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How to Set Parental Controls on a Mobile Phone


February 08, 2019

If you’ve got kids, they’re probably using a smart device one way or another. Whether your five-year-old plays games on the family tablet, or your teen is taking baby steps into adulthood with their own device, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are simply a fact of life these days. For most parents, what their children can access with those devices is a serious concern. If you’re wondering how to set up cell phone parental controls or how to put parental controls on a tablet, it’s simpler than you might think.

Parental controls for Android phones

On Android devices, all you need to do is add a restricted user profile that your child can access. Just follow these steps:

  1. Locate and open your Settings app. You may find it on the home screen, in the app tray, or in the pull-down menu. Depending on the age of your device and the version of Android installed, it may look like a gear or a series of three sliders.
  2. Scroll down to “Users” or “Users and Accounts” (depending on your Android version). Click it and you’ll see a menu that allows you to add a user profile to your device. Here, you may be asked to enter your own password to verify your identity (and keep out kids wanting to change their permissions).
  3. Select “Restricted” for the user profile type. This will allow you to turn on and off all the features of the device for this user.
  4. Follow the prompts. Once you start setting up the user, the phone should walk you through the user creation process. You’ll be able to assign the profile a name (typically your child’s), and a password, PIN, or other screen lock code. Then, you can select which apps are available to that user, and which content filters to activate on their device. You can even tie that user profile to their own Google account, so they can receive emails and access their Google Drive.
  5. Test it out. Once you’ve completed the setup process, your lock screen should present you with a choice of users. You can continue to use your own profile, while your child can click their own account name and enter the password or PIN you set up for them in the previous step. This will take them to their restricted profile with only the approved apps.
  6. For further protection, once you’ve set up your child’s account, test it out by entering it yourself. Then, go to the Play Store, go to the Settings menu, and activate Parental Controls in the store. This will allow you to prevent purchases and control what types of apps your child can download, as well as what permissions downloaded apps can use (e.g. not allowing apps that need access to location information or other kinds of personal data).

iPhone parental controls

Apple users with the latest version of iOS on their devices have it especially easy. The latest version of iOS (iOS 12) has a feature called “Screen Time” that allows you to control what your kids can access from your own phone. How cool is that?

  1. Activate “Family Sharing” on all devices. Go to Settings, then tap your own name. Tap “Set up Family Sharing.” Finally, tap “Get Started” and follow the prompts.
  2. Activate Screen Time. Once Family Sharing is on, go to the Settings menu and select Screen Time. Select the name of the child you want to set up controls for. Finally, enter a four-digit PIN that you can remember (but that your child won’t guess).
  3. Set your controls. You’ll be able to set dark hours called “Downtime,” during which your kid can’t use the device (such as after bedtime). You can also put time limits on apps (no more than an hour of gaming, for instance), monitor device use (by seeing how much time is spent on games, social media, and other apps), and, of course, block certain apps or content types.

Find more tips for setting up an iPhone for your child here.

By taking these steps, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your child is using their device safely.

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