One of the biggest obstacles many parents face today is keeping their children safe in a digital world. Kids are interacting with technology at younger and younger ages, and the added mobility of a smartphone often means increased parental concern. While you don’t want your child to feel left out as the only friend without a smartphone or behind when it comes to technical skills, you also want to make sure they’re protected while using their device.
The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure your child’s safety. Nowadays, devices come with built-in privacy controls and boundary settings for parents to activate on their child’s smartphone. In this article, we’ve rounded up the best tips to secure your child’s new device.
Create Passcodes for Using the Device
Creating a passcode is one of the simplest yet most important steps to secure your child’s device. As a parent, you can’t always monitor your child to make sure they don’t accidentally leave their phone somewhere. However, you can take steps to make sure their information is secure in the event they do lose or misplace their device.
How to Set a Passcode for the Device
The first thing you and your child should do with a new smartphone or tablet is password protect it. Work together to create an easy-to-remember but not easily guessable password (e.g., 1234 isn’t a good passcode) required to open the device. Depending on their age, practice opening the device using the selected passcode a few times to ensure they get the hang of it.
Once you’ve agreed on a passcode, remind them w not to share the passcode with anyone. Emphasize the importance of keeping their phone or tablet locked when they’re away from home and be honest about what can happen if they don’t.
Set Passwords to Log Into Relevant Apps
In addition to the device’s passcode, set up secure passwords for each of your child’s apps/accounts. If they use social media, email, or other communication apps, ensure a strong, memorable password protects each. And don’t forget to double-check gaming apps. If your child is playing online, their account will need to be protected from hackers attempting to steal in-game purchases and payment information.
Keeping all of these apps/accounts secure will help prevent strangers from getting their hands on your child’s personal information.
On top of protecting your child’s information, you’ll also want to protect your child from accessing apps, websites, and games you’re not comfortable with. Use parental controls to limit what your child can do on their phone, as well as how long they spend on their phone each day. Apple, Google and Amazon have built-in parental controls on their devices. Using this feature, you can:
- Prevent iTunes,App Store, and Google Play purchases
- Decide which built-in apps your child can use
- Prevent explicit content
- Prevent access to adult websites or the browser altogether, which is the case with Amazon Fire Tablet Kids
- Restrict certain activities on games
- Prevent apps from accessing your child’s microphone and location
To set up parental controls on your child’s iPhone, go to Settings and tap Screen Time. From there, you can select the option titled “This is My Child’s iPhone.” You’ll be able to set up a passcode for the parental controls so that your child can’t change them.
To set up parental controls for an Android device, go to Menu > Settings > Parental Controls. From there, you can turn on the parental controls, create a pin and filter what type of content you want your child to have access to.
To set up parental controls for an Amazon Fire Tablet, go to Quick Settings > Settings > Parental Controls. You’ll then be able to toggle the settings on or off, and customize them. It’s important to note that parents can adjust parental controls in the Parent Dashboard on an Amazon Fire Tablet Kids.
Using a device’s location services, you can decide who does and doesn’t have access to your child’s location. While you may want the ability to see exactly where your child is, you certainly don’t want others privy to such information. Fortunately, privacy settings allow you to access your child’s location while preventing strangers from doing the same.
First, iPhones come with a Family Sharing Organizer, where parents can view the location of all family member devices using the Find My app. You’ll find these controls by going to an iPhone’s Settings. To set up this feature on an Android device, visit the Family Link app and set up location settings for each of your children.
Once you’ve ensured you can see your child’s device, make sure no one else can. To accomplish this on an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Within that control, you can decide which apps (if any) can access your child’s location. To adjust these settings on an Android device, go to Settings > Location and set your location controls. For an Amazon Fire Tablet, location settings are typically included in Parental Controls, but processes may differ based on device.
Another simple way to keep your child safe is through a phone’s browser settings. On an Apple device, you can prevent cross-site tracking — websites using third-party providers to track visitors’ browsing data on other sites. Another setting, Fraudulent Website Warning, will alert your child if they’re attempting to access a website suspected of fraudulent activity. Teach your child to leave these sites immediately. To turn on these features, visit Settings > Safari > Privacy & Security.
Android devices also come with browser privacy settings. First, you can prevent websites from tracking your browser traffic. And like the iPhone, Android devices can issue a warning when Google Chrome detects your child attempting to visit a harmful or fraudulent website. To access those controls, visit Chrome > Settings > Privacy and Security.
Set Expectations or Restrictions Around Using the Device
There are plenty of technology features that help you keep your child safe while using a smartphone. But one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is talking to your child about smartphone safety and setting boundaries around device use.
First, set ground rules about what your child is allowed to do with their device. Make it clear which social media apps or games they can and cannot access. Also, be sure to communicate who they can talk to on their device so that there’s no confusion.
It’s equally important to set boundaries regarding when your child can use their device. For example, you might set a ground rule that your child can’t use their smartphone while doing homework, eating dinner with the family, or after a certain time at night. Consider having a central place in the home where all family members keep their devices overnight.
If your child is younger, consider setting timers during “device time.” Once the timer goes off, device time is over. You can even allow your child to hit the “start” button, so it feels like they have some control over the time limit.
Technology is continually changing, and as a result, your expectations for your child’s smartphone use might change as well. As time progresses, communicate with your child about your expectations and make sure boundaries are clear.