Smartphones and children; should they mix? We think so, but we also know parents need complete control over what their kids can see on a mobile screen. That’s why we created the free Vodafone Guardian app for Android devices.
It was made by the Vodafone Foundation, as part of our Mobiles for Good Programme, and is based on research into how kids of all ages use their phones, and some of the features will surprise, and might even scare you.
First the frightening stuff: Research by industry watchdog OFCOM in 2010 found a quarter of the UK’s 8-12 year olds have a Facebook profile. That’s despite Facebook’s terms and conditions requiring users to be 13 or older.
The rise of cyber bullying is also big news. Back in 2009 campaigners Beatbullying found that 61 per cent of kids had witnessed or been the victim of digital taunting and abuse, but it’s easy to take a stand.
The obvious stuff comes first
But before we fill your head with fear, let’s get back to why you might take charge of a young person’s Android phone.
Specifying the times when a child can use their phone has obvious benefits. It can be used to discourage distractions during school times or while they’re doing homework. Similarly, blocking specific numbers from being able to call or text them guards against nasty incidents on the playground spilling over into their free time.
In 2009 campaigners found that 61 per cent of kids had witnessed or been the victim of digital taunting and abuse.
Blocking the use of the phone’s camera without supervision means you needn’t worry about the types of photos they’re beaming across the internet, and restricting outgoing calls and texts to a set list of contacts gives you control of who they can talk to, as well as keeping a handle on the cash they’re spending. That’s the easy stuff.
Thinking big to keep kids safe
But Vodafone Guardian goes several steps further. It will automatically send a text to parents if their child calls the emergency services. The app also makes sure calls to child counselling hotlines are not recorded in the device’s logs, to make sure the child maintains confidentiality with the professionals they speak to.
If a child is being bullied, Vodafone Guardian can help there too. It will store blocked text messages securely, so the child isn’t upset by them, while retaining them as evidence for a parent, teachers or the authorities.
And of course, Vodafone Guardian can restrict access to existing apps, or stop the child installing new ones without supervision.
It’s all designed to help parents keep control of their children’s digital lives, as well as protect the child themselves. If Vodafone Guardian has helped you or your family, we’d love to hear your experiences below. Parenting can be a tough job, so we hope our handy app has helped out a little.
How to set up Vodafone Guardian
Using Vodafone Guardian really couldn’t be simpler, but for those that need a helping hand, here’s a quick guide to getting it up and running.
Download the app
The first thing to do is download Vodafone Guardian from Android Market, just search for it and start downloading – it’ll only take a few seconds. Once installed, launch the app, accept the terms and conditions and you’re ready to go.
Configure it for your child
First off, you’ll need to select the age group that your child falls into.
Now you’ll need to enter a Parent Control number. This is the phone number that alerts will be sent to, should your child use the phone for anything out of the ordinary, such as calling the emergency services.
Next, choose a password so that you (and only you) can make adjustments to the settings, as and when required.
You should now find yourself at the main menu screen and you can start fine-tuning the app to your personal preferences.
Choose which features your child sees
You can decide precisely which features of the phone you want to be available to your child, and which to disable. The list includes all the main features that your phone offers, from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the internet browser, to the camera or specific apps.
You can also set precise times at which the phone can be used. Don’t want your son or daughter using the phone online past 7pm? Then you can set it to deactivate its internet connection at that time. You can also block premium text services, so your children won’t use up all of their credit voting for X Factor contestants.
And there’s even an emergency override that deactivates the app in the event of an emergency. You will of course be notified if this happens.
You can adjust all these settings until you’re completely satisfied. And by entering your password you can make further adjustments at any time.
With the phone set up to your liking, you’ve got one less thing to worry about when it comes to your kids. If only parenting was always this simple.