Overview

As with Microsoft’s Windows for PC, so has the Google’s Android become a grand mobile computing platform (complimented by a large library of applications). Which can offer great fun, play and learning value for our children amongst others. Notwithstanding, you must have realized that unless measures are put in place to govern activitiy thereon, it can as easily pose multiple threats that can greatly impair godly upbringing (mandated us by God) amongst others.

There certainly axist several parental control measures that could be adopted against this concern. It is just that a number of factors appears to affect efficacy, reliability and overall validity of a measure choice, making it necessary for affected Christian parents to try and have a learned look into the subject at large in order to best decide on recourses. And we purpose to help with just that – all the while admitting wholly that this can be more tolerable even for the child when the reasons behind the implemented control measures are clearly communicated (especially older kids).

Parental control options for Android under general

At first glance, this may appear like an already well supplied for need – as there are numerous parental control apps (from free to paid) on the Google Play Store. From which one could then simply pickup one and use exclusively. However a closer look into this seems reveal that it is not always this easy. Firstly, due to variation in hardware as well as Android OS versions, it seems 100% consistency or compatibility cannot always/easily be ascertained by these apps. An issue type that is seemingly reported even on popular apps such as Qastodian. Secondly, unless the parental control app is Christian developed, it seems the quality of its offered protection is bound to fall short in one aspect or another (since Christian standards are a lot strict). Thirdly, because these apps operate on ‘user app’ privileges’, they can be ever at risk of being shutdown (even if just momentarily), in the event where the system may feel congested/overwhelmed and decide to kill running apps to free memory. Lastly, because children of different ages often have different use cases, it seems a blanket approach cannot always work best. All of which concerns must necessitate consideration of alternatives or additional helpers.

Other available measures that could be adopted

There axist a few alternatives (that may be used instead of the above discusses standard approaches) or helpers (that may be used in conjunction with any one standard approach). While these can indeed be be/boost efficient, their implementation can be an envolved process.

A router based helper approach – which can for example let you predefine domains that can be accessed. While limited to the router it is activated on (such as home WIFI) – and helpless with mobile data based internet access, this can be a worthy helper nonetheless.
A root based approach – which involves acquiring root privileges on a device in order to perform elevated-user based manipulations and configurations. With root privileges, one can for example permanently removed all offending preinstalled applications (including deleting the installer APKs from the device so they do not reinstall after a factory reset. As well one could choose to hide applications (especially those that are locked) from the home and app drawer screens – and use special methods such as the dialer to launch them. As well one could with root make virtually any app (including the main controlling app) to have system app privileges.

The root based approach may work efficiently as a helper or a standalone a standard custom parental control approach.
A ROM based approach – this is where a device’s stock ROM is pre-modified (removal of unwanted applications) and then after flashed onto the device. This is another advance approach but can be a valid and interesting option in case there is no available root method for the pertinent device model.

What you should know with the above discussed advance measures

Unlocking the bootloader voids warranty for several manufacturers. But we reckon we are better off with godly kept children than a warranty benefit with spiritual compromise thereof. Modifying the system or vendor images disqualifies the pertinent device from receiving OTA updates. But again unless if you perform sensitive tasks on your child’s device or if the OTA is fixing a major bug, you may have nothing to worry about missing out on updates or security patches.

Which are recommended parental control apps

  • While I may recommend specific apps (which should/may be best) in passing, I wish to try to dwell on what to look particularly for as well as what to avoid.
  • Where you can, go for a paid/premium app than otherwise. As this often suggest professional grade quality. And therefore possibly fewer functional flaws.
  • This may be obvious but you need an app that cannot be uninstalled (password protected or otherwise – especially where the Settings app cannot be locked).
  • The app should be able to auto start after reboot and that promptly.
  • If locked apps can still be launched from a home screen or app drawer, the parental controlling app should be able to hide recent apps previews. This can be most useful for locked apps such as YouTube and Google Play Store which could easily show previews of the very content you mean to keep your child from. Ideally, do consider hiding offending apps that you can neither remove no disable, for your child to benefit from the ‘out of sight out of mind’. Hiding can be ideal for apps that may be occasionally needed such as Google Play Store. While permanent removal may be best for apps you never expect to us.
  • A launcher based app such as Kids Place can be great for younger children given its approach.
  • Be very cautious on pre-bundled browser or app store offers (Unless the app developer is a sound Christian). A worthy child browser should at least support predefining of sites the child could visit – else to offer remote monitoring of history. As well images and ads blocking as well should ideally be offered by the browser. And of cause the browser settings page should be access controlled. Kindly ask us where unsure.
  • Also, refuse to take advantage of any Play Store usage control feature. Installation of applications should remain the business of parents as the Play Store cannot be safe for Christian kids even with the parental control feature enabled under settings. Again because this is simply not a Christian developed resource. And older children could use our LC PlayStore where possible. Which lets you access the same Google Play Store without pictures (and enable picture loading on demand).

What could be the ultimate android PC solution

It appears the best recourse should be a situation where a parental control app comes bundled with/or as core system app. Given the same system privileges and priority as others. And included on all preliminary compatibility and consistency tests perfomed on other system app. The app lock application that comes as part of my Huawei device’s core system has been reliable with essentially 0 crashes to my recollection. I reckon therefore that an Android edition that should be built with children Christian wholesomeness in mind should be able to ascertain the desired protection efficacy and reliability. But because we cannot expect Google to carry out these hopeful implementations, Christians shall have to take it upon themselves. Which can either be something as formal as name brand-name marketed device or as casual as the Lineage OS project. But until Christians can undertake any such project, the previously discussed measures (including the root based ones) should stand in fairly well. It can be an even more involved process but those who can (and must) could look into building a custom system (with custom apps and modifications) for their own devices (signed with they own generated key) using the AOSP. This approach lets you add and sign your own custom applications that could otherwise remain user apps.

Extra tips

You can install and run the Noroot firewall on your child’s device. Especially if you expect to run ads powered apps at times with active WIFI or mobile data connection. This aids greatly in blocking app ads. Which can easily be about the very same folly we are trying to keep our kids from. You will need to manually white list any app you need internet access on (once off).


Some tips on buying Android device a child

Where you can help it, go for a device that is not running the newest or recent version of Android. Often times new versions contains changes that takes developers a little while to wrap their heads around and support. Android 10 Go came up with the Draw over app feature disabled for example. A feature that many locking as well as parental control apps (including Kids Place) depended on. At least I know now that the same can be enabled with root privileges. Where you can, purchase a device from name brands. While the price of these may be slightly steep, they are often well provisioned for modifications (as opposed to some low end or off brands which may not come provisioned for bootloader unlocking for example – often need for root).