Parental Control Apps: Restricted Access and Remote Protection

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    One in four teenagers uses their smartphones to browse Internet more often than the regular computer or laptop. Learn how to filter their Internet access and control their online safety remotely through their smartphones.

    Our smartphones go everywhere we go; they keep us connected with our family, friends, colleagues. However, such total connectivity comes at a cost, and alongside the love and friendship we nurture through communication, comes the bullying, identity theft, pedophiles looking for an easy prey in online teenage communities.

    Restricted Access: is it you restricting your kids’ access to your files, or is it your kid restricting your access to his device?

    When kids want to hide what they have been doing on their devices, they can do it quite easily, and you will never know if they may be in trouble. Deleting photos, videos, IM and text messages logs, phone call logs and browser history is easier than you think, and every one of us has legitimate reasons to seek privacy. In fact, encrypting your financial information and personal data is essential these days.

    When it comes to younger kids who do not have their personal smartphones yet, and use their parents’ devices to play, restricting access to certain phone areas and applications may be a good idea.

    Restricting access from Settings

    iPhone users can restrict access to any application from Settings -> General -> Restrictions. You can hide the app’s icon until you re-enable it again via the restrictions panel. Once you enable restrictions, you will have to enter the 4-digit custom code you created to regain access to the restricted applications, so it is not a one-tap fast process.

    In Android devices, you can turn on the “hide app” from Settings -> Apps -> Hide Apps. Likewise, app’s icons will stay hidden until you choose to un-hide them from your Settings again.

    Third-party restriction apps

    This process of hiding-unhiding app icons may become quite messy over time, especially when it comes to apps and folders you use frequently, such as IMs, photos, Facebook. Alternatively, you can resort to third-party apps that create encrypted or password-protected folders on your device; you can then move your photos and passwords to these restricted-access folders and let the kids play.

    Here are some nifty apps that do just that:

    Vaulty comes free for Android devices; Private Photo Vault for iOS devices. These may save the day if hiding your images, and videos is your priority.

    Personal is a free app for both iOS and Android smartphones; you can create a data vault to store photos, notes, files, and protect it with a password.

    App Lock is free on Google Play, and it gives you the option to password-protect access to almost any app and function on your device. You can restrict access to folders, SIM card, Facebook, Dropbox and much more.

    NQ Mobile Vault is also free for Android and iOS users, and you can use it to create a password-protected folder and move your personal files there. In addition, this app allows you to create a “private contact,” so that all calls and messages from that contact remain hidden. You can also hide Facebook messages, but the niftiest feature about this app in its paid version is the possibility to create a ‘fake’ vault for emergency cases when someone insists you show them the contents of the private vault. When open, it reveals fake content instead of the actual vault’s contents. In “Stealth Mode,” the vault folder is hidden altogether, and no one can see it until you enter the pre-set pass code on your device’s dialer.

    Hide it Pro comes free for iOS and Android devices and conceals itself under the “Audio Manager” icon. As you open the app, it does look like a simple audio manager to control some volume settings of the device. However, when you long-tap on the icon, you will see a password prompt to unlock the hidden content. The hidden vault can contain images, videos, apps, chat logs, call logs and literally anything. The app vanishes from the recent apps list immediately after installation.

    Note: as much as you can use the above-mentioned apps and settings to protect your files from small kids, your teenage kids may use them to hide their stuff from you. Here is when you need to make a decision: to go as far as spy on your wayward teen, or not to. If you suspect your teen may be hiding some of the online behaviors you would term as dangerous, you need to know what your options are.

    Remote Control and Protection

    All around the world, parents whose children have fallen victims to cyber bullying call for action to educate both parents and children about the basics of online security. While dialogue and family support is essential when your child is in a difficult situation, you need to be aware of what is going on in your kids’ lives besides what they tell you.

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    Teenagers come through a major hormonal change, which makes them secretive, prone to depression and rebellious. No matter how close you think you are with your kid, chances are you don’t know the entire truth. Like it or not, at some point kids proclaim their independence and right to privacy, which is not always a burden they can bear. When it comes to security, it is your job to be there, to be aware, to protect, to know what’s going on.

    In the first place, if the phone and the contract with the wireless carrier are in your name, you can request a list of phone calls, their duration, time and date. There is nothing illegal with that. However, it will give you a basic idea of what may be happening. To dig deeper, you can install a monitoring app on your kid’s smartphone. All you need is a couple of minutes with the device and Internet connection to install the app, which then conceals itself and runs in the background. Your kid will never know it’s there, and you will have a truthful insight into his personal life.

    Depending on the budget you are willing to allocate to smartphone monitoring software, you can monitor from the basic info, such as call logs, text messages and photographs to literally everything: IMs chat logs, GPS location in real time, surroundings shots taken secretly by the device’s camera, as well as record phone conversations, and log keystrokes.

    Spector Soft’s eBlaster Mobile is an Android compatible app, which reports text messages, Internet browsing activity, location tracking, voice call logging.

    StealthGenie is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and provides some stellar functionality for a reasonable price. You can set trigger words, so that when they are used in text messages and chats, you receive a notification. The app can record device’s surroundings, track logs of installed apps, read text messages, record calls.

    Read our overview of smartphone spying apps for more apps suggestions.

    Final Words

    No matter how meticulously you monitor your kids’ activities, you can never protect them from themselves. That is why educating your kids through honest and explicit dialogue about cyber bullying, perverts browsing online, or whatever you think may pose a threat to them is always the first preventive measure. After all, the best protection tool your kids will have in their lives is themselves, and it is your job to teach them online security.