A great way to manage your child’s smartphone usage

Yesterday marked the opening of schools and I am aware that many parents may be feeling the financial strain. I want to express my gratitude for your contributions towards financing the future of our nation by paying school fees.

In addition to school fees, many parents have also had to purchase smartphones for their children. With the complexity of homework assignments nowadays, it can be challenging for parents to assist their children without the help of resources such as Google or ChatGPT.

The topic of smartphones in schools often sparks debate, with a vocal group opposing the idea. While I understand their concerns, I personally disagree with their stance. In light of this, let’s explore ways parents can ensure a safe and appropriate smartphone experience for their children.

There are several methods available for parents to monitor and control their child’s smartphone usage. For example, access to specific apps and websites can be restricted. Even with essential apps like WhatsApp, it is possible to limit how much time your child can spend using them.

Additionally, you can set a daily limit on the overall usage of the phone.

While most children use Android phones, it is important to note that parents can monitor their child’s Android phone even if they themselves use an iPhone.

There are numerous approaches to implementing parental controls on smartphones. In this discussion, we will focus on one proven effective method for most parents.

Family link

To achieve the highest level of control over your child’s smartphone usage, it is recommended that you install the Family Link app on your own phone. This app allows you to monitor and regulate your child’s phone usage and is available for Android and iOS devices. While it is possible to manage without the app, it is highly recommended that you download it. The app is approximately 16MB for Android and 175MB for iOS devices.

Go to the Play Store or App Store, search for Family Link, and download it. Or use these links for Android here and for iOS here. Remember, this app goes on the parent’s phone.

Setting up parental controls

Now, take your child’s Android phone and…

  • Go to Settings
  • Go to Google
  • Go to Parental Controls
  • Choose Child or Teen when asked who will be using the device
  • Tap Next to proceed to link accounts
  • Select your child’s Google Account (Gmail account). If they don’t have one, go ahead and create one. Only one account can be signed in for parental controls to work and so if there are multiple accounts on the phone the rest will be signed out.
  • Go through the details of what supervision means, clicking more to see more
  • You will have to input your child’s Gmail password (or have them input it) to say they agree with the supervision
  • Tap Activate to activate profile manager
  • You will see the default filters and settings and you can customise them. Go through the items listed and choose what kind of controls you want. Examples include requiring your permission to download any app from the Play Store, a filter to block mature sites on Chrome, a filter to block sexually explicit results on Google search etc.
  • Click Next and you’re done with your kid’s phone

Family Link on your phone

Once you have logged into the Family Link app, you will discover how user-friendly it is.

The app features a Highlights tab that displays the amount of time your child’s phone screen was active on any given day. By tapping on the listed apps, you can access a detailed view that shows how much time your child spent using each app.

The Controls tab is where you can actively manage your child’s phone usage and set restrictions.

You can set;

  • How long the phone can be used each day. You can grant more screen time on the weekends for example.
  • A bedtime, say 9 pm, and the phone is locked until a time of your choosing in the morning
  • Time limits on a per-app basis. Want to limit WhatsApp use to just 30 minutes a day, you can do that.

Another feature of the Family Link app is the ability to remotely lock your child’s phone screen. This can be useful during specific times, such as dinner or your child’s class. When you lock the screen, your child will see a message indicating that you have locked their phone.

Even when the phone screen is locked or your child has used up their allotted screen time for the day, they can still make calls in case of an emergency.

Additionally, you can designate certain apps as ‘Always Allowed’, which means your child will be able to access them even when other apps are blocked.

Another useful feature of the Family Link app is location sharing. You can view your child’s location at any time and they will not be able to disable location access. If desired, you can set up notifications to alert you when your child arrives at specific locations, such as school, home, a friend’s house, or even a club.

By exploring the Family Link app and its various features, you can customize your child’s smartphone usage to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Not foolproof

It is important to note that while filters and parental controls can be effective in limiting your child’s access to inappropriate content, it is still possible for some undesirable material to slip through. However, by setting up the Family Link app, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of your child accessing inappropriate content on their phone.

More information:

There is no reason not to set up Family Link and take advantage of its features to ensure your child’s safe and appropriate smartphone experience.

It is worth remembering that even before smartphones, children found ways to waste time and access explicit material. The smartphone is not the root cause of children’s disinterest in school. However, using tools like Family Link can make it more difficult for your child to misuse their smartphone.

By Shamiso Miracle

Shamiso Miracle completed her degree in journalism and media studies at the University of Zimbabwe before honing her skills at Savanna News. She then went on to work at iHarare News, becoming a voice for everyday SA citizens who wanted to share their stories. When she's not writing news that entertains and inspires ,Shamiso is an avid reader and a wellness bunny.

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