

Your device will now be locked into the select­ed app and require a par­ent to enter the device’s pin or use the device unlock method in order to dis­able screen pin­ning. Oth­er­wise, the pinned app will not allow the user to exit the app or access any oth­er con­trols on the device.

Google Family Link and Setting Limits

Google Fam­i­ly Link pro­vides par­ents and care­givers a robust set of eas­i­ly acces­si­ble parental con­trols, with fea­tures such as:

>* View­ing app activity

  • Man­ag­ing installed apps
  • Set­ting screen time limits
  • Lock­ing devices
  • Locat­ing devices

It’s also worth not­ing that Google is not claim­ing they pro­vide a 100% suc­cess­ful solu­tion for inter­net safe­ty and parental con­trols. As an ambas­sador for inter­net search and brows­ing, Google aims for safe­ty through­out any user’s expe­ri­ence. It acknowl­edges the inabil­i­ty to make the inter­net mag­nan­i­mous­ly safe for everyone.

While Fam­i­ly Link pro­vides tools to man­age your child’s online expe­ri­ence, it does not make the inter­net safe. Rather, it is intend­ed to give par­ents choic­es about how their kids expe­ri­ence the inter­net, and encour­ages trans­par­ent dis­cus­sions about inter­net and screen time usage.

If your Android device is com­pat­i­ble with Google Fam­i­ly Link, click or tap on this down­load link and sim­ply fol­low the prompts in the app.

Creating Profiles

Any­body using a shared device can cre­ate sep­a­rate user pro­files, so they don’t have to con­tin­u­al­ly change parental con­trol settings.

For­tu­nate­ly, this process is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple. To cre­ate the desired num­ber of indi­vid­ual pro­files, fol­low these steps:

>1. On the device’s home screen, go to Sys­tem > Advanced

  1. Select Mul­ti­ple Users
  2. Select Add User then select Okay
  3. Select Set up Now
  4. Unlock the screen to set up your Google account and oth­er information
  5. With your child, set up their account along with any addi­tion­al information

It is then pos­si­ble to set cus­tomized restric­tions under your child’s account so that those same pro­to­cols don’t affect your own account.

Restricting Purchases and Content in the Google Play Store

Through the Google Play Store, par­ents can restrict access to down­load­able and pur­chasable con­tent based on matu­ri­ty lev­el via the fol­low­ing steps:

Restricting Content

For fam­i­ly mem­bers with their own account:

>1. Open the Google Play Store app

  1. Select Menu in the top left cor­ner, then select Set­tings fol­lowed by Parental Con­trols
  2. Turn Parental Con­trols on
  3. Cre­ate a PIN that only par­ents or guardians know
  4. Select the kind of con­tent to be filtered
  5. Decide how to filter/​restrict content

For fam­i­ly mem­bers with accounts man­aged by Google Fam­i­ly Link

>1. Open Google Fam­i­ly Link

  1. Select your child
  2. Select Man­age Set­tings fol­lowed by Con­trols on Google Play
  3. Select the kind of con­tent to be filtered
  4. Choose your pref­er­ences for filtering/​restricting con­tent based on matu­ri­ty level

Again note, that these parental con­trols aren’t 100% fool-proof. Chil­dren can still access Google Play apps or con­tent their guardians have pre­vi­ous­ly pur­chased pri­or to set­ting parental con­trols. Chil­dren can also get to oth­er­wise inac­ces­si­ble con­tent through direct store links.

Restricting Purchases

Last­ly, it is pos­si­ble and impor­tant to restrict paid apps and in-app pur­chas­es tar­get­ing chil­dren via the fol­low­ing steps:

>1. Open the Google Play Store app

  1. Select Menu fol­lowed by Set­tings
  2. Select Require Authen­ti­ca­tion for Purchases
  3. Select All Pur­chas­es to ensure a pin is required to make any kind of paid purchase

Some Final Thoughts

The above guide pro­vides a sol­id foun­da­tion for effec­tive parental con­trols on Android devices. Plus, there’s a wealth of oth­er apps out there that can fur­ther bol­ster a safe inter­net brows­ing expe­ri­ence for your child.

How­ev­er, these meth­ods pale in com­par­i­son to a par­ent or guardian exer­cis­ing their own per­son­al form of vig­i­lance when it comes to their child’s screen time. When par­ents are active­ly engaged and aware of their child’s online behav­iors, it con­tributes to a healthy rela­tion­ship with tech­nol­o­gy and the inter­net, as well as set­ting a sol­id foun­da­tion for your child’s dig­i­tal well-being.