Back when my twin daughters (now age 28) were young, and I was about to reach the stage of tearing my hair out at the end of a long day, I would check the clock and tell myself to hang on just a little longer: it was almost time for Barney to come to my rescue.

protecting your phone

Barney, of course, was that odd purple dinosaur who would manifest with his friends every afternoon on PBS. Even as toddlers, my daughters would stand by the television, their noses practically pressed against the screen, and become mesmerized by Barney. With a free babysitter in the house, I would stretch out on the couch and close my eyes for a few precious minutes, knowing the girls would not leave their spots until the closing notes of “I love you, You love me” had faded. I suspect I am not the only mother who depended on Barney in the early 1990’s.

Protecting Your Phone: Parental Controls

Fast forward to today, when my six-year-old grandson is often running around the house or struggling mightily to be still and quiet at church or some other public place. One solution that worked like a charm from the time he was about 3 or 4 was handing him a cell phone to keep him quiet for a few minutes. He would find a children’s game to play or watch a kid video, giving his mom and me a few moments of peace or allowing us to actually hear a sermon.

This process of child management came to an abrupt halt when I got a notice from my credit card company that some suspicious charges had been applied to my account: no less than $523 in charges from Google Play, I quickly discovered. All of this happened in the course of two days and all as a result of my grandson downloading games on my phone. Most were a result of pop-up ads . . . he would play one game for a few minutes, click on the pop-up to download another game, and continue along in this fashion. I didn’t even realize he had downloaded the games (about 30 in all) until the fraud department contacted me. Thank goodness, both the credit card company and Google Play were understanding (something tells me they had seen this phenomenon before) and the charges were reversed as I cleared my phone of the unwanted games, promptly set some parental controls that I should have done much earlier, and told my dear grandson that he would no longer have access to my phone. Ever. 

protecting your phone 2

Many helpful articles are available to help parents (even technically challenged ones) set some parental controls on phones. If you have an android phone, you can check this wikihow that takes you step by step through the process. 

For Apple devices, you can start with this help file

Many articles will help you identify some parental control apps you may wish to use. These vary in price from $15 to $40, although a few have a free version. PC Mag has one good list.

Protecting Your phone: Preventing Charges

If you need to set parameters on your Google Play account to prevent kids from accidentally ordering games (like my grandson did), you can set up parental controls there as well.

Just know that a young child can do a surprising amount of damage in a short while with a technological device in his small hands. Take some precautions ahead of time to avoid any surprises on your next credit card bill.

By Shelley Henry, Director of Communications at San Marcos Academy

Visit our blog page to read more advice from a coeducation boarding school in Texas
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