Empowering Your Child to Use Their Smartphone Responsibly

Jul 16, 2013 7:00am

by Taylor Tompkins, on behalf of McAfee 

A digital immigrant is a person born before the rise of widespread consumer devices and who adopted them (to some extent) later in life. Put simply, if you are over the age of 20, you are likely a digital immigrant, struggling to keep up with digital natives, the youthful generation raised in a technology laden era. (You can learn more about digital natives and digital immigrants by clicking here.)

As digital immigrants, parents spend a lot of time trying to comprehend the dangers of an online world where an estimated 15,000 new applications are created each week. We make it our priority to keep future generations safe - even while our children understand these technologies better than we do. We tell them not to say anything online that they wouldn't say in person, we delete inappropriate applications from their smartphones, and we educate ourselves about the constantly evolving threat landscape. However, it's important when teaching younger generations (who have a tendency to hear the word 'no' and think 'yes') to not only protect them from online threats, but allow them to explore this world freely and safely. 

How do we balance these priorities? Don't worry. Here's how to limit the type of applications your child is able to download on their smartphone.


  • Select ‘Settings’
  • Select ‘General’
  • Select ‘Restrictions’
  • Select ‘Enable Restrictions’ 
  • Enter a passcode your child would not suspect 
  • Scroll to ‘Allowed Content’ and alter the settings as desired. You can allow or deny certain applications, movies, and even music based on their maturity ratings. 


  • To disable geotagging 
    • Scroll to ‘Location Services’ 
    • Select ‘Allow Changes’
    • Turn ‘Location Services’ to OFF.
    • If you’d like to make geolocation available for certain apps (such as maps) and not others (such as Instagram), leave location services as ON and disable it for specific apps below. 


  • Select your 'apps folder'
  • Navigate to the 'Play Store'
  • Select ‘Menu’
  • Select 'Settings'
  • Select ‘Content Filtering’
  • From here, you will be able to set a maturity level for the applications the user will be able to download.


  • Lastly, set your secure PIN
  • To help ensure your child doesn't bypass your new restrictions, turn off installation of apps from sources other than the Play Store:
    • Select  your 'apps folder'
    • Navigate to 'Settings'
    • Deselect 'Unknown Sources'

And voila. You're now a few steps ahead of your digital native.

What other ways do you stay ahead of your tech savvy kid? Send me your tips and questions on Twitter to @tctompkins.

Taylor Tompkins is a blogger for NCSA board member company McAfee and a volunteer volunteer educator for the McAfee Online Safety for Kids program.