How to Childproof Your Phones and Tablets, Without Being an Insane Control Freak

By Gary Cutlack on at

There are many ways to protect today's expensive gadgets from the inquisitive, dirty fingers of children. You can pretend they don’t exist and keep them on top of the wardrobe until they’re asleep, you can lock them down and make sure they only touch what you want them to, or you can be a good daddy and teach them the rights and wrongs of tech use.



If you're the control freak sort of parent, you can hide things from them easily enough, as due to their height limitations children can't see on top of fridges and wardrobes. Sadly, this means utilising amazing levels of willpower to avoid checking your phone or tablet in the presence of your kids. It's a good strategy to attempt, though, because if children don't see their parents impulsively looking at and sniggering over a magical fun device every 30 seconds throughout the day, evening and night, chances are they won't feel the urge to do so either.

Locking devices is easy enough if want to go down that route, mind. Apple has a series of Restrictions within iOS that can lock devices and hide access to numerous features behind a PIN code, while Google's Android Play Store is heaving with apps that let you lock down phones and tablets to various degrees. If you want to turn your device into a password-protected no-go zone of zero interest to anyone, it's easy.

Problem is, as soon as you try to hide something from a child it immediately becomes the only thing they ever want to play with and explore with their fingers and tongues (see also: scissors, razor blades), so you'd be better off taking a more practical approach and attempting to teach kids the rights and wrongs of gadget use.



Because, like it or not, your child's inevitably going to end up spending most of its time staring at a screen at some point in its life. So it's probably a good idea to teach them responsible use from as soon as the little sweethearts learn how to beat a variety of lock screens.

Children are good at learning, and respond well to warnings and threats to take their nice things away and make them sleep outside, so, with a bit of patience, it's possible to teach even toddlers to use only the apps and games they're allowed to use and to stay away from the important stuff like the dialler and your precious Twitter account.

Inevitably, this won't always work. There will be one or two teething errors where you child phones someone you worked with five years ago and puts everyone on speaker phone to catch up, but hopefully your kid's adjusted well enough that the look of horror and embarrassment on your face this triggers will teach it that what just happened was really quite bad and ought not to be done again.



A good way to assist a child's "education" in the ways of not texting daddy's friends is to leave a few tempting apps on the home screen. Why would a child open up the boring-looking SMS app if there's a bright red and yellow drawing app icon right next to it?

Also, kids love looking at photos of themselves, so allowing them access to the photo gallery is a good idea, as they can spend hours and hours leafing through pictures of themselves. If they do that until the battery runs out, no one has to explain any awkward social messages or calls, or why your YouTube video history is mysteriously all Miley Cyrus.


Put a Thing on it

However, one safety aspect can't be taught through use therapy. Kids drop stuff, no matter how well-read and precocious your little sausage might be, so for the love of god put your stuff in a thick, solid, drop-proof case before handing it to a kid.

Your child accidentally phoning the mobile number of someone you half-remember kissing in a pub or a taxi in 2009 is one thing. Smashing it into bits on the bathroom floor is another. You don't want them seeing daddy cry.


Grudging Acceptance

If you want to make life easy, buy them their own tablet. Not an iPad, not even a Nexus 7. Just a £40 budget Android piece of crap off Amazon with no mobile data connection and no router password, then let them go wild with it until it breaks. How much harm can they do with an offline clunker?

If anything, an unresponsive offline tablet will put them off the idea of playing with gadgets altogether. Until they get old enough to have a go on a rich kid's fully loaded 4G iPad and realise they've been lied to all their little lives.

This week, we're expanding minds and dispensing some of Gizmodo UK's favourite tips, with a "how to" theme week, in association with O2 Guru TV. Bookmark this page for all related features.