Kid-friendly Apps That Bring Internet Safety to Android
Whether you are the kind of parent who hands over your smartphone in the grocery store so your kid can watch Netflix while you shop or you’ve already given Junior his first tablet, chances are good you have at least considered some kind of software to act as a barrier between the raw, unfiltered internet and your child. How much control you decide to wield over your child usually depends on age and your own computer literacy, and thankfully there’s no shortage of apps out there for you to install.
Zoodles kid mode
You can’e get more basic than this. Zoodles strips away everything about your existing experience and replaces it with a totally contained suite of games and books for your child to use and enjoy. The app is specifically designed to lock your child out of the rest of the device, so you can add this to something that is primarily yours and know they aren’t mucking about in your settings when you look away for a minute. The app does a great job giving kids ages 2 through 8 plenty to do, and will even email you with a weekly report of what the child has been doing and the potential benefits of those activities.
Zoodles is great if you want to distract a 2-3 year old, and can even be viewed as mostly educational for a 4 year old, but beyond that age you are doing your child a disservice by locking them out of the OS entirely. For the very young, this is a great standalone experience, but once you get too much older than 4 it’s probably a good idea to not rely entirely on kid mode.
Android OS child accounts
Most new Android tablets allow you to have more than one account on the device. While you can set this experience up so every account has their own login and can do whatever they want, you can also have a single master account dictate what child accounts can and can not access. The Android Account Management system allows the master account control over what apps are visible to the child account, effectively allowing you the ability to remove things like settings, web browser, YouTube, and whatever else you consider objectionable.
If you’re only interested in making sure your child has a tablet to play games on, this does the job well. This experience doesn’t so anything to limit the content within the individual apps, however, so if you grant access to the browser the child account can do whatever they want with that browser. In certain cases, like Netflix, you can limit the user to a specific kind of content if you have a child account also set up in your Netflix app. There aren’t a ton of apps that work like this, however, so the all or nothing experience if you aren’t interested in monitoring the day to day usage basically turns the tablet into a portable gaming machine.
Even on the mobile web, and in some cases especially on the mobile web, it is easy to tap in the wrong place and get sent to sites you don’t want to be at. If you choose to believe that’s how your kid gets to sites they shouldn’t be on, that’s cool. The truth is, mobile browsers are so advanced nowadays that is is way, way better to grab a small screen that no one else can see and do the things we used to do on laptops and, unfortunately, the family computer. Short of sitting your kid down and explaining that there are some websites you just shouldn’t go to and having that conversation actually stick, apps that limit the browser are your best bet.
Safe Browsing is an Android app that acts as a content filter for your browser. Like all browser limiters of this type, it’s not perfect. You select categories of sites, and the filter does its thing as you are browsing. There will be some websites that get filtered when they probably shouldn’t and some sited that don’t get filtered because the people maintaining the filter haven’t found that site yet. It’s a great step in between no filter and no browser, but like most things of this nature if your teen decides to try and bypass this app it won’t take them long to figure it out.
Bitdefender parental control
There’s nothing wrong with letting your child roam the uncharted wastelands of the Internet, as long as you trust that they will mostly make the right choices online. There’s plenty of things you can teach children about using smartphones and tablets that make their use perfectly safe, even without special lockdown apps. It requires you, the parent, knowing about those things as well, but to make that easier you can use a monitoring app and have regular conversations with your kid about what is ok to do on mobile devices.
If you’re looking for the best monitoring app, Bitdefender both offers a decent all-around solution. They monitor activity, email you reports, and give you some basic controls over content restrictions if necessary. Perhaps more importantly, you can disable apps remotely if necessary. These apps make it clear to the child that you are watching, but depending on how you have them set up don’t work especially hard to stop them from making decisions on their own.
Ignore No More
Letting your kids wander around with smartphones, especially as teenagers, comes with the expectation that you’ll be able to reach them when you need to. The idea that you are giving your child a communication device instead of just a portal to the internet sometimes gets lost in translation though, and you wind up with kids who have forgotten how to answer their phones when you call. Ignore No More fixes this particular issue by locking down the phone and leaving a message that makes it clear they need to phone home.
This is kind of extreme, but also pretty funny. The app removes the ability to do anything but call home or call 911, which is a useful tool for any parent whose kid is learning about his or her boundaries. As long as you aren’t using the app every other day, it seems like a useful tool for some parents to have. On the other hand, if your kid is smarter than you are when it comes to smartphone tech there’s a reasonably high chance that this plan will backfire in some spectacular fashion.
Keeping your child safe on the internet is not easy, but there are so many option between complete lockdown and absolute freedom that it is impossible to say there is one absolute solution. The most important tool you have when it comes to using technology with your kids is communication. Make sure you and your child know how the tech you are using actually works, and make sure there’s a mutual appreciation for why using these devices is just as much for education and safety as they are for fun.