Avast Academy Privacy Digital Life How to Set Parental Controls on Android Devices

How to Set Parental Controls on Android Devices

These days, kids often have smartphones before their first day of middle school. With children having such early and extensive access to the online world, it’s natural for parents to establish boundaries. Keep reading to learn how to set parental controls on Android and how Avast One can help safeguard your security and privacy wherever you and your children go online.

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Written by Brittany Nelson
Published on December 18, 2020

Why should you set up parental controls on an Android device?

A kid with an unrestricted Android device has access to everything the internet has to offer. This freedom inspires a multitude of questions from parents who want to strike the right balance between safety and exploration.

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    Many parents debate the right age for a kid to get a phone and even how much screen time children should have. While it's great for kids to access such a wealth of information, clearly not all content is appropriate for young kids. This situation can often leave parents wondering, “How can I control my child’s Android phone and keep my kids safe online?”

    Learning how to set up parental controls on a smartphone helps you filter out adult content and restrict apps and downloads. And using a strong privacy and security app like Avast One, makes sure that malicious software or invasive third-party tracking tech stays off your device.

    Basic parental controls for Android

    Once your child gets a smartphone — on average, a child in the US gets their first smartphone around the age of 10 — they’ve got unfettered internet access in the palm of their hands. That means you’ll need to quickly figure out how to monitor your kid online. A basic first step is learning how to set parental controls on their Android phones. Before getting into apps and add-ons, there are some simple steps you can take to limit and control how your kids use their Android phone.

    Set a data limit

    Setting a data limit is one way to control your child’s phone use. Many popular apps, like social media and gaming apps, burn through lots of data — if you set a data limit, these apps will stop working once that limit is reached.

    1. You can set data limits by navigating to Settings and choosing Network and Internet.

      Settings menu with Network and Internet option selected
    2. Then select Data usage.

      Network and Internet settings menu with Data usage selected.
    3. Here, select Mobile data usage.

      Data usage settings menu with Mobile data usage highlighted.
    4. Next, tap the cog wheel icon in the upper right to access the Settings.

      Data usage screen from within settings, cog wheel icon on the upper right is highlighted.
    5. Finally, select Set data limit.

      Billing cycle for Data usage screen from within settings, set data limit option is highlighted.

    After you toggle Set data limit to ON, you can choose your data limit. Once that data limit is reached, your kids will no longer be able to use apps that require data. It’s like a surprise “time’s up!” without you even having to be there to say it.

    Along with the amount of data used in each app, consider how your child uses popular social media apps like Instagram, whether they’re old enough for Twitter, and if Facebook is a safe place for your children to be spending time.

    Those apps are often fertile ground for cyberbullying, so it’s important for kids to receive guidance on appropriate behavior.

    Use Screen Pinning

    Another strategy you can use is screen pinning, which prevents anyone from navigating away from the screen currently open on your phone. This is useful if you’re passing your phone to your kid to watch some Peppa Pig on YouTube — they won’t be able to tap over to Facebook, Gmail, or anything else.

    Here’s how to use screen pinning:

    1. Open settings and search for screen pin (it may be called app pinning on your device and it might be under Security > Advanced). If you have the feature, toggle it on to activate.

      Screen pinning screen from within settings menu. Off/on toggle button is highlighted.
    2. Next, open the window you’d like to pin. Change the screen view to overview (where you can see all you open windows) and tap the pin icon on the window you’d like to pin.

      Screenshot of many open windows with pin icon for screen pinning highlighted on one screen.
    3. Now you can rest easy knowing your child will be enjoying Peppa without sliding into a bunch of apps they shouldn’t be playing with.

    This all helps to shape your kids’ in-app and online experiences. Many parents don’t want their highly suggestible children seeing more ads than necessary. To address this, you can install an Android ad blocking app on all your family’s phones.

    Set a PIN

    Setting a PIN is an important safety measure for any device, but it can also be a useful parental control tool. For young kids, adding a PIN to your child’s Android tablet or Android phone forces them to have to ask you for the code before they can unlock their phone.

    Of course, most kids with phones need to use them independently (if they need to get around on their own), but a PIN can still add a layer of protection against strangers accessing their device if it’s lost or stolen. Make sure your child sets up a PIN lock on their phone and picks a code that they can easily remember but that someone else can’t guess.

    You can use additional PIN-restricted access when setting up a restricted profile account for your child or when adjusting download settings in the Google Play store — both will be covered below.

    Add a restricted profile/child mode

    Almost all Android phones let you add a new user to your device, and as the admin, you can choose to add a new user with a restricted profile or on child mode. This is useful if you’re handing your phone over for your child to play with. You can also set up a restricted profile for your child on their own phone. Here’s how to get started:

    1. Find and click the Settings icon.

      Android home screen with settings icon highlighted.
    2. Choose Users and accounts.

      Settings menu with Users and Accounts option highlighted.
    3. Select Users.

      Users and Accounts settings page with Users option highlighted.
    4. Choose Add user.

      Users page within settings menu, option to Add user highlighted.
    5. Select the option to create a Restricted profile.

      Users page within settings menu, option to Add user highlighted.
    6. Choose a security login option, like a PIN, for the new profile.

    7. You now have the option to choose which apps this new profile can access. Toggle the option to OFF for any apps you’d prefer your kid not to use.

      Options to turn access to certain applications on or off when setting up a Restricted user profile.

