Parental Controls

How to Enable Parental Controls on Android

Learn about Parental Controls for Android, and explore more advanced supervision techniques.

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Tech Lockdown Team
Updated April 4, 2024

It's important to make sure that your children are protected online. Whether that means choosing which apps they can install, restricted what kinds of websites they visit, or setting healthy time limits and bedtimes, parents have many options at their disposable when it comes to smartphones. This article will help explain how you can enable these parental controls on an Android smartphone.

Most parents would agree that they want to:

  • Choose which apps are installed on their child's smartphone.
  • Set limits for long apps can be used per day.
  • Make sure that bedtimes are set for their child's device.
  • Monitor and view reports about their child's activities.

There are several ways that you can enforce these parental controls for Android devices. The easiest ways involve Android features and apps (like the Play Store, or Family Link), but these are inherently limited. You can have more in-depth control over an Android by either using an app or creating a managed device for the ultimate lockdown experience. 

First, let's start by taking a look at some of the Android options that parents can use.

Getting Started with Parental Controls on an Android Smartphone

Android devices are typically much more customizable than their competitor, iPhone. While this means that the features available to parents are greater, it can also mean that parental controls are more challenging to enforce.

Parental Controls for the Play Store

The simplest way to start enforcing restrictions on your child's device is use the Play Store's parental controls. You can set up the Play Store to require a PIN in order to install new apps, as well as set age ratings for which kind of apps you can install. 

If you want to unlock more features, such as time limits and location sharing, then you'll have to set up Family Link .

You can think of Family Link as "Google Parental Controls". Family Link allows you to have the same benefits as using a PIN to lock the Play Store, but it incorporates other Google services, such as Chrome, YouTube, and Gmail. 

In order to get started with Family Link, you'll first have to create a family of accounts. You can then monitor your child's account and set restrictions accordingly.

An important thing to note: Family Link only works on Android and Chromebook devices. Parents can still manage their families on other platforms, but only get "partial supervision" on those devices.

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Using Parental Controls Apps to Enforce Restrictions

Use a Parental Control App

Another option, if you don't want to use Family Link, is to use another app instead.

There's no shortage of apps to choose from. Because Android devices are much more customizable than iPhone devices, most of these apps can function independently of the built-in parental controls. 

However, there are some drawbacks. First, these Apps tend to be "clunky" or unreliable. Since they are not officially supported by the Android platform, it's possible that they might break other features on the device their installed on or be disabled. They might also be missing certain features that you might find important, like location sharing.

Second, you'll have to put your trust in these different Apps. Many of these Apps have built a strong reputation (we compare some of them in our Family Link Alternatives blogpost), but you still have to trust that their platform is secure. 

Use a Content Filter to Block Apps and Websites

Content filters are a little bit different than parental control apps. A content filter (especially DNS filters) is designed to block websites at the network-level. For parents, it can provide an extra layer of protection for Apps that host all kinds of content, like web browsers.

Content filters usually pair very well with parental controls. A content filter can network traffic from working for certain apps (for example, Instagram), so even if the undesired app is installed on the device, it can't connect to the internet. They can also block the websites associated with apps you want to block, so for example, if you want to block YouTube, you can also block the YouTube website from a web browser.

By themselves, content filters aren't parental controls. However, you can use parental controls to enforce a content filter and provide an extra layer of protection.

Use an App Hider to Prevent Apps from Being Uninstalled

If you are using apps or a content filter and want to add another layer of protection against them being disabled, you can use an App Hider.

App Hiders work by preventing the app from being found on the smartphone. This can be useful if the app doesn't have a PIN or require a password to be unlocked. 

Use an App Lock to Prevent Apps from Being Uninstalled

An App Lock, on the other hand, can be used to prevent an app from being opened. The most popular example is App Lock (hence its namesake). It can require a password in order to unlock apps, which can be easily paired with a content filtering app to add more protection to your child's device.

However, there is a small caveat. Just like with the parental control Apps, App locks can be clunky or buggy. In some cases, it might be possible to bypass their restrictions. If you want to enforce apps in the most reliable way, you can consider device supervision or management instead.

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Manage Your Child's Device to Unlock the Full Device Control

Parental control apps might get the job done. By mixing and matching different products, you may be able to find a solution that works for your family, but then again, it may not always work.

The biggest problem many of these apps have is that they can be unreliable. In a way, they are kind of hacking the smartphone in order to keep apps hidden or from being uninstalled.

Device management, on the other hand, is built in. In a way, it's like parental controls on steroids. It allows you to have full control over a device, including which apps are allowed, which apps are required, what settings are enabled, and even unlocks more advanced features like remote management.

However, this might not be for everyone. Managing a device is not easy, but it might be the best option, since you will have full control over your child's device.

Tech Lockdown premium members get access to in-depth guides that can walk you through how to get an Android device to become managed. Plus, members also get access to a highly customizable DNS filter that allows them block whole categories of content online for their devices or across their whole home network.

Here are some of parental controls features that device management unlocks:

Create a Blocklist of Apps

A managed Android device has the ability to say which apps are not allowed to be installed. This is extremely valuable if there are apps you absolutely do not want your child to download.

Remotely Install Apps

Managed devices can have apps be installed remotely, without using the Play Store to search and manually install an app. These remotely installed apps can also be enforced, so you can install a content filtering app without needing to use an App Lock or Hider.

Enable Kiosk Mode

If you want to have the most locked-down experience, then you can use Kiosk mode to choose which apps can be run. We call this a " dumb phone ".

Kiosk mode lets you block even the default apps on the smartphone (like Settings or the Web Browser). You choose which apps you child can open.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can still set a PIN for the Play Store without the need for Family Link, but if you want to have more restrictions, like App limits, or locations sharing, then Family Link is required.

No. Family Link is completely separated from device management. You can manage an android device without it at all, although you might consider supervising a Google account with it as an extra layer of monitoring or protection.

Which Apps can use for Parental Controls?

We weigh the pros and cons of several different parental control Apps in our Family Link Alternatives blogpost. It goes into much more detail than we can cover here.

You can also use Family Link, App Lock, or App Hiders (or some combination of the three) to find a solution that works for your family. Device management doesn't use a specific app, it uses the software that runs the smartphone (the operating system).

What App do I need to install for device management?

Device Management usually doesn't require you to install an App on the smartphone, but you may have to use an App or website on a separate device to make changes to those devices. Because management works at the operating system level, you will have to reset the device in order to ensure full management.

Can I use Device Management for myself or a loved one?

Yes! Because of the in-depth restrictions you can set with a managed device, it's one of the best ways to enforce a content filter or accountability app. 

How complicated is it to set up a Managed Device?

It is unfortunately not straightforward. Device management is usually designed for businesses or schools, so the process is a lot more involved than something like Family Link.

Tech Lockdown offers premium guides that will help you navigate this process, if that's the path you decide is appropriate for your child.

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