7 Tips to Childproof Your Smartphone

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by: Lindsay Hutton
Raise your hand if your child thinks your phone is just another one of her toys. We all know the feeling! Smartphones can be a great source for educational entertainment for children, but let's face it — curious kids have the uncanny ability to find inappropriate apps and websites. Plus, sticky fingers, spilled juice, and accidental tumbles mean your device can take a beating. Before you hand over your smartphone or tablet, follow these tips to help keep both your child and your device safe.
Young boy taking picture outside using smartphone camera
Buy a Durable Case
First things first — invest in a durable case to keep your phone safe from accidental drops and spills. Look for a case that is water resistant, just in case your phone ever goes for a swim in a puddle (or the toilet!), and make sure it covers the back, sides, top, bottom, and parts of the front. Cases made from high quality rubber or polycarbonate are usually the most durable to help protect your phone from the inevitable bumps, drops, and scuffs that will come at the hands of your little one.

Try the water-resistant LifeProof case for iPhones. Additionally, Otterbox Defender series will help protect your entire phone, screen and all, from shock, scratches, and dust.

Indian mother and child playing on smartphone
Lock Your Screen
The easiest way to prevent your child from accessing anything on your phone is to lock your screen with a passcode, touch ID, or swipe ID. That way, if your phone is left unattended, your child will not be able to unlock your phone unless she knows your password.

To set a passcode on an iPhone, go to:
Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. You will see an option to "Add a Fingerprint" for a touch ID, and options to add or change a four-digit numerical code that can also be used to unlock your screen.

To set a passcode on an Android, go to:
Settings > Lock Screen. You will have the option to choose either a code or pattern passcode. For the pattern option, you have to connect at least four dots for it to be approved.

To set a passcode on a Windows phone, go to:
Settings > Lock Screen > Password. Slide the Password bar to "on," and enter your password in the "New password" field. Reenter it in the "Confirm password" field, and click "done."

Young blond boy using smartphone
Set iPhone Parental Controls
iPhones have parental controls that enable you to restrict any built-in apps (including YouTube, camera, and iTunes), disable app downloads and deletions, block content such as third-party apps and websites, and disable functions such as location services and account settings. Parental controls are passcode protected, so your child cannot change them.

To set parental controls on your iPhone, go to:
Settings > General > Restrictions. You'll find a list of all the apps and functions on your phone, so you can decide which you'd like to block.

Father and son using smartphone and tablet
Additional iPad and iPhone Controls
If your iPhone or iPad is running on iOS 6, you have a feature called "Guided Access" that allows you control which features are available and keep your child in one passcode-protected app. It's important to know that you won't receive any incoming calls or messages while using this feature, so don't use it if you are waiting for a phone call or an important email.

From your iPhone, go to:
Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. Turn on Guided Access and set a passcode. Load the app you want your child to play and triple-click the home button. Press start, triple-click your home button again, and enter the passcode you created to exit Guided Access.

African American brother and sister using smartphone under duvet
Set Android Parental Controls
Android tablets (but not smartphones) running 4.2, 4.3, or 4.4 allow you to create separate user accounts for each member of your family. In Android 4.3, you can create a "restricted" profile, which allows you to control permissions.

From your Android device, go to:
Settings > Scroll down to and select Users. Tap "Add user or profile" to create either a normal User profile, or a Restricted profile. Tap on Restricted profile when setting up an account for your child. You'll see a list of apps installed on your device, with on/off toggles to the side. By default, the restricted profile is unable to access any apps installed on your phone. Go through the list and turn on the apps and browsers you are comfortable with your child accessing.

To set parental controls for purchasing apps on your Android phone, go to Google Play, and tap the Play store icon in the top left corner to open the menu. From there, go to:
Settings > Content Filtering (under User Controls). You can choose the maturity rating you'd like to set for your child, and add a passcode to prevent your child from changing it. Next, go to Settings > Require password for purchases, and click on "For all purchases." This will prevent your child from downloading any apps without your knowledge.

Android smartphones don't offer additional significant parental controls aside from purchasing apps, so third-party apps are your best bet to safeguard your phone. Kids Place — Parental Control is a good option — it protects your data, limits your kids to parent-approved apps, and gives you the option to block incoming calls and disable wireless signals. It will also prevent your kids from making phone calls, texting, or downloading new apps.

School friends taking selfie with smartphone
Set Windows Phones Parental Controls
Windows Phones have a feature called "Kid's Corner" that allows you to create a separate user profile for your child, and decide what games, apps, videos, and music he has access to. To set up Kid's Corner, go to Settings and click on Kid's Corner. From there, you can add kid-friendly content to your child's profile and block any apps or websites that are inappropriate.
Family laying on lawn taking family selfie with smartphone
Apps and Website Advice
Whether you have a toddler who is just starting to use your phone or a teen with her own device, keeping track of all the kid- and teen-friendly apps and websites out there can be overwhelming. Check out our top picks for best websites for toddlers and preschoolers, stay up-to-date on the most popular social media websites teens are using, find apps to monitor your child's mobile use, and follow these smart rules of thumb for children's app use to help keep your child safe on your mobile device.