Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How to make Android child-friendly

A good article on how to make an Android child-friendly.



Our aim is threefold: to limit app access, to limit phone and internet access and to create an easy to use interface. Ideally we'd also like to control internet access to certain applications and filter web sites, but as you'll see this is complicated by certain limitations.

Restricting apps

For people after a quick and simple "sandbox" there are two fun app options. The first is called Toddler Lock. It's a free, child-friendly lockscreen that interactively draws shapes, patterns and makes happy sounds but otherwise keeps your valuable Android device locked.

Slightly more advanced but just as simple to implement is Famigo Sandbox. This locks down the device and leaves only parent-selected apps available. If you have kids apps already installed it does a good job of automatically spotting these. The interface is colorful, big and fun, locks out the phone and internet and provides a preapproved selection of extra apps to add.

Greater flexibility

If you want a more DIY approach, one that'll provide greater flexibility and can grow with the needs of your child, then we'll show you how to make an Android device child safe in the step-by-step below, providing only the applications you want, a interesting interface to use and even safe internet access, if you so choose.

Going beyond this is down to you. The great thing about Android devices is their access to the Android Market, this instantly provides access to hundreds of thousands of apps, almost 150,000 of which are free.

1. The Go Theme

Make android child friendly

By default Android has tiny icons and text, even for adults, and it's a bit boring to look at. Install Go Launcher EX for free and then the Cartoon Theme. That will pretty things up no end, but everything is still quite small, and as standard there's nothing you can do about this. Try installing Bigger Icons Widget, which helps a lot. If you have Root access then using LCDDensity to increase the DPI will increase the size of everything to kiddie levels.

Make android child friendly

2. Lock down

Make android child friendly

Our main worry is to block access to all apps that we don't specify. As a matter of course you should fire up Android Market, press menu and select Settings. Make sure you enable Content filtering and add a PIN for purchases. Next grab App Lock - it's free and will PIN protect all the apps that you want it to.

3. Setting profiles

Make android child friendly

With all of the apps locked down it's now time to do the same for internet and phone access. You could just go into Settings, disable the networks and wireless, but there's no guarantee things won't get turned back on by accident. We suggest Setting Profiles Lite, which offers a way of configuring a host of settings including data connections, sounds and notifications from a single place.

4. Profile shot

Make android child friendly

Setting Profiles Lite only offers a single profile but that's enough. Tap Menu and New profile. Once you've given it a name you're able to control the wireless, data and volume settings amongst other things. With that created make a rule about when those restrictions should apply, all day is one and you can activate the profile via the status menu.

5. Safe browsing

Make android child friendly

At this point you should have a good looking and a safe Android environment to leave your children playing around in. The Android Market is locked off, the internet is locked and so are any mobile connections. If you do want to allow internet browsing the bad news is that options are limited for site filtering but Safe Browser at least provides white and blacklists and access to filth-free sites.

6. Firewall and more

Make android child friendly

Unfortunately there is no comprehensive website filter or blocking tool. We'd have liked a blanket ban and a system to white list only our chosen sites. If you know one let us know. You can implement filtering via Wi-Fi routers and Android does have firewalls but these tend to only work on rooted devices, such as the flexible DroidWall.