News Column

Options for Controlling Your Kids' Cellphone Use

Jan 22, 2013

Mary Diduch

Children are getting their first cellphones and smartphones at younger ages, raising concerns among parents about their security.

Many parents would like to inspect their kids' devices at the end of each day, yet want to maintain their children's sense of responsibility. Parents now can install applications -- from both wireless providers and third parties -- to control and monitor how, when and how long their kids use their phones.

While wireless providers provide a host of bundled applications to ensure phone safety, safe driving, proper phone usage and spending limits, here is a breakdown of some other options on the market:


MMGuardian: Can lock a phone, change settings, locate or track a device, prevent texting while driving, set up time limits for usage and detect inappropriate language. Parents install the app on the device they want to protect, can send text commands to manage it and receive reports through texts. The app was designed by Clifton- and Montclair-based Pervasive Group Inc., whose chief executive officer, James Zhou, is from Wayne. Android. Free for 14 days; $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year.

Care4Teen: Gives parents reports through on what their kids see on the Internet and what apps and games they use. It also provides GPS monitoring. Android. Basic: Free for seven days. Premium: $7 per month.

Mobiflock Parental Control: Can remotely lock, locate and swipe info on a missing device, block unwanted contacts, turn on a siren in emergencies and provide call and text logs. Advanced features include location maps, text alerts, Web content monitoring, camera blocking and application tracking. Parents can monitor from Android, Nokia, Blackberry and iPhone (limited). Basic: Free. Premium: $3.95 per month or $24.95 per year.

iPhones: It may be more difficult to find a child-monitoring app on Apple iPhones, but the devices do have basic restrictions that can be set on the phones themselves. Go to the phone's Settings, then the "General" option. At the bottom of the screen is "Restrictions," which normally will be set to "off." In that section, parents can set a passcode to control what actions they want to block -- like Safari, Camera or Installing Apps. Parents can also filter out iTunes-labeled "Explicit" content or movies and videos based on their ratings.

Web browsers

There also are Web browsers to block Internet content:

AVG Family Safety: A Web browser that protects kids from inappropriate websites, scam, fraud, phishing and other malicious online content by blocking them or monitoring what sites kids visit on their phones. The app also helps to pick out which sites are collecting data. Free.

K9 Web Protection Browser: A Web browser that blocks against adult and other offensive websites, plus filters for potentially malicious or illegal sites. The app can also impede access to parent-child discussion topics, such as abortion or sex. Free.

Service providers

For parents not interested in third-party apps, here's what the top service providers offer, managed through Web dashboards.

AT&T Smart Controls: Offers both free and paid applications to manage phone use while driving, phone safety and usage management. The free AT&T DriveMode automatically blocks incoming texts and calls when a car moves faster than 25 mph and sends a message to let the sender know your teen is driving. AT&T Mobile Safety is another set of apps designed to protects kids' and teens' usage by age -- whether it's setting content restrictions and spending limits or providing roadside assistance and locator. Some of the apps, like the Content Filter and Purchase Blocker, are free, while the locator and Smart Limits apps are $9.99 per month and $4.99 a month per line, respectively.

Sprint Guardian: A bundle of apps comprised of Sprint Mobile Controls, Sprint Drive First and Sprint Family Locator. With Sprint Drive First, the phone is restricted from receiving communications while driving in a car and it sends a message to the sender to let them know. Sprint Mobile Controls allow parents to set time limits on the phone, so kids can stay focused during school hours or while going to sleep, for example, and parents also get a report when they like.

It also allows parents to see what applications are downloaded and who their kids are talking to. The locator can send messages to parents to let them know their child has arrived at a certain location, or to just check on where they are. All the apps are available separately, but parents can buy all three together for $9.99 per month for up to five lines.

Verizon Wireless: Has content filters, locator apps and usage tools. Verizon's content filters offer age-appropriate content to customers for free, allowing content to be regulated, especially if they go to websites or apps that parents may deem inappropriate for their youngsters. The Family Locator ($9.99 per month, per account) keeps track of location and provides real-time arrival and departure updates.

Parents can also monitor voice messaging and data use and set budgets ($4.99 per month, per device), block unwanted calls (free) and install roadside assistance ($3.99 per month, per line) for young drivers.

Source: (c)2013 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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