5 things to do before you let your kid use your smart phone

Keep children—and your pricey device—safe

Published: February 20, 2014 11:00 AM

You're riding in the car, stuck on a plane, or waiting in the dentist's office, and your young child is clamoring for something to do—preferably something involving a screen. Lots of parents these days hand over their smart phones immediately without considering the trouble a kid could get into: say, making accidental phone calls, deleting apps or files, surfing to inappropriate websites—or dropping your precious phone on the hard floor.

So before you hand off your smart phone, here's a checklist.

1. Teach your kid how to use it

OK, most kids know more than their parents about how to use gadgets. But make sure they know a smart phone is not a toy, and to be respectful and careful with it. Let them know not to make calls, text, or go into Settings, browsers, or anywhere else you don't want them.

2. Put your phone in 'sandbox' mode

Younger kids (some older ones, too) may not stay out of trouble, even after your lesson. Apple iOS phones have built-in parental controls you can use, Windows phones offer Kids Corner, a built-in safe area parents can customize, and the Google Play store for Android offers a plethora of apps (mostly free) that block all kinds of activities, including browsing, deleting other apps, accessing your personal content, and so on. Try searching within the app store for "child safety." Here are a few we found: Play Safe, K9 Web Protection Browser, and Kids Place .

If you're in the market for a new smart phone, check our buying guide and Ratings.

3. Buy a case for your smart phone

You may not want to cover up your great-looking device, but if you're handing it off to a kid, it will probably need the protection. Most of today's phones can survive some bumping and bruising, but why take chances?

4. Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and other unneeded power-draining features

A lot of us forget to do this normally, but those features are especially unnecessary when your kid's playing Angry Birds Star Wars or watching cat videos. On Android phones, you can add a widget to your home screen called Power control that lets you easily turn these features on and off (press the Apps button at the bottom of your screen and search under the Widgets tab). On iOs and Windows phones, go into Settings to turn individual features off.

5. Block in-app purchases

Lots of games ask players to purchase items to help advance faster, bonus game maps and levels, and weekly or monthly subscriptions. You definitely do not want your child going on an app spending spree, but there are preventive measures you can take. Learn how to control your kid's in-app purchases on iOS, Android, and Windows phones. Trust us. When it comes to in-app purchases, you don't want your son or daughter spending like a drunken sailor.

—Carol Mangis

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