Parental Controls

The term ‘Parental Control’ covers a broad scope, so for this section we focus on the implications for mobile phone users.

The Internet Service Providers(ISP) act as a ‘Mere Conduit’ providing a simple unregulated pipe between the Internet and an Internet Ready device. Hence all Internet Access controls on a mobile phone come from either:

  • Security software you buy, that runs on the phone.
  • Access Controls that the mobile operator can place against the SIM card on the phone.
  • Specific Operator Applications

The threats split into:

  • The virus, worms etc that commonly effect any Internet device. See Cyber Crime an Identity Theft section
  • The child specific threats like inappropriate contents, grooming, sexting etc.

Security Software.

Some smart phones can restrict Internet content access for specific applications. These can be set and secured through a password and hence modified as the child grows up.

On my iPhone I can go ‘Settings – General – Restrictions’ and by adding a password then control a number of applications(apps) like Safari(browser), Youtube, Camera, along with application purchases.

You can also buy security software packages to protect your phone against illegal or malicious content or viruses.

Most  of these solutions also include:

  • the ability to read text messages sent or received on the child’s phone.
  • block the taking or sending of photos
  • limit the types of purchases (like ringtones etc.) that can be made through the phone
  • allow parents to restrict contacts to a list of approved numbers(known as White lists)
  • prevent access to web sites that contain adult or inappropriate content.
  • remote wipe – clears the phones memory(remotely) if stolen or lost.

Given a mobile phone also contains a GPS(Global Positioning System), you can track you child’s every move and get notified if he/she moves outside of designated areas at specific times(GPS Zoning).

If you Google ‘Parental Controls for mobile phones’ you should get a good list, the prices and also some comparison web sites.

In reality, you should protect a smart phone in the same way as your laptop/PC but the investment choice is yours.  See section on Protection.

Mobile Operator security

All UK based mobile phone operators offer their own Parental Control service.

Unlike the Security software, these restriction are set to the SIM card not the actual phone.

Each mobile operator has their own set of Parental Control features, so it is worth while checking before buying, but they do appear to be limited.

These controls are usually active if the mobile operator believes the phone is for someone under the age of 18.

If the phone was previously owned by an adult they will be turned off.

Note – Mobile Operators can also blocked Premium rate numbers on a child’s phone.

Specific Operator Apps

Vodafone have launched an Android based application that can block or limit a child’s access to the Internet/Adult/Inappropriate material, via 3G or Wifi access methods.

Help for parents

For parents with concerns the following links may be of help.



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