Android Devices - A Parents Guide


The day I saw my 3-year-old nephew using a smartphone better than most adults I know, was a day I realised that kids of this generation will be far more technologically aware than many of us ever were! It is great to see children learning about technology from a young age as it will allow them to succeed in the future among their peers. It also means that this generation will need to stay current to be able to protect them until they are able to protect themselves. With this guide, I intend to pass on advice and top tips about securing android devices and making them more child friendly.

Android devices first and foremost require a Google account to be able to use all available capabilities, as with everything else there is a minimum age of 13 required to create such an account. Now you could just use a fake age for your child but that would be breaching all kinds of terms and conditions and also make them even more of a target to predators by making them seem older. Google has very kindly provided a service that will negate your need to teach your child about lying about their age :)

The service is called Family Link and comes in the form of an app that can be downloaded from the Play Store. I will run through how to set up the app and you will find it to be one of the easiest ways to monitor the child's usage of the tablet and also place restrictions on its use too.

It is important to note here that you should be doing this in partnership with your child as part of the communication and trust-building process that I have discussed in my YouTube videos and other blog posts on this site, I am not an advocate for spying on children but rather instilling a feeling in them that they can always come to you if they feel something is not quite right.

The first thing you will need to do is download the Family Link App to your own phone/tablet and set yourself up as a family manager using your own Google account. Once you have done that the app will ask if your child already has a Google account, for the purposes of this post I will click 'No' and you will then see the below screens and go through the process of creating an account for your child. There is a lot of useful information available during the process that is worth reading.

You also have to choose whether you would like an express or manual personalisation for the settings you would like for your child, I would recommend going through the manual personalisation as there is no one size fits all when it comes to this type of thing and you are the best judge of your own child.

Below are the first screens you will see but the entire process is explained on further screens and also how to set up on the child's device, just follow the process and you won't go far wrong!

Now that you have completed that process you will be able to use Family Link for the following:

  • Approve app downloads, meaning you'll be prompted to allow or deny every app your child wants to install.
  • Limit screen time by setting a daily usage allowance in 30-minute increments.
  • Set a bedtime, after which the phone will not work.
  • Monitor your child's app activity with weekly reports, and temporarily disable apps they're using too much.
  • Set up child-friendly filters to limit what apps, games, and movies they can download, and also apply safe searches in Chrome.
  • Track your child's phone to keep an eye on where they are.

Family Link will only work for children who are under 13, when they turn 13 they will be able to take control of their own account. Fear not, as mentioned in the beginning I have other advice and top tips to assist you!

Google Play Store Parental Controls

If you open up the Google Store app on their device and then click on their profile picture top right, choose settings > Family > Parental Controls > On, you will be prompted to choose a new four-digit pin. Once you have done that you will see that you have access to each type of content, Apps & Games, Films, TV and books and can choose age ratings for each. This is only applied to that device, if they have other devices just repeat the process on each one.

Explicit Results Filter

Trust me when I tell you there is some horrific content on the internet that no human should ever see, never mind a young impressionable child! It is actually very simple to apply a safe search filter to their browsing. The simplest way to do this is to open the app titled Google, not the chrome app, just go to all apps and open the one called Google. Once you are in then again look for the profile picture top right and choose Settings > Hide Explicit Results > On, now they won't see explicit results for any searches they conduct, although it is still worth discussing with them what to do if they do see something that slips by the filter.

YouTube Kids

I have previously created a video on the subject of YouTube Kids which can be viewed below. I want to quickly run through how you can replace YouTube with YouTube Kids on any android device.

First, you will need to disable YouTube on the device by going to Settings > Apps > YouTube > Disable, this will remove the app icon and disable access to the app ( Worth checking from time to time as they will be able to re-enable if they know how). Then just install YouTube Kid and set it up as per my video below or follow the instructions during the setup. You will now be able to turn search on and off, place time limits on the child and other great controls.

I also mention restricted mode in my video which is available in the non-kids YouTube app, this will restrict access to inappropriate content but is not 100% accurate. To turn this on within the YouTube app go to Account > Settings > General > Restricted Mode > On, if you already have a family group setup you will also see an option called Parental Controls in the settings list that will allow you to create individual controls per child.

Hopefully, this guide will be useful to help protect your child from being exposed to inappropriate content. If there is something you think should be added to this post please do reach out to me via the options listed on the 'About Me' tab at the top.