    Restrict apps and Google Play store content

    The Google Play store is the gateway to all of your kids’ favorite apps and games. Thankfully, Google Play’s parental controls let you set some rules and restrict apps on Android devices. Here’s how to access and adjust those settings:

    1. To get started, find and open the Google Play app.

      Android home screen with Google Play Store icon highlighted.
    2. Once open, tap the hamburger menu (the three stacked lines on the left side of the search bar) to open the menu.

      Google play store home screen with menu button highlighted.
    3. Choose Settings from the menu.

      Google Play store menu with Settings option highlighted.
    4. Choose Parental controls from the next menu page. Toggle on to activate.

      Settings menu for Google Play store with highlight showing that Parental controls are turned on.
    5. After activating, you’ll be prompted to set a PIN. You’ll need this PIN to change any parental control settings in the future, so be sure to choose something you can remember.

      Pop up window asking the user to create a PIN for their parental control settings.
    6. After setting your PIN, you can apply content restrictions for apps, games, movies, TV, and so on.

      Google play store parental control settings screen with options to change permissions for different medias.
    7. These restrictions let you choose the content your child can download based on audience ratings. For example, for apps and games, you can uncheck the boxes for Mature 17+ and Adults only 18+ to make sure they’re not exposed to explicit content.

      Parental control setting options for Games, with Mature and Adults only options unchecked.

    Add purchase security: passwords and authentication

    Have you ever been hit with a huge bill after your kids went on a downloading spree in the Google Play store? Anyone who’s had this experience would love to know how to tweak their settings so a password is required for app purchases.

    To get started, return to the first menu in the Google Play store and choose Settings. Scroll down and choose Require authentication for purchases.

    Google play store settings menu with Require Authentication for purchases highlighted.

    Once selected, a pop-up window will appear asking you if you want to require your Google account password before every purchase. You can also choose to permit downloads for only 30 minutes after the password is entered.

    Pop up window of options for requiring authentication in the Google play sore. Require for all purchases is selected.

    Block third-party installation

    Now that you’ve set your preferred parental controls for the Google Play store, it doesn’t make sense to allow third-party downloads (anything downloaded outside the Google Play store). Blocking third-party installation restricts your child’s options to the apps and content you’ve already approved in the Google Play store.

    To block third-party installation, open your Settings and look for a listing called Security and location or Lock screen and security, and tap it.

    Android settings menu with the option for Security and location highlighted.

    Next, scroll down to find Unknown sources and make sure this option remains turned off.

    Security and fingerprint menu with Unknown Sources option deselected.

    If some kind of malware was already accidentally downloaded before you reviewed these settings, you can always follow steps to remove spyware from your Android or get rid of ransomware.

    How do you turn off parental controls on Android?

    Are your children ready to graduate to more mature content? Are your family members trading phones? Thankfully, turning off parental controls on Android devices is just as easy as turning them on. Here’s how.

    Open the Google Play store app and select Settings from the menu. Choose Parental controls and toggle off to deactivate.

    Google play store menu options with Parental Controls set to off.

    Just note that you’ll need to use the PIN you set up when activating parental controls to complete this step.

    Advanced Parental Controls

    We’ve covered how to set up out-of-the-box parental controls on your phone, but there are other, more powerful tools available to manage your child’s device to give you more options and greater control.

    This is where other apps for keeping your family safe online come in. Dedicated parental control apps offer more advanced controls that allow you to adjust settings and manage screen time on your child’s phone from the convenience of your own device.

    Of course, perhaps not everyone in your family is on Android, so to make sure everyone’s covered, it’s a good idea to check how to set parental control settings for iPhones and iPads, Macs, Windows computers, and even on your router.

    How do you set up parental controls on a Samsung phone?

    Samsung's kids space is called, unsurprisingly, Samsung Kids. It’s available only for Android version 9.0 and higher, but it’s designed for kids while giving parents lots of control over settings.

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. Access the Quick Settings menu by using two fingers to swipe down on your screen. Check to see if Samsung Kids is available on your phone. If it is, tap the icon.

      Samsung quick settings menu with Samsung Kids icon highlighted.
    2. Choose Start and then select a PIN as prompted.

      Samsung Kids launch screen with Start button highlighted.
    3. After your PIN is verified, you’ll enter the Samsung Kids environment. Here, kids can surf the internet with settings controlled by their parents. They can also call approved contacts and play educational games.

      Samsung Kids home screen.
    4. Access parental controls by tapping the three dots in the upper-right area of the screen.

      Samsung Kids home screen with Parental Controls selected from menu on the top right.
    5. Here, you can set schedules, see reports on daily use, and manage apps.

      Samsung Kids parental controls settings menu.

    If your Samsung phone doesn’t support Samsung Kids, you can also access parental controls on Samsung phones and most other Android phones by going to Settings and choosing Digital Wellbeing and parental controls.

    Android or Samsung settings menu with Digital Wellbeing and parental controls highlighted.

    Make the internet a safe place for your kids

    The internet is vast, with practically unlimited information and possibilities. And though it’s a great place for kids to learn and explore, not all the content out there is appropriate for them (or even anyone, for that matter). And there’s always a chance they inadvertently land on an unsafe website.

    That’s where Avast One comes in. With a suite of security and privacy features to keep you safe online, protect you from malicious activity, and safeguard your personal information, Avast One does it all, in one all-encompassing app.

    Get unmatched security and privacy protection with Avast One


    Get unmatched security and privacy protection with Avast One

    Digital Life
    Brittany Nelson