Last week, we gave you some tips on how you can set up a new iPhone for your child to use as they start this school year. Today, we’ll look at doing the same for Android phones.
Setting up an Android isn’t very different from setting up an iPhone as both platforms follow a similar logic to making devices child-friendly. This makes it easier for you if you have children with different preferences for phone brands.
1. Set up a screen lock
With your child, figure out the best way they can screen lock their phone and open it quickly if needed. This could be a PIN, pattern, or password.
Opting to unlock with a swipe only may get your child to the home screen quicker—and stops them from making accidental calls or texts while the phone is in their pocket—but it’s not going to save them from anyone who wants to deliberately access their phone, especially if they do it behind your child’s back.
Android Help has a page on how to set a screen lock.
2. Ensure Find My Device is enabled
Google has a “Find My” feature baked into its Android OS. It’s called Find My Device, formerly Android Device Manager.
This feature automatically turns on if you’re signed in to a Google account on Android. To ensure the device can be found, Google lists what needs to be turned on for the Find My Device to work. You can check out the list and how you can go about ticking them off on this page.
You can also use Find My Device to make the device make a sound (in case it’s lost in the house somewhere), secure the device by locking it down remotely, and wiping the device from afar (hopefully, the last resort) if the device is truly lost or stolen, and you don’t want any of your child’s data ending up in someone else’s hands.
3. Set up parental controls
A built-in parental control feature can be found in the Google Play Store app. It’s not on by default, so you have to enable this on your child’s phone. Your child won’t be able to turn this off again as you’ll be asked to create a PIN, which needs to be entered before anyone can fiddle with the parental control settings.
Here, you can restrict the apps (not the content) your child sees on the Play Store based on their age (PEGI rating).
If you need a step-by-step guide, Google has you covered.
4. Download and set up Family Link
Family Link is an additional Google parental control app. Download it from the App Store, and set it up. This offers parents and guardians more granular restrictions and limitations for their children.
Note that Family Link accounts are different from standard Google accounts. Once the app is installed, it’ll walk you through setting up that account.
As you go through the setup process, it’s worth talking to your child about what limitations you are putting on them when using the device, such as screen time, what apps they can use, purchase controls, etc., and why.
Allow them to share their thoughts about these limitations and restrictions. Create a dialogue with them so they feel listened to.
5. Use YouTube Kids instead of regular YouTube
For parents with young kids who don’t want them to see things they’re not supposed to see, YouTube Kids is an alternative to YouTube. It only plays kid-friendly content, doesn’t show ads, and doesn’t allow comments.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of some videos slipping through the filters. In one case, a video that overtly says it’s not for kids was falsely categorized by YouTube’s AI. Thankfully, it didn’t end up on YouTube Kids, but it’s still good practice to watch with your child every now and then, or you can sit them in the same room while they watch.
If you want better control over apps, like you want to block them than restrict them fully, and you can’t get that from Google’s apps, you can seek help from third-party apps.
Navigating the internet is already tricky enough, and you need all the help you can get when introducing your kids to new territories as they grow up.
So, research, read a lot, and get expert opinions. Handing your child their first phone only happens once, but what happens afterward is a crucial stage of adjustment for your child and you!