How to Use Parental Controls on Your Child’s New Phone

How to Use Parental Controls on Your Child’s New Phone

How to Use Parental Controls on Your Child's New Phone


The holiday season is upon us, and if you’ve decided to give in and gift your child a smartphone or tablet, you may be nervous about security, supervision, and screen time.

Software can’t solve everything, but it can help. Here are some of the tools available to help parents or guardians guide children’s first solo steps into the digital age.

Before tossing around this gifted gadget, you might want to chat with your child or teen to establish some ground rules for using a smartphone or tablet.

Common Sense Media has a guide for parents and caregivers to discuss basic safety rules with children before giving them their first cellphone, including how to respond to text messages and how to handle other people’s photos.

For those giving away a standard smartphone, Apple and Google revamped their parental control features this year to make them easier to find and use. Apple’s dashboard is called Family Sharing, while Google’s app is called Family Link. Both work on the same concept: a host can add multiple user accounts to a group, but some accounts control what other accounts can see and do.

For example, someone with an adult-level account can create and configure a child account that restricts access to age-inappropriate content, blocks certain apps or purchases, and imposes time limits on daily use. .

When location settings are enabled, the parent can also see the physical location of the child’s (and presumably the child’s) phone on a map. Parents or caregivers also receive reports of the child’s activities over the phone and can grant additional permissions remotely.

Adult supervision is account-based, so parents must create an Apple ID or Google Account for their children to use.Credit…Apple; Google

These built-in tools have a few requirements. The adult must set up a special Apple ID or Google account for the child; children under 13 cannot create their own accounts on most services due to federal privacy laws.

Kids can contact their parents to ask for more screen time or permission to buy digital goods, and the software can also remind them that a guardian is watching things.Credit…Apple; Google

The system works best if everyone uses the same platform, although some parental supervision can be done through a web browser, and Google’s Family Link app for iOS can manage some Google apps on Apple devices.

Apple’s Family Sharing allows an organizer to add five other members to a group. Purchased content like music and movies can be shared among group members, and parents or caregivers can manage their children’s devices there.

To set up Family Sharing, open the Settings charm and select Family. Tap the icon in the upper right corner and choose Create Child Account at the bottom of the next screen. The first time you turn on a new iOS device, you may also have the option to set up an account for a child.

Once you connect the child’s account to the family group, the software walks you through managing that account and applying Apple’s parental controls. In the Screen Time menu, for example, parents can limit the child’s communication with other people on the phone via messages, calls and FaceTime.

When you open Family Link, you have the option to create an account for a “child or teen”. The app walks you through creating or connecting the child’s Google account to your family module. Next, you configure limits and restrictions for that account. You can adjust the settings as needed by logging in as a parent to the Family Link app.

Tablets running iOS or Android can also use Family Sharing or Family Link. Some parents choose smartwatches to keep in touch with their children, and the Apple Watch works with Family Sharing. But there’s life outside of the Apple-Google universe, especially for those on a budget or giving devices to young children.

Samsung’s Galaxy phones and tablets can use Google’s Family Link, but the company also has a Samsung Kids app to create a kid-friendly environment with apps, games and additional parental controls.

Amazon makes a variety of Fire HD tablets designed for young children.Credit…Amazon

Amazon includes parental controls for its relatively inexpensive Fire tablets and a similar Amazon Household feature for sharing and restricting digital content between family members. The company has its Amazon Kids software with age-appropriate content and screen time limits; a premium Amazon Kids+ subscription is also available.

Specialty phones that limit Internet access and monitor communications (including text messages) promise an overall better-managed experience for parents and children. The Bark Phone, Gabb Phone and Pinwheel phones are examples.

If you live in a multi-platform home or want robust tools that take a closer look at social media usage, third-party subscription apps like Bark, Net Nanny, or Qustodio offer extensive parental monitoring.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to teach your kids to use technology in a healthy way, The New York Times has an in-depth guide for families with kids of all ages.


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