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Safer Smartphones for Schoolchildren

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Old 05-01-2018, 11:05 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2017
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Safer Smartphones for Schoolchildren

These days, it seems like younger and younger kids are getting smartphones. Even parents who would prefer to wait longer may be tempted, wanting to know that their child is safe during the day ó or pressured, wanting their children to fit in.

We canít forget, though, that smartphones are fun, portable touch-screen computers. Left to their own devices (no pun intended), children may spend hours playing games and watching YouTube videos. And kids will be kids, perhaps more likely than an adult to break or lose the smartphone.
The good news is that we can reduce the risks. As with so many things, itíll mainly take a bit of time and ongoing attention, but parental peace of mind is worth it.

How to set up your childís smartphone right
The settings Iíll go through are easy to tweak to your own preferences ó you can make them as tough or easy as you like, once you know where they are. Let me start with a few basic assumptions, however:

1.Kids play, and thatís OK (with limits).
2.The Internet is like the ocean ó enticing but also dangerous.
3.Everyone is entitled to a measure of privacy.

Choose Google or Apple
The two most popular mobile platforms, Appleís iOS and Googleís Android, both have built-in parental control tools, but Android lets users adjust more settings than iOS does. Android phones have another attractive quality: Theyíre less expensive and therefore easier to replace.
Some people prefer iOS, which may be better for households that have other Apple devices ó and for parents who arenít concerned about the price. You can read here> about how to set up iOS for kids, although itís in the context of tablets and for younger children.

Set up Google accounts (individual)
Using an Android smartphone requires a Google account, but the terms and conditions stipulate that only a person who is 13 or older can create an account. If you donít already have a second account that you can use for this purpose, youíll have to create one.

The child does not need to know the password for their new account, and enabling two-factor authentication > for it is advisable. Needless to say, the authentication should be linked to your smartphone, not to your childís.

Note: You can create an account for your child on devices running Android 7.0 and above by using the Family Link feature, but it is currently available only in the United States.

Now, power up the smartphone, add your existing Google account information in the setup wizard, enter your desired e-mail address and other data, enter your age and your phone number, and accept the terms and conditions.

If it is not the first time youíre starting up the smartphone, you set up the new account here: Settings → Accounts → Add accounts → Google. In the new window, tap Or create a new account.

At this point, skip entering payment details for the Google Play store. Iíll come back to that issue a bit later, but for now Iíll say that payment information should be linked to an adultís account.

An account is required if you want to synchronize contacts and pictures and use the Google Play app store. That said, weíre talking about elementary-school-age children, who are unlikely to need e-mail on their phones. A Gmail account is more likely to collect spam than useful communications, so I recommend not enabling it on the smartphone: Open Settings, go to Google account settings, and uncheck the Sync Gmail option.

Set up Google accounts (family)
If a parent is using an Android device too, then creating a family account may make sense. Using a family account lets family members share paid purchases across all of its devices as well as letting a child pay for purchases from their smartphone (using the parentís payment information ó and only with the parentís explicit consent).

You can create a family account in Google Play from your own smartphone. Launch the Google Play app, open up the menu, and tap on Settings → Account → Family → Manage family members. You can invite your significant other and your children by entering their Gmail addresses on this screen.

The invitation has to be accepted from the family memberís smartphone. After that, take your smartphone, go to the family groupís settings, open the childís profile, and select one of the following modes for purchase approvals: All content, Only paid content, Only in-app purchases, or No approval required.

Anything that requires approval will now require either your password entered on the childís device or approval from your device.

Filter Google Play apps and media
You can prevent your child from downloading adult games or songs with explicit lyrics using Google Playís parental controls. To do so, launch Google Play on your childís smartphone, open up the menu, and tap on Settings → Parental Controls.

Enter a PIN ó something easy for you to remember but hard for your child to guess. The requirement to enter a PIN prevents your child from disabling the controls. After entering the PIN, you can select age restrictions for games, films, and music separately.

Control Internet use
To prevent unsupervised Internet use ó and gain better control over mobile data usage ó start by disabling mobile data use both in the settings of your childís smartphone and using your mobile service providerís self-service options. After that, use the smartphoneís settings to join your home Wi-Fi network. Now itís up to you to monitor that use inside the home, of course.

Disabling mobile data should help keep the child online only at home. True, free Wi-Fi can be had in a library or at a friendís home, but Iíll address that later in the post.

By the way, when buying a SIM card for your child, ask the carrier about special plans and options for children ó these plans and options usually include additional features for keeping children safe.

Limit time and restrict content
Sure, the games installed on your childís smartphone are intended for children, but still, stay alert. Children can spend endless time mine crafting and launching angry birds. Limiting gaming duration with Androidís built-in tools is problematic; therefore, look to dedicated apps such as Kaspersky Safe Kids >

The Safe Kids appís many features include location and social-network controls, but here we are interested mainly in defining restrictions on launching apps and making the Internet safe to use. To use it, install Safe Kids on both a parentís and the childís smartphones. Set the modes, child mode for the childís smartphone and parent mode for yours.

The childís app has almost no settings for you to worry about ó just install the app according to the instructions and grant it administrator rights.

Youíll have a bit more to do for the app on your own smartphone ó you will need to set up a PIN for Safe Kids, check its settings, and enable options. The crucial ones are the ability to filter unwanted websites and app restriction by category and age, which are located on the Internet and Applications subsections respectively.

Click here to view video on >

Now, letís restrict the amount of time the child can spend at the display. You can allot, for example, 15 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, or more. After that time is up, the smartphone will be able to make and receive calls, but all other apps will be blocked with a notification that the device is now blocked. The potential downside of this approach is that the child will not be able to send SMS messages or take pictures.

Click here to view video on >

If your child doesnít tend to spend too much time on pictures and SMS messages, then we can take the opposite tack and assign an amount of time allowed in specific apps, such as games. At the same time, we can completely block access to some apps, such as any browser other than Google Chrome and Androidís built-in browser (which are protected by Safe Kidsí content filter; other browsers may have access to unwanted websites).

Set up additional security
Safe Kids provides comprehensive parental control, including protection against its own deletion, and the recent update has brought one more useful feature ó restricting access to smartphoneís own settings. Itís worth doing to make sure your child will not be able to connect to unknown Wi-Fi networks, reset the system time, or mess with settings in some other way you didnít predict.

I personally used to recommend an app called Smart Applock for that purpose, but now that Safe Kids has this feature I suggest using it and not installing additional software to execute this task.

One last setting: the lock screen. Enable a lock screen to protect the smartphone from classmates and others who might find it. You can do that through Settings → Security or Settings → Lock screen. Work with your child to ensure he or she is comfortable entering the PIN or pattern that unlocks the phone. Also, set the lock screen to display a simple contact message or just your phone number in case it goes missing and a stranger finds it.

Software and settings arenít a substitute for ongoing parental guidance. Get involved with your childís smartphone usage. Talk about surfing, gaming restrictions, and all that, but expect that your child will find ways around your ďsmartphone usage planĒ ó and adapt as needed.

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