In 2021, the latest figures show that over 63% of 12-year-olds own a cell phone. This figure rises to 84% for 14-year-olds. Today, more and more parents are equipping their children with smartphones. Whatever their reasons for equipping their children with a cell phone, the big question often remains how to control how they use it. Have you ever wondered how to monitor your child’s cell phone? How can you best exercise parental control over your child’s smartphone? Here are some tips and tricks.
Activate parental controls on your child’s phone
Even if you think you’re just giving your child a “simple” telecommunications tool, he or she may be connecting to the web, downloading applications and exposing themselves to dangers. Monitoring your child’s phone is often necessary to help them take their first steps into the digital world. The first option to consider is the parental control feature in the phone’s internal settings.
Parental control in the smartphone’s internal settings
Most phones offer control settings. To prevent children from deleting their settings, both operating systems (iOS and Android) include a parent code that guarantees the permanence of the settings. No one can modify or delete these settings without the code. Depending on your operating system, the method may differ. The degree of options and control may also vary.
On iOS (Apple), the “Screen Time” feature is fully configurable. You can secure the digital uses of your child’s cell phone. Here are some possible customizations:
- Prevent purchases on the various stores
- Restrict the use of applications, especially Game Center
- Block access to explicit content, particularly according to its classification
- Filter website content
- Define connection times
On Android, a dedicated parental control application is also available on the Google Play Store. Simply download it and apply the desired settings. However, the application is less powerful than on the competing operating system. It is essentially a filtering application:
- Authorization filtering for purchasing and renting games according to rating
- Classification filtering for movie playback
- Classification filtering for TV
- Classification filtering for books
Filtering can also be bypassed. If you specifically search for the name of games, films or books, or access them via a direct link, access is unblocked.
Parental control with mobile operators
A number of operators are showing an awareness of the need to protect children’s digital privacy. The four main French operators have introduced options for enhanced parental control. These options are suitable for all operating systems, iOS or Android. However, they are often subject to a subscription fee.
All operators offer the following options:
- Filtering of websites with inappropriate content that may offend
For the rest, each operator offers different options:
- Consultation of visited sites
- Application of a maximum connection time per day or per week
- Restricting or blocking access to certain applications and during certain hours
- Secure search engine, even over Wi-Fi
- Track application usage
- Block voice or video calls to premium-rate numbers
- Different profiles with varying degrees of filtering
Find out more about each operator’s specific features on their website. If the options offered are more attractive than the internal configuration options, it may be worthwhile subscribing to one of these subscriptions. Be careful, however, to check the blocking options: some providers only block sensitive content on cell phones. By connecting to the Wi-Fi network at home, your child can then access previously filtered content.
Third-party applications for monitoring your child’s cell phone
Another option for parents wishing to monitor their child’s cell phone is to download third-party applications or software. Among the multitude of products available on the Internet, one in particular stands out.
Google Family Link
Launched in 2017, the app can adapt to both operating systems (iOS 11 or later, Android). It enables children under 13 to have a Google account. Installed on your mobile, and paired with the child and teen version on the second phone, it guarantees complete monitoring of your child’s digital usage.
The benefits of this application? Family Link is free. The application lets you monitor up to 5 child accounts, and invite another parent to supervise the monitoring. It also features a summary dashboard. This gives you both a global and detailed view of your child’s digital activity. You can see which applications your child is using, and check his or her connection time for each one.
Among the various functionalities offered, we highlight :
- Google Play access control,
- Search engine filtering
- Filtering on the YouTube platform
- Android application blocking
- Device geolocation
- Define daily connection and usage times
Other applications on the market
There are so many other applications on the market that it would be impossible to list them all. A word of warning: in the jungle of “spy apps”, some present themselves as free, but it turns out that you have to pay a subscription fee. Others simply don’t offer the functionalities that legal parental control, as developed above, does. Among the paid third-party applications that stand out are :
- 4teens: an application to help children learn how to use digital technology, in the form of a schedule that they can fill in. It’s more a tool for discussion and empowerment, based on trust between parents and children. The advantage is to gently make children aware of their own use of phones and applications.
- Norton family: a combination of cybersecurity and parental control. The application offers options quite similar to other parental control settings. An added bonus is the alert sent to the parent’s phone in the event of questionable use.
- Parents in the vicinity: again, no innovative element in the control, but an interesting feature that allows the child to ask the parent for access to a site or application. Here again, it’s all about making children aware of their responsibilities and motivations when using their smartphone.
Parental control for digital education and usage
Digital literacy is far from innate. Today’s generations were born into an environment where their parents’ smartphone is a familiar object, but the dangers it may conceal are all too often unknown to them. This is one of the aspects of education that parents must pass on to their children. In this way, they will be able to distance themselves sufficiently from what remains, after all, a tool. It’s a multi-faceted tool that needs to be handled responsibly.
The methods and tips for monitoring your child’s cell phone are therefore varied. Setting up a parental control system is the first step in raising awareness of good digital practices. This can be done in consultation with the child. Better still, it should be a cooperative dialogue between parent and child.
Setting up a parental control system should not be seen as intrusive. On the contrary, it’s a way of accompanying your child, leading him or her along the road to responsibility. It’s a way of guiding them and instilling in them the right gestures and attitudes. You can teach your child to recognize the dangers of digital technology, without demonizing it. Explaining the dangers to which they are exposed, and gradually helping them to become independent users, is the surest way to avoid unpleasant surprises. For them, as for you.
How do you monitor a cell phone?
How about you? Have you already taken the step of parental control on your child’s phone? Do you have any other tips for monitoring a smartphone? Would you like to share your own experience in exercising parental control over your child’s phone? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Sharing experience is always a valuable learning experience. And with the digital world advancing so fast these days, there’s no doubt that sharing methods will benefit us all!