Many parents can attest that their smartphones and gadgets are a brilliant distraction for youngsters – but although letting kids play around with your device might give you some much-needed peace, it also adds the worry of just what exactly they’re getting up to. Without sufficient parental control, it’s only too easy for your little ones to access things not fit for young eyes, alter your settings and delete valuable data, or go on a social networking spree and post cute (but gibberish) status updates.
As part of its new Windows Phone 8 operating system, Microsoft is making a play for the frazzled parent market with the launch of the Kid’s Corner feature. Touted as being kid-friendly and parent approved, it could prove a must-have for smartphone users who want a worry-free way for their children to play around on their devices.
Activate Kid’s Corner and you can program it to show only the apps, games, music and videos that you’ve deemed suitable for your kids and to block access to any other parts of your phone, such as email, contacts or Facebook. And kids won’t be able to make calls or send text messages while in Kid’s Corner, so parents can rest easy.
Children can open the new feature on their own, but your Start screen, info and other apps can remain password protected and inaccessible. To open it, all that’s required is a swipe to the left on the lock screen.
The feature can be customized and is one that parents will have complete control over. The Windows Phone Store and ability to make in-app purchases aren’t available from Kid’s Corner (unless you set up a ‘Wallet PIN’, but that’s optional), so parents can relax about any unexpected credit card bills due to purchase-happy youngsters.
For parents concerned about suspicious web content, Internet Explorer can’t be added to Kid’s Corner, but it’s possible to open webpages if links are contained within any apps or games your child uses (usually in the form of advertising). The Internet Explorer address bar won’t be accessible, but young users can follow links found in webpages – so parents should check any apps and games first to ensure they don’t contain web links.
After running the idea past the parents in the office, the Whistleout dads were impressed with the idea of being able to kid-proof their phones so easily. While the general consensus is that the feature is ‘sweet’, it’s usefulness was probably best summed up in the following quote:
“Whether it is at a café, on a plane or ballet rehearsals, the phone (with games and videos) has become an essential entertainment device for our kids, but you’re always worried that they might be calling a client and broadcasting their kiddy chatter to one of your most important contacts. This Windows Phone feature saves this worry and I’m impressed.”
Although Kid’s Corner is a great feature for owners of Nokia, HTC or any other Windows Phone 8-operated smartphone, it’s worth noting that Android and iOS users can also access options to child-lock their phone.
Android users can install the Parental Control app, which works in a similar fashion to Kid’s Corner. It allows parents to restrict use to selected applications only and is free to download.
Still with Android, the glowingly reviewed Famigo Sandbox application allows your kids to play approved educational games and apps. It’s ad-free and blocks all in-app purchases, while only showing applications that are considered ‘child safe’. Parents can adjust the settings to choose which apps can and can’t be accessed from within the Sandbox, and can set a passcode protected Toddler Lock to keep young users from accessing anything else on their phone.
For parents sick of being bugged to hand over their iPhone or iPad, it’s possible to adjust the settings to restrict access through Settings – General – Restrictions, although a bit fiddly and inconvenient. Through this setting, parents have some control over which features can be accessed, whether deleting apps or making in-app purchases are enabled, and can adjust privacy and allowed content settings. All the restrictions can be turned on or off by setting a passcode, but it’s something parents will have to manually change themselves before letting kids play with their device.
Anyone with the iOS 6 update can also use Guided Access, nicknamed ‘Kid Mode’. It allows parents to lock their phones into a single app by switching the feature on in Settings, and then triple clicking the Home button to switch on the mode from within the desired application. Users can set rules about things like swiping and touch input, and once in Guided Access it can only be switched off by entering a passcode.
Although most of these options will block internet use completely, many children are using tablets to help with homework, in the same way they used a PC a decade ago. Because of this, parents may want to allow kids to access the internet for educational purposes. As an additional protection for your device, child safe browsers are available to download for all operating systems which filter out harmful content such as pornography, chat rooms or violence and can also allow parents to monitor their children’s browsing history.
Despite competition from Android and iOS, Microsoft’s Kid’s Corner definitely looks to be the most reassuring option for parents. It’s a no-fuss and innovative feature that provides an easier alternative to fiddling with your phone’s settings, or downloading third-party apps. No doubt Microsoft is counting on it being a potential lure for moms and dads looking for a smartphone that can be made family-friendly with a single swipe.
This article was originally posted on the WhistleOut.com.au blog