Kids love smartphones and tablets and it’s hard to keep the wee cherubs away from them. But did you know there are some simple ways of locking your phone or tablet down so the children can still use their favourite apps without causing mischief on your device? And here’s how.

If you have children you know what happens when you put your smartphone down. From the corner of your eye you see a swift moving shadow, there’s a faint sound and then rapid scurrying usually accompanied by a laugh that is somewhere between the demonic and mischievous. That’s right; the kids have swooped on your phone again.

In itself there’s nothing wrong with that and you’ve probably got some apps on your phone that you have installed purposely for the children. The problem is that once those little fingers starting dancing across the screen they not only access apps they shouldn’t but they end up making the phone do all sorts of things that you, software developers and phone manufacturers had no idea it could do.

That said, there are ways of protecting your devices from the kids and protecting the kids from themselves.

Android devices

There are several apps you can download from the Google Play store that essentially lock down your Android device and allow you to create settings specifically for the children called Kids Mode.

Before we move onto this it’s worth checking whether your particular Android device, especially if it’s a Samsung, has a kid’s mode as a built-in feature. There are moves in this direction by some smartphone manufacturers as they tweak the operating systems to steal a march on rivals.

If not, you can check the two free Android apps below:

Xposed Kids Mode

Xposed Kids Mode simply restricts what the kids can use on your phone once you enable it. It means that you can lock down the device so only certain apps, that you choose, are available for the children such as Netflix, YouTube or a gaming app.

However, to install it you need to have the Xposed Framework running on your device.

This framework is rather well known and enables customization of almost all aspects of your device’s system. It can be used for securing your device, saving Instagram photos and a lot more. The Kids Mode feature is simply one component in the framework.

  • After you have downloaded the Xposed Framework you need to activate Xposed installer.
  • Once you’ve done this, open the app and go to the Download section.
  • You’ll see lots of different options. Select the Kids application option. This is a free version which allows you to set up three apps for children’s usage.
  • After setting the application up, tap on Enable Kids mode and you can then pass it to the mischievous imp’s safe in the knowledge that you have just put in place damage limitation measures.

You can get an unlocked version from the Google Play Store by downloading Kids Mode Unlocker. This differs from the free version in that it allows you enable up to nine apps.

The app works for all Android devices but is optimized for devices like HTC, LG, and Nexus phones and tablets.

The advantage of the Xposed Framework is that it allows you to do a lot more with your device other than locking it down for the kids.

Kid Mode from Zoodle

Another app that does the same thing and quite a bit more is called… Kid Mode. This one comes for Zoodles and is available from the Google Play store.

Ostensibly it’s an educational app that lets the kids draw, learn, and be creative under the watchful eye of their parents.

It features enhanced parental controls that allow you to set time limits, add safe apps, change languages, and so on.

In short, they can use the Kids Mode app without fiddling with your phone or any of your personal stuff. When they're finished you disable Kid Mode and go back to using your phone like you normally would.

Setting up Kid Mode on your Android phone:

  • After you’ve downloaded the app launch it and tap the Get Started! button
  • Verify the year you were born – it’s one way you can disable Kid Mode on your phone
  • Add all the children that will have access to your device and tap Done when you’re finished
  • In the next step add the apps you'd like your child to have access to aside from what the Kid Mode app offers
  • Modify any other settings you'd like for your child such as such as putting in place time limits

To get the app up and running you tap on the child's picture and Kid Mode is enabled. To disable Kid Mode, return the main screen and tap the X in the upper right hand corner. You then enter your passcode and continue using your phone like normal.

iPhones and iPads

Apple has come up with its own way of locking down iPhones and iPads to keep kids from accidently wreaking havoc.

There are basically two different methods: ‘Guided Access’ lets you lock your iPhone or iPad to a single app while Restrictions locks down the entire gadget.

Guided Access

Guided Access can be found inside the General tab in Settings. This lets you lock the iPhone or iPad to a particular app.

  • Before it can be enabled, you need to go to the Settings menu
  • Once you're in Settings, follow the menu from General > Accessibility > Guided Access.
  • You then enable the feature and set a numerical passcode to unlock it.
  • When enabled, you can open the app you want to lock the device to and bring up the Guided Access by clicking the home button quickly three times.
  • To exit Guided Access, press the home button three times again and enter the PIN you set up to disable it.

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Restrictions

Restrictions essentially lets you make the iPhone or iPad safe for your kids to use by shutting down apps and features that you’d rather they didn’t use – or to limit their choices to age appropriate apps.

It’s certainly useful if you want to your kids to have an iPad or iPhone entirely to themselves and is useful for disabling in-app purchases and stop them from installing age inappropriate apps and games.

  • Got the Settings menu and follow the menus from General > Restrictions.
  • You’ll then need to set a PIN to be used when you want to change something.
  • You're offered a full listing of all the apps on the device and you can go through each and sort the level of access you want to enabled
  • The Allowed Content section lets you place a restriction on the apps installed on the iPhone or iPad determined by its age rating.
  • Similarly, the browsers you use can be configured to avoid adult websites. Alternatively, you can simply switch off the browsers altogether.

If you want to undo any changes or simply turn off Restrictions, then you'll need to enter your PIN again before you can do so.