Smart App Protector

Protecting your phone from your (younger) children

A few years ago, this case came out for the iPhone. It's a durable case with a few kid-centered games so you can give your phone to an infant or toddler.


At the time, I though, "who would ever give a $500 phone to a kid?" Then I had kids. Then the kids wanted to play with my phone. Now I know. However, I found that when I get my phone back from my kids, everything is messed up to a level that I never thought possible. So I've learned how to defend my phone against (at least some of) the damage kids can do to smartphones. Here are my tricks.




1. Protect it with a case and screen cover. You probably don't want the above-pictured iPhone case, if they even make it for current model phones. But you should have a case for your phone, even just for you. How much impact, drool, and toilet/sink drops you need protection against is your judgement. Otterbox Commuter cases give decent protection, their Defender cases up the ante a bit, and Armor cases are actually submersible. If you can't find an Otterbox Armor, LifeProof also makes a line of water-resistant and submersible cases. As you'd guess, as the durability goes up, so does price, but it's a fraction of the cost of replacement at retail. Likewise, ProtectCell coverage is also great if the case fails, but a case should be your first line of defense.












2. Windows 8 Phone users are lucky enough to have a feature called "kids' corner." Kids' Corner essentially locks the phone down to a set of parent-determined apps and settings. Any games, data, or settings that you don't want your kids playing, viewing, or changing/deleting can be locked out with a password. It's a feature baked into the OS of Windows phones. If you have an Android, you'll have to build a pseudo kids' corner yourself, which is what the majority of the remainder of this article deals with.











3. A seperate "Launcher" app. A few months ago I wrote about Big Launcher, a homsecreen app that puts a few big icons on the screen as opposed to the full specturm of apps and widgets. Big Launcher might not work as a launcher screen for kids, but the idea is the same. I like Launcher Pro. In fact, I like it so much that I typically use it as my default launcher instead of the standard one. Before giving the phone to the kids, you'll have to change the default settings by going into the application manager, finding the stock launcher program (on the Samsungs it's called TouchWiz home), and tapping "clear defaults." Click the home button and the phone will ask which you want to use as your default launcher, Launcher Pro or TouchWiz Home. Select "Launcher Pro" and "Always" so that if your kid hits the home button it takes him to the alternate launcher. When you're done, go back into the settings, find the launcher app you gave your kids, clear its defaults, hit the home button and set your defaults back to your standard launcher.







4. An App Lock. My kid has a nasty habit of calling or texting people at the wee hours of the morning. After this happened a few times, I figured there had to be a better system. So I found this app called "Smart App Protector." It allows you to lock down certain apps and functions with a password. The setup is a little utilitarian (you have to add new apps to the lock list with the second tab, and use "additional locks" to restrict outgoing phone calls), but all in all it works well. Lock down any apps that you don't want your child using, including file explorer apps if you have files that you need to keep, the gallery if there are pictures that you don't want your children seeing, and, most importantly, the Play Store, Settings menu, and any other App or package installer. Those apps can access your settings and can install or uninstall apps and their corresponding data. Smart App Protector can also be engaged or disengaged from the Status Bar.







safe broswer5. Safe Browser. If you want your kids to have access to the internet, Safe Browser is a browser that limits objectionable or mature (though I always thought that word was a bit of an oxymoron) content. It was weird to install that app and then intentionally try and find racy material, but I did, and Safe Browser does a decent job of filterning content. Use Smart App Protector to lock down other browsers so Safe Browser becomes the default browser.


6. Kids' Apps and Games. Baby Toy and the apps from Baby's First TV are good for infants and toddlers; otherwise you can't go wrong with classics like Angry Birds or Talking Tom. Give them plenty to play with. Unless you want to remove ads or buy extra content, don't pay for the apps.


greener cleaner7. Screen Cleaner. I don't know what gunk gets on my screen after I get it back from my children, but it can be nasty. A screen protector helps keep the original screen from dirt and scratches, but replacing that every time your kids use the phone gets spendy, and I need something more than just wiping smudges off with my shirt. Gadget Guard makes a product called The Greener Cleaner. I have no idea if it's environmentally green, but it is amonia and alcohol free, so safe for phone screens, it cleans nicely, and smells nice too. Wireless World locations should stock either this cleaner or another equivalent.




Most importantly, these steps are not a substitute for proper parenting, good supervision, and appropriate boundaries. I've taught my children please and thank-you, and they usually do a good job relinquishing control of the phone back to mom or dad. And it's probably good for both the parents and the kids to unplug every once in a while.