How to Childproof Your Android and Make It Kid Friendly

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01
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How to Childproof Your Android Smartphone or Tablet

Father and daughter using tablet
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While television has long been viewed as a necessary evil by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who recommend no more than two hours of screen time for kids, the interactive nature of our smartphones and tablets can actually help our kids advance when used in the right way. This makes it very important to properly childproof your Samsung Galaxy S, Google Pixel or other Android device to ensure when you hand it over, they are using appropriate apps and are restricted in just what they can do with it.

Of course, there are other pressing problems that can be solved by properly childproofing your tablet. It can certainly reduce the surprise of a high credit card bill due to unrestrained access to the Google Play store, especially in the digital age of the in-app purchase.

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Put a Lock on Your Smartphone or Tablet

Android's PIN screen

The first step to making your Android device kid-friendly is making it kid-unfriendly. This involves putting a PIN or password lock on it to make sure prying eyes and curious fingers must first go through you in order to use it. Obviously, the password should be something not easily guessed by your child.

  • First, go into the Android's Settings app.
  • Scroll down to tap Security and then Screen Lock.
  • You have several options for locking your device, but PIN (which is a 4-digital passcode) and Password (an alphanumeric password of up to sixteen characters in length) are the two safest choices.
  • You will be asked to type the PIN or password in twice to avoid typos.

After you have this set up, you will be asked to enter the PIN any time you activate the device or attempt to make major changes to it such as changing the password.

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Create a New User on Your Device

Android's restricted user setup screen.
You can restrict access to apps while creating a new restricted access user.

The next step to childproofing your smartphone or tablet is to make it more kid friendly.  We do this by setting up a user account specifically for your kids. If you have kids of variant ages, you can even set up specific profiles for each of them that are more age appropriate.

  • Open Settings again if you closed out of the app.
  • Scroll down and tap Users.
  • Choose Add user or profile.  
  • When the dialogue window pops up, tap Restricted Profile to create a new user that has restricted access to the device.

This will take you into a special screen where you can allow or (more importantly) disallow access to certain apps on the device. By default, Android will disallow access to almost everything including the Chrome browser and the ability to search the web through the Google app. You should go through an turn on access to any app or game that you want your kids to use.

There are several options with a gear icon to the left of the on/off switch. These are apps that allow you to tailor the content to your kid. This is generally done through age-based settings.

In Google Movies and TV, you can restrict access to anything higher than one of the standard ratings. For example, you can restrict access to only PG-13 and TV-13 and lower.  Be sure to put in a restriction for both movies and television. You will also want to make sure the "Allow unrated content" option is unchecked.

Remember: You can get back into these settings at any time by launching the Settings app, going to Users and tapping the gear icon next to the new user profile. So, if you download a few new apps or games for your kid, you can allow them access.

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Set Up Restrictions in Google Play

Google Play's Parental Controls screen

You can also choose to simply restrict downloads from the Google Play store. This is a great way of childproofing an Android tablet or smartphone for an older child. The restrictions in the Google Play store extends to movies, music and books as well as apps.

  • First, launch the Google Play app.
  • While in the app, access the menu by sliding your finger from the left edge of the screen toward the middle of the display. This should reveal the Google Play menu.
  • In the menu, choose Settings, scroll down and tap on Parental controls.
  • You will first need to turn on Parental controls.  This will require inputting a 4-digit passcode. This can be the same as the PIN for unlocking the device.
  • After the parental controls are turned on, you can visit each section to enable restrictions. For Books and Music, the only option is to restrict adult content.  Apps, Games, Movies and TV use the standardized age restrictions.

Need to Know: These restrictions only apply to apps available on the Google Play store. If you have already installed an app on the device, these settings will not restrict access to it.  

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The Best Apps for Childproofing Your Android Device

A screenshot of the Kids Place app.
Kids Place is a great way to lock which apps your kid is allowed to use.

While setting up a new user is a great way to childproof your device, there are a few apps that can also do the trick. These apps help restrict which apps your kid, can limit their time on the device and can even restrict websites.   

  • Applock.  This one lets you lock almost anything on your phone or tablet, includes phones calls.  You can lock individual apps, photos, Google Play, etc.
  • Kids Place Parental Control.  Applock is great if you want to keep an older child out of some of your sensitive apps, but if you have a toddler, pre-K or K-5 child, Kids Place is a better option. You can limit the screen to only apps they are allowed to open or even lock them in an app.  
  • Screen Time Parental Control.  If you are mainly interested in limiting the amount of time your kid is on the device, Screen Time Parental Control is the app to download.  
  • McAfee Safe Family. McAfee's Safe Family is a great all-in-one options that includes many of the features found in the other apps and great stuff like restricting websites. It's not quite as good as Applock or KidsPlace, but if you want one single app to do all of your childproofing, it's a good choice.