How To Set Up Your Child’s Smartphone

How To Set Up Your Child’s Smartphone

If you’ve given your child a smartphone it’s wise to set it up so it’s safe and secure. Here’s how to do just that.

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Step One: Enable A Password

A password helps protect the information and accounts on a smartphone, and that’s vital for any smartphone “owned” by a child. They’re not notably good at remembering all of their possessions at any given time, and in an environment such as a school there’s also the potential for bullying from an unlocked device. While some newer smartphones support measures such as fingerprint sensors, every smartphone supports passcodes. Here’s how to create them for each smartphone type.


Go to Settings then TouchID & Passcode to set a passcode.


Go to Settings then Lock screen and security and then Screen Lock Type. Depending on your precise model you may have other options, but for a PIN-style passcode, choose (not surprisingly) PIN.

Windows Phone

Go to Settings then Lock screen to set a passcode.

Step Two: Disable In-App Purchases

You can ignore this step if you’re rich enough that you just don’t care what your kids spend on My Little Pony digital accessory in-app purchases, or whatever your kids are into. The chances are you’re not quite that rich or stupid, so locking down your child’s ability to wildly spend your money makes a lot of sense.


Go to Settings then General then Restrictions. You’ll have to enable Restrictions, which requires its own unique passcode. From there, you can toggle the ability to make in-app purchases available.


Go to Google Play then Settings and then Require authentication for purchases.

Windows Phone

Go to Store, and then tap the three ellipses button. Then head to Settings, where you can set a PIN for music, app and in-app purchases.

Step Three: Disable Installation Of New Apps


The method for blocking new app installs is the same as for IAP restrictions. Go to Settings then General then Restrictions. You’ll have to enable Restrictions, which requires its own unique passcode. From there, you can toggle the ability to install new applications altogether.


App installation on Android will depend on the version of Android you’re using, with older releases unable to specifically block app installation for existing apps on an account, although if you’ve set up a PIN block for purchases that will stop new apps being purchased from a device.

If you’re using an Android tablet running 4.3 or newer, you can set up a distinct user profile with app restrictions, but on Android smartphones there’s no such facility for now.

Windows Phone

The same controls that block IAP purchases can be used here; as a reminder that’s by going to Store, and then tapping the three ellipses button. Then head to Settings, where you can set a PIN for music, app and in-app purchases.

Step Four: Investigate Other Measures

Quite how much further you want to protect your child’s smartphone will depend on the precise circumstances of its use, with everything from outright snooping applications available to install, slightly less invasive apps for smartphone location when mislaid, such as Apple’s “Find My iPhone”m and even dedicated environments such as Windows Phone 8’s Kids Corner setup. There’s a rich variety of kid-friendly loaders and environments on Android, although some of these are either device or manufacturer specific.

Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to other parenting issues, how much further you go depends largely on what you’re after and what you’re comfortable with. Bear in mind, however, that a device that your child has access to is one they have access to when you’re not around — and prepare accordingly.

Kids with phones picture from Shutterstock


    • so you are saying a 17 year old should not have a smart phone?
      or are you using the term child, more loosely for a 6-14 year old range?

      I had a phone when I was in year 7 (12-13 age), one of the first in the year level even.
      I am now turning 31…

      I can understand the concerns with all the social networking etc.; but a blanket denial of phones doesn’t convey much trust nor the ability to show responsibility from their children. Let alone give them the chance to stuff up and learn.

      • Yes I am.

        And no, I did not say that a child should not have a phone. I said they shouldn’t have a smart phone. Why on Earth would a child need one anyway? 90% of the time they’re at school that doesn’t let them have a phone out anyway. They message each other on Facebook and have no real need of any smart phone benefits, When they get older, and get a job they can buy their own smart phone.

        The way I see it, until they can buy one themselves, they can deal with “dumb” phones.

        • I think you’ll find they don’t quite spend 90% of their time at school. Infact they spend less time at school than you spend at work, where most people shouldn’t be on your phones either. So by your definition 90% of people don’t need a smartphone.

          Then you contradict yourself, they message each other on facebook so therefore they have no need for a phone that runs facebook messenger ?

          Plus the geo-location support on smart phones is a good piece of mind for parents (if they are late you can see where they are, if they lose their phone you can attempt to find it).

          Smart phones doesn’t have to mean the latest iPhone/Android phone on the market, you can get smart phones now for less than a nokia 3210 cost back in the day.

  • My son is 3 and he has access to an old iPhone 3Gs for games….. I don’t mind that he does. He also has access to HP Touchpad (That I put a custom ROM on).

    Thanks for the tip @pjeaje

  • For a younger child I’d also have a list of allowed phone numbers (if possible) both incoming and outgoing.

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