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Parental Controls Guide 2011

Android Parental Control Apps

The Android platform doesn’t come with parental controls like in iOS. The only native functionality is content filtering for the Android Market app to help prevent youngsters from downloading inappropriate apps. By doing some searching first hand I can tell you this doesn’t do the best filtering job, but it’s better than nothing. You can protect the filtering settings with a PIN—separate from the lock screen PIN. This feature was added in May of 2011, so if you have an older device you might have to update the Android Market app.

To set the content filtering, open Market, tap Menu > Settings and then on the top under Content Filtering, tap Set level. You can set a maturity level and then tap the small lock in the upper right corner to set a PIN to protect the settings.

Fortunately, you can add more app controls and filtering with third-party apps:

Trendmicro Mobile Security for Android (Free): This is an anti-virus and web security app that also provides filtering and parental controls. Use Internet content filtering to automatically block inappropriate sites in the web browser regardless of the Internet connection (Wi-Fi or cell), based upon three predefined levels. Includes call and message filtering to block or allow specific and/or anonymous numbers. You can even define an action for blocked incoming calls/messages, such as rejection only or rejection and auto-send a text message reply. You can also view logs of the filtering and call/message blocking incidences. But keep in mind, there is no online portal or control panel, you must configure and view the logs via the app on the monitored phone.

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BullGuard Mobile Security ($29.95): This is another anti-virus and security app that includes parental controls. Though it doesn’t offer web filtering, it does include call blocking and lets you monitor and log pictures, messaging, calls, and GPS location. It also offers web-based access to the settings and logs via the BullGuard Mobile Security Manager.

Safe Browser (Free): This is a web browser that has integrated content filtering, regardless of the Internet connection (Wi-Fi or cell). You can choose the site categories to block, such as adult material, weapons, malware, and social networks. You can also add specific sites to allow or block. However, this doesn’t automatically disable the stock Android web browser. You could try to manually remove it (not easy) or use an app locker, like discussed next.

Application Protection (Free): This is an app locker to protect an unlimited number of individual apps with a password or a pattern like the Android system supports. You might use this in conjunction with other filtering or parental control apps. Consider locking the Market so they can’t download apps, Settings so they can’t change the system, or Android Browser if you’re using another one like Safe Browser.