How to Practice Internet Safety for Kids on Mobile Devices

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Smartphones, laptops, and tablets, oh my!

Oh, and not to mention desktops,  gaming consoles, handheld devices and more. With all of this technology (which changes everyday), it’s difficult to know that you’re keeping your kids safe on all fronts. Thankfully, we’re here to make sure you know 100% that you’ve done all you can to keep your child safe when it comes to technology.

Here we’re going to discuss the best practices in tablet safety for kids, but we also have written on general internet safety for kids.

Tablet Types Influence Security for Children

Most (but not all) tablets and mobile devices can fit into two categories: Apple and Android. Apple offers several options, though most operate similarly. Android has several manufacturers, all whose hardware may operate slightly differently, but the Android operating system (OS) allows them to function relatively the same in terms of child-safety features.

According to bestproducts.com, the top five tablets for kids in 2018 are Amazon Fire HD 8, Leapfrog Epic Academy Edition, Lenovo Tab 4, Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8”, all of which use an Android OS. Finally, the Apple 9.7” iPad is also recommended and runs on iOS—like the Apple iPhone.  

We will get into each of these tablets more in depth later, but first let’s talk about the safety features of each operating system. It is important to note that Google and Microsoft both offer their own range of products, all of which provide a version of safety features and functions.

Child Security Features on Android OS

First, if you have a family-use tablet, it’s best to keep a secure lock on it to prevent your children from using it when not allowed. In order to set a more secure lock than the standard swipe to open function:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select Security (some devices may have this named “Lock Screen.” If your tablet has both, choose “Lock Screen.”)
  3. Choose the screen lock function.
  4. Select whichever security option is best for you, options typically include: swipe, pattern, PIN, or password.  

How to Use Android Screen Pinning to Limit Access

In order to ensure tablet safety for kids, Android offers a screen pinning option. Screen pinning allows a child to access only the apps that are “pinned” (approved) for use.

To activate screen pinning,

  1. Head to Settings.
  2. Select Security.
  3. Turn Screen Pinning to ON.
  4. Make sure you have a PIN set at the same time. This will be the same PIN used to unlock the screen.
  5. Next, load the app you wish to allow access to, then tap the square Overview Navigation button to bring up the multitasking screen.
  6. Drag the most recent app up to the center of the screen and tap the PIN icon.

Now the device is locked into that app only until someone presses the Overview and Back buttons together and enters the PIN.

How to Activate the Android Restricted Users Feature

Android tablets allow for the creation of “restricted user” accounts, which are perfect for keeping your kids’ apps and games separate from your own. Restricted users also allows you to restrict access to certain sites and functions that you would have access to under your own user account. For tablets that get used by a number of users, this is the best option for kids and parents. Parental Controls on Android are found in the Google Play Store app.

To access parental controls on Android:

  1. Open the main app menu.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Parental Controls, and switch them on.

Here, you can set age limits for games, films, shows, magazines, and music—all the content that comes through Google Play.

Third-Party Internet Security Apps to Boost Child Security

If the child safety protections on Android aren’t enough for you, there are several options for third-party apps that help protect your kids online. Apps like Kids Place and Kids Zone  only allow your child to access apps that you’ve approved. If you simply want to monitor what your children are doing on their tablet, apps like MMGuardian allow you to remotely monitor and control what your child has access to.

Additionally, kids are much less likely to pick up on cues that content online could be potentially harmful. Help protect your devices from unintended ad clicks and malware by installing a powerful, device-level ad blocker, like StopAd.

Child Security Features on iPad

Once again, the first step in keeping your child from accessing apps, sites, and tablet functions you don’t want them to touch is setting a secure password or PIN.

To set your PIN on an Apple product, simply:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select Touch ID and Passcode.
  3. Select the function that works best for you.  

How to Use Apple Guided Access to Limit Access on Your Tablet

Apple has their own version of pinning which prevents users from switching apps without a passcode (the same as you would use to unlock your screen). To enable Guided Access:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Select General, then Accessibility.
  3. Turn on the Guided Access function.

Again, make sure to have a passcode or PIN set in order for this function to work properly.

How to Activate iPad Restricted Access and Parental Controls

Aside from the Guided Access function, iOS’ child safety protections can be found in the Restrictions menu.

How to Access iOS Restrictions Menu

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Choose General.
  3. Find Restrictions. To turn these on or off, you will need a passcode or PIN.

Here you can do things like restrict camera use, in-app purchases, web access, and even disable Siri. On top of that, you can also manage volume control, FaceTime access, and set age restrictions for the App Store and iTunes.  

Tablet Safety for Kids: Recommended Tablets Specifically for Children

As we mentioned before, there are some good tablets in circulation if you’re looking to get your kid their own device. This is a nice option if you don’t want to mess around with setting restrictions or disabling your device every time your child wants to use your tablet. A few of the options even come with a kid-proof bumper case to protect your tablet should it be dropped by clumsy, little hands.  

Amazon Fire HD 8 (Kids Edition)

Made specifically for younger kids, this tablet is a great option for your kid’s first tablet. This 8” tablet comes loaded with child-friendly content, including books, shows, educational games and activities. On top of that, it has a hefty construction and a durable kid-proof case. On the security side, it provides a multitude of parental control options. So far, the tablet has been well received with 4.5 of 5 stars in user ratings.  

LeapFrog Epic Academy

LeapFrog has been at the forefront of children’s educational tools for a long time, but this tablet puts them on the map. With a shatterproof screen and resilient case, this tablet come stocked with a full library of educational and exciting games, apps, and content. Plus, it offers an impressive seven-hour battery life—perfect for keeping your little ones entertained on long car rides. Similar to the Amazon Fire, this tablet has adjustable parental controls which allow this device to grow with your child as they become more responsible and cognizant of correct and safe device use.  

Lenovo Tab 4

As your child goes from “kid” to “pre-teen,” Lenovo offers an affordable 8” tablet that gives your mini-me more freedom, but still allows you to monitor and control what your child can access. It has a long battery life and adjustable parental locks, not to mention one of Android’s fastest operating systems to date, Nougat.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8”

Samsung’s Galaxy products are some of the most popular products on the market today. This 8” tablet is great for teens, offering a 14-hour battery life, 32GB of storage space, and the ability to connect to wifi. All parental controls are still completely customizable, and there are a number of third-party apps to help ensure your teen is making the best choices when using their tablet.

Apple 9.7” iPad

Though the iPad comes with a steeper price tag than most tablets on the market, it is a solid purchase for your tweens and teens. A slightly larger screen makes viewing movies and games more comfortable as well as offers some of the highest-rated educational apps and downloads on the market. Apple has come out with a line of sturdy and rugged case options for this tablet, and all child-safety functions are pretty straightforward.  

No matter what tablet you decide is right for your family, making sure your kids are safe and smart when using their handheld devices is a top priority. With devices like this, children have access to the world in a way never before seen, and we must be diligent about our safety practices when putting these products in their hands.  

How do you ensure your kids are practicing safe mobile device habits?

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