Kids who receive smart-phones can do naughty things right under a teacher or parent’s nose. For example, some apps allow kids to sext one another under the disguise of a calculator app. Some kids might end up buying in-app purchases offered within free apps, racking up charges on their parents’ credit cards.
Research conducted in 2015 showed that 22% of kids admitted to sexting. Most of the apps are free, but offer extras that can be purchased within the app, in order to enhance the experience. In fact, between 2013 and 2014, freemium app revenues rose by 211%, according to research companies IDC and App Annie.
Parents can regulate what their kids see, play with or use by stopping them from seeing adult content on a web browser, stopping them from deleting apps on your personal smart-phone, monitoring their phones for hackable apps, and blocking in-app purchases.
Some parents might think a good solution is to buy their children a smart-phone with limited capabilities. If your kids are given an advanced phone, know that Apple’s parental controls are quite adept in setting enforceable restrictions, while Android systems don’t offer as many limitations for parents.
Family Sharing is the heart of the iPhone’s parental control features. Its set-up consists of assigning a parent’s iTunes account as the primary holder of credit card transactions. The parent can bring in several Apple accounts to join the group, allowing family members to purchase from one credit card, and share apps with each other. If you purchase an app on your iPhone, everyone in the family can use it on their own phones as well.
A big aspect of Family Sharing is the “Ask to Buy” feature. Once enabled, each time a child attempts to make an in-app purchase (or download anything, for that matter), the parent’s iPhone gets an alert about a transaction. The purchase can ultimately be allowed or denied by the parent.
The “Ask to Buy” feature is very accommodating to limit in-app and download expenses. It can also be beneficial for parents who are worried about hackable apps, and allows them to screen what is actually being purchased, should the app be disguised as something suspicious.
In the “Restrictions” section of the iPhone’s settings app, you’ll find a smorgasbord of features that allow you to disable or enable certain things on your kids’ phones, as well as your own. You can prevent the Safari browser from showing adult content on your child’s iPhone via websites. If parents sometimes let their kids use their own phones, restrictions can be set that prevent them from deleting apps.
Some kids unknowingly rack up data charges by streaming music or videos on their phones. The ability to use cellular data for Apple Music and Netflix, as well as similar apps, can be disabled within the iPhone’s settings, allowing content to be seen or heard through a Wi-Fi connection instead. You can also stop your children from re-enabling whatever was restricted on iPhones, if necessary.
Alternatively, on Android operating systems, you can set restrictions on app downloading at specified maturity levels. This can be beneficial in stopping kids from making in-app purchased without parental consent. In some cases, a simple password is all it takes to prevent unauthorized purchases.
Android doesn’t have as many settings to prevent adult content from being seen within web browsers, or is as adept in screening hackable/vaulted apps. They do offer some basic solutions, though: you can set up the SafeSearch feature on Google’s search engine, which stops adult content from showing up on search results. YouTube and several other apps can also offer this same configuration.
Likewise, the system doesn’t have the option to restrict cellular data use for some apps, although there are workarounds for such situations. For instance, YouTube allows you to stream videos in high-definition strictly over a Wi-Fi connection. That helps, but won’t stop your kid from racking up data charges.
Android users do have the option to download third-party apps to aid in parental regulations. As an example, AppLock makes suspicious apps only open using a password. PhoneSheriff – a $90 app – can be used to track and block other apps on multiple smart-phones.
Ultimately, Android doesn’t have a lot of variety when it comes to built-in restrictions for parental controls, in comparison to the iPhone.
One particular highlight, however, is the open-source nature of Android phones, which allows developers to customize the operating system, and as such, program their own parental control settings. This is promising, but does require a certain level of technical knowledge.
Apple’s childproofing technology is top-notch, but not enough to protect kids from online threats. Parents should be proactive and use the restrictions smart-phones provide, as well as talk to their kids directly about what’s good and bad about the Internet. Parents may wish to reward their children for respecting the rules.
Taking away the Internet or being too over-protective could work against you, as children will be more inclined to find other ways to connect to the digital world. Children should feel like they have their independence, as long they know what’s right and wrong about the content they are exposed to.