To start with, take the time to educate them about viruses and how they invade, and how the “Skinner boxes” of mobile games function. The truth is that the vast majority of viruses out there, just like most computer crime, are not propagated by master hackers. The signs of a would-be hacker are easy to spot. Apps with poorly translated descriptions, apps that are flagrant knock-offs of more popular apps, apps promising that you’ll get something for nothing, apps that help you cheat at other games, and apps that claim they help you get around parental control software are all examples of apps that can get your kids in trouble, so educate them about what apps are worth paying attention to, which emails to click and not click, and why they should never trust a link from anybody without verifying it first.
Similarly, explain the psychological tricks behind in-app purchases and teach kids to spot the signs they’re being exploited. Once they understand how it works, they’re more resistant.
Lock Off Downloading
It’s simple to shut off app downloading. In Google Play, simply open the menu in the upper left-hand corner, select “Settings,” then “User Controls,” and then set it so that to download an app, the user must enter a password. For iPhone parental controls, go into the Settings app, then General, then Restrictions, and then configure each app how you’d prefer it to function and enter a passcode. Make sure that passcode is something you’ll remember because if you can’t retrieve it, you’ll have to wipe your entire device and start over!
If you’d like more detailed control, or to limit more than just app downloads, look into parental control software that can lock devices at preset times and help you enforce punishments or agreed-upon restrictions. Trust, but verify, after all.
Set And Enforce Standards
Once you’ve got Android or iPhone parental controls set, once the kids are taught, and once the parental control software is in place, make it clear what you expect of your kids and what they can expect if they try to get around the rules. Make it clear what they have to do to have an app downloaded, discuss how you’ve configured the device and why, and what they can expect if they break the rules. Also, if you refuse to download an app, explain why and make sure they understand.
We can’t protect our kids from absolutely everything. But we can ensure their time on the internet and using apps is healthy and smart. To learn more about making the internet and the app ecosystem positive for kids, sign up for Screen Time.