Chances are that a fair number of kids will be the lucky recipients of an Android tablet or smartphone for Xmas. I say this because according to Google, smartphone use has almost doubled over the last 12 months in New Zealand and by the end of 2013 at least one in three Kiwi Internet users will own a tablet.
If you're giving your kids a tablet or smartphone for Xmas, the million dollar question becomes this: "How do I make a smartphone or tablet as safe as possible for my young 'uns?"
Thankfully transforming your own patch of cyberspace into a kid-friendly place needn't be terribly difficult.
Following these five steps from Google's Johnny Luu (who recommends that parents do them before wrapping up any smartphones or tablet presents on Christmas Eve) will ensure that your kids enjoy a safe yet high tech Christmas without any of the grief that comes from the seamier side of cyberspace.
1: Get parental
There's easily a bazillion Android apps out there, all accessible via Android's Google Play Store. Although most are harmless, keeping kids away from adult only apps can only be a good thing.
Doing this involves creating "Restricted Profiles", which are essentially user accounts which give parents control over which apps are accessible.
Doing this is actually pretty easy: Go to Settings > scroll down to "Users" > tap "Add user or profile" > set up which apps to enable for your kids and choose which apps the wee ones have access to.
2: Shop safely
Sadly there are also dodgy apps out there masquerading as legitimate games. In-app purchases can quickly result in little Johnny or Joanne emptying your credit card to purchase all sorts of virtual goodies. This is thankfully easily avoidable.
Simply turn on "Password" in the Play Store so you can prevent your kids from buying apps. Once this is enabled, your kids will be asked for a password whenever they attempt to make a purchase.
Doing this is simply a matter of tapping the "Play Store" icon then the setting icon (looks like three dots lined up vertically) to choose "Setting" > scroll down to find "Password" and activate, entering in a secure password.
3: Keep tabs on your kids' hardware
Having lost my own fair share of smartphones, I can safely attest to the fact that tablets and smartphones are dead easy to lose. Thankfully they're also easily found using the Android Device Manager.
This free app can use your device's GPS to locate Android smartphones or tablets on a map and allows you to remotely "Ring" the device with its volume on full for 5 minutes (which is a great way of figuring out which sofa cushion you've left it under, or startling the bejesus out of pets). With the Android Device Manager app you can also remotely reset the device password, or even wipe all data on the device.
4: Play it safe when searching
It's easy enough to innocently discover unsuitable content using some pretty innocuous search terms so keeping inappropriate search results out of sight is a must do.
To do this, simply turn on SafeSearch, which will keep unsuitable search results from appearing.
Doing this this is as easy as tapping Settings > scrolling down to "Accounts" > "Google" > and then tap "Search" > find "SafeSearch filter" and activate. You'll know it's turned on when you see colourful circles around the Google search box.
Sometimes the boobtube can be well "ahem" just that, which definitely isn't a good thing for young eyes.
Keeping YouTube family-friendly is however a simple matter of activating Safety Mode on the YouTube app which will filter out mature content or that have age-restricted content, so they will not show up on your kids' tablet or phone.
Doing so will also hide inappropriate comments. To do this fire up the YouTube app > tap the setting icon on the top right corner (looks like 3 dots lined up vertically) > "Setting" > "Search" > "SafeSearch filtering" and then tap on "Strict."