There are several reasons you may want to block apps on your child’s Android phone or tablet. You may want to prevent them from seeing mature content, spending too much screen time on addictive games, racking up a large bill on in-app purchases, or simply cluttering up your device with unwanted apps when they borrow it. In any case, the steps below will provide multiple options for blocking / restricting access to mobile apps.
Block Apps Using Parental Controls in the Google Play Store
One of the primary methods for blocking app downloads is by using Google Play’s built-in parental controls. Fortunately, Google makes this easy right off the bat. With a new phone or tablet, or even a current one:
- Open the Google Play Store app.
- Open the main menu, which you can do by tapping your “profile icon” in the top-right corner of the screen.
- Select “Settings,” then “Family > Parental Controls”
- Create a PIN if you don’t already have one, and then set the standards for each type of media (apps/games, movies, TV, and books).
- Be sure to press “Save” after setting the restriction levels for each media.
Google allows you to set controls for Apps/Games, Movies, TV, and Books. This is tied entirely to industry ratings: For example, you can limit movie streaming through Google to G, PG, PG-13, R, or games & apps that are rated E for Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, or Mature. Keep in mind that this is only for Google and won’t impact other apps like Netflix, Chrome, or YouTube.
Block Specific Apps Using Parental Control Apps
You can, and should, install separate parental control apps. Screen Time, for example, offers more granular control, such as locking off the tablet during certain times, blocking certain apps at certain times or just outright blocking these apps in the first place, blocking certain websites or classes of site, and other controls that are handy for parents. What’s more, with the Screen Time app, parents receive a notification each time their child tries to download an app, so they can give the go ahead (or not) first. Once you’ve installed Screen Time on your device, blocking apps on Android devices is simple:
- Select the child that you want to block apps for, then tap on the Blocked Apps section.
- Turn on the App blocker by tapping ON.
- Auto restrict new apps is turned on by default. This will automatically block any new apps that are installed, so your child can’t use them. When you have time, you can research the app to see if you want to unblock it. If you want all new apps to be available for your child to use then you need to tap OFF.
- Scroll through the app list and tap on the button next to each app that you want to block.
Create A Profile On A “Family” Tablet
Another tactic is to create separate profiles on a “family” tablet, and have one or two tablets for the household, instead of one for everybody. Unfortunately, Android doesn’t apply this to phones yet, but it is useful for tablets and other at-home devices. A restricted profile lets you block certain apps and services right off the bat, everything from chat apps you don’t trust to games that want you to keep shoveling money into their till via in-app purchases. If you regularly loan out your tablet, or you want just one tablet for the whole family to keep your eye on what kids are doing, it’s a useful tool. And limiting the number of tablets also limits the amount of screen time kids rack up.
Download Kids-Only Apps
Many app companies, well aware of parental concerns, offer kids’ versions of their apps or more restrictive controls inside their apps. YouTube, for example, has YouTube kids, which keeps the more complicated and/or raunchy stuff away from kids using YouTube’s content rating system. Netflix has a similar system to Google Play, in that you can either keep kids to the kids’ profile, or set up account-level controls that demand a PIN for content above a certain maturity level. If an app doesn’t have a kid-friendly function, and you’re worried about it, just use your parental control apps to block it entirely.
Get Started with Screen Time
The world of technology can be intimidating for parents, especially as tablets and phones are designed to be as simple to use as possible, so children can pick them up and start using them right away. But with the right controls put into place, and with the right software, you can fence off certain parts of the internet until your kids are old enough to understand them. Need help keeping an eye on your kids when they’re online? Sign up for Screen Time!