How to Set Parental Controls on Any Phone or Tablet (2022)

edited August 2023 in Lifestyle

Your kids love to play on electronic devices. They are constantly connected, and any information they want is available at the touch of their fingers. You have the difficult task of protecting them from excessive screen time and inappropriate content. Parental controls for smartphones and tablets can help solve this problem.

Our step-by-step guide will help you find and master the parental controls on your child's smartphone or tablet.

What are parental controls? 

Parental controls allow you to restrict what your children can do on their smartphones and tablets.

Apple's built-in parental controls work for any iPhone or iPad that runs iOS 12 or higher. You can download Google's free Family Link app to help manage your Android devices. Plus, third-party paid apps are available that can work across all devices in your family.

Parental controls for Android and Apple devices help:

  • limit screen time 
  • limit in-game purchases 
  • restrict apps, games, and websites 
  • monitor your child's online activities  
  • preserve family privacy 
  • location tracking

Parental controls protect your child by limiting their ability to make bad decisions. Plus, they provide you with peace of mind by protecting your children from online threats and content that may be beyond their capacity to handle. 

Why use parental controls on smartphones and tablets? 

As parents, we face the challenge: of balancing our children's digital freedom and defining those limits.

So, your first step is to communicate with your child. Talk to them about:

  • how to be a good digital citizen 
  • how to act online  
  • be wary of uncomfortable situations

Explain the real threat that cybercrime and hackers pose. Be clear that you'll monitor what they do online.

It's a balanced trade-off. You'll have less resistance if you make parental control apps mandatory before giving them their own smartphone or tablet.

We've broken down parental controls into Android and iPhone devices.

Set up parental controls on Android smartphones and tablets with Google's Family Link

Parental controls are the first defense against inappropriate content on smartphones and tablets. Google Family Link app enables you to set digital boundaries, including:

  • Set screen time limits: Set daily limits and limit time for specific apps. Plus, set a device bedtime. 
  • View their activity: How much time they spend on apps. Get weekly or monthly reports. 
  • Manage Apps: Approve or block apps they want to install from Google Play. 
  • Limit Payments: Approve or decline in-app purchases your child wants to make. 
  • Lock your child's device: Remotely lock your child's device 
  • Restrict mature content: Block content on Google Play 
  • Find your child's location: See your child's device location

How to set up Google's Family Link 

The Family Link app enables you to create a Google account if your child is under 13. When your child turns 13, they will switch to a standard Google Account which you can still supervise through Family Link.  

  1. Have or set up a Google Account for yourself.  
  2. Download the Family Link app onto your device to set up the master account. You'll need either an Android Device (5+), iPhone or iPad (iOS 9+), or Chromebook (M69+).  
  3. If your child doesn't have a Google account (or Gmail), you can create a standard Google Account for your child. For any child under 13, use Family Link to create their Google Account. 
  4. If your child has a Google account already, Family Link will allow you to link your child's account. You'll need to download the Family Link Child app on your child's phone to connect the accounts. Your child will need to consent during the setup process. 
  5. Once complete, your child can sign in with their new account. 
  6. Once your accounts are linked, use Family Link to set your family's digital boundaries.

Set up parental controls on your child's iPhone or iPad 

Apple's parental controls can keep your child away from sensitive content and limit screen time. Parental controls are accessed via Screen Time in your Settings app.

Apple's Screen Time lets you set time limits and lock apps on your child's device. You can also restrict your iPhone or iPad settings for explicit content, purchases and downloads, and privacy.

Before starting, you must have set up Screen Time for Family on your device.

To set up parental controls:

  1. Go to Settings and tap Screen Time
  2. Tap Continue, then select "This is My [Device]" or "This is My Child's [Device]."  
  3. To prevent your child from altering your settings, create a passcode by tapping Use Screen Time Passcode and re-enter the passcode to confirm. Ensure you choose a different passcode from the one you use to unlock your device.  
  4. If you have iOS 13.4 and later, you'll need to enter your Apple ID and password after confirming your passcode. That way, you can reset your Screen Time passcode if you forget it.  
  5. When setting up Screen Time on your child's iOS device, follow the steps until you reach the Parent Passcode. After entering the passcode and confirming it, you'll enter your Apple ID and password.  
  6. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions. If asked, enter your passcode, then switch on Content & Privacy.

Limit screen time 

You can set digital ground rules, limit apps by time, and turn them off after a set time.  

For Android phone and tablet users:  

With Google's Family Link app, set a time limit for your child's daily usage and a "bedtime" period when your child cannot use the device. Your child can send a request to your phone to grant more time. 

How to set daily Limits: 

  1. Open Family Link. 
  2. Select your child. 
  3. From the Daily limit card, tap Set up or Edit limits. 
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions.

How to setup Bedtime:   

  1. Open Family Link. 
  2. Select your child. 
  3. From the Bedtime card, tap Edit schedule. 
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions.

For iPhone and iPad users:  

In Screen Time settings, you can set daily limits for: 

  • gaming 
  • entertainment 
  • social media 
  • other apps

Your child can send a request to your phone for more time.

How to set daily apps limits:   

You can set time limits for your child.  

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time. 
  2. Tap App Limits to set a time limit for specific apps. 
  3. Tap Set App Limit. 
  4. Follow the prompts, and you could limit games to one hour a day.

How to set Downtime:   

Like Google's "bedtime," you can also set up a "downtime" period when your child can't access apps and functions.

  1. Access these parental controls under Settings > Screen Time
  2.  Tap Downtime to set the hours you want your child's device to be offline.  
  3. Calls and text messages will still get through regardless of which hours you choose.

Protect your child's privacy 

Keeping your child's information private can be challenging in a world where everything is on social media. But Apple and Google both help you with that.

For Android phone users:  

With the Family Link app, you can stop your child from sharing Google Photos.

  1. Open the Family Link app. 
  2. Select your child. 
  3. Tap Manage Settings > Google Photos
  4. Turn Photo sharing off.

You can also stop access to most social media apps by selecting the appropriate App and Games settings.

  1. Open the Family Link app. 
  2. Select your child. 
  3. Tap Manage settings > Google Play
  4. Under Content restrictions, select your filters: 
  • Apps, Games, Movies, and TV: Choose the highest maturity level of content you want to allow for download or purchase. 
  • Music and Books: Choose if you wish to restrict downloads or purchases of explicit content.

For iPhone & iPad users:  

The privacy settings let you control which apps have access to your data or the hardware features. For example, you can prevent a game from requesting access to the camera.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time
  2. Navigate to the Content & Privacy Restrictions. 
  3. Tap Privacy, choose the settings that you want to restrict, including:
  • turn off a phone's location services  
  • stop individual access apps have to your child's location 
  • restrict app access to the device's microphone and photos stored on the device.

The bottom line 

Putting parental controls on smartphones and tablets is an essential step for parents. Also, educating your child will ensure you do everything you can to protect your children. There isn't a perfect parent control solution. Still, by setting reasonable limits and communicating with your children, you can help them stay safe online. 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.



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