My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How to Lock down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone and know your Child’s whereabouts Online


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to Lock down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone and know your Child’s whereabouts Online

I’m sure many are excitedly waiting on the Start of September 2014. In that month, a select number of High Schools will be receiving subsidized Tablets costing JA$5000 under the JA$800 million E-Learning Project II as detailed in my blog article entitled “Ministry of Science and Technology signs four Contractors in March 2014 to procure Tablets - Test Pilot Project in September 2014 means Teachers can monetize e-books”.

At a subsidized price of JA$5000 for a Tablet, the Test Pilot project marks the start of the modernization of the Jamaica Teaching System in a shift away from a situation where Teachers teach and Students take notes to a more interactive learning experience that more Student-centric and encourages students to be explorative of knowledge and information.

It also means that the Teacher can have better contact with their students vie the Internet as well as the students can also use the Tablets to do research hat home once they have Broadband Internet at home. Tablets and smartphones do indeed make children smarter, if a 2011 Survey by Online Student Assistance website StudyBlue as stated in my Geezam blog article entitled “StudyBlue reveals Smartphones, Tablets make you smarter – The Big Bang Theory on Google is to be believed as stated.

But as I’d mentioned in the blog article, there is the possibility that students can use their Tablets to access other forms of content other than the teaching material that the Tablets will be pre-loaded with.

There is a need for Parents to become educated in the ways of the Tablets. There is also a need to understand the various ways that one can lock down their Tablets using the built in security features as well as employ CMS (Content Management Software) to monitor their activity on their Tablets as well as stated in “Kids Get New Tablets Over the Holidays? Here’s How to Lock ’Em Down”, published DECEMBER 27, 2013 AT 5:00 AM PT by Lauren Goode, All Things Digital.

To this end, if you’re a Parent reading this and you have chosen to buy your Child a Tablet for September 2014, be it an Apple iPad or Apple iPad Mini or even a Google Android Tablet, know then that you have to become more educated in how your Tablets functions as well as the dangers that lurk on the Internet and how to prevent your Child from accessing them.

After all, they are your Children.

Unlike the other things in your life that you can ignore, you have to pay close attention to them and the things the like to watch on TV and toys they like to play with. Young Children ages 3 to 12 and Teenagers ages 13 to 17 are in their formative years, the years that matter. Their experiences with their usage of Technology will shape them into the men and women that they will become in the future.

Otherwise changes in their lives will alter their perception in the world. Especially if they have unfettered access to content on the Internet that they at their age should not have access e.g. Pornography, Music with Sexually suggestive or expletive language.

In this my first Defense against the Dark Arts, Harry Potter Style, for Tablets and smartphones, I’ll explain the basic steps one can take to lock down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone as well as CMS (Content Management Software) that you can use to safeguard and monitor your Child over the Internet.

Be warned, though, you as a Parent will have to upgrade your outlook, both on a spiritual, physical and intellectual level on Mobile Computing and eventually get yourself a Smartphone or Tablet in order to fully understand what I’m about to impart to you, Tat Brotherhood Style.

Defense Against the Dark Arts  - How to Lock down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone

Apps, little programs that can run on your Child’s Tablet or smartphone, are the main type of content that can be accessed on any Tablet or smartphone! However, before you start getting lockdown crazy with your Child’s Tablet or smartphone, it best to do the following initially:

1.      Talk to your Child and tell them not to go to those websites in the first place
2.      Explain to them why they are not to go on websites or purchase Apps that have Adult content
3.      Replace Credit card with Prepaid VISA Debit Cards such as Scotia VISA Debit Card or CIBC VISA Debit Card with limited amount of Cash
4.      Make the Child responsible for the refilling of the money on their Prepaid VISA Debit Card, in the process teaching them the value of Money and how it translates into Foreign Exchange

Thus your strategy for locking down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone should be as thus:

1.      Block their ability to download Apps of a certain maturity level
2.      Block their ability to download Apps beyond what's you’ve installed on the Tablet or smartphone
3.      Block their ability to install alternate Browsers or use the Built-in Browser
4.      Track their activity on the Browsers using Notifications sent to email
5.      Install CMS (Content Management Software) software to monitor content on the Tablet or smartphone

First off the bat for the non-tech savvy Parent, you need to know the following; all new content on your Child’s Apple iPad, Apple iPhone of Google Android Tablet or smartphone can only be accessed via:

1.      The App Stores created by Apple and Google
2.      The Browsers, both the built in Native Browsers and Third Party Browsers

The App Stores created by Apple and Google are as listed below and are the chief source of Apps, both Free and Paid:

1.      Apple iTunes Store
2.      Google Play Store

As for the Browsers, they are the next Portal to access content on your Child’s Tablet or smartphone. They can access Browsers and Apps from these App Stores, but the Browsers give them access to Websites and Web Apps, many of which can run in your Tablet or smartphone without installing file of Apps.

In the Tablet and smartphone World, aside from the built in Android Browsers in Google Android Tablets and Smartphones, there are only three (3) main Browsers for smartphones and Tablets:

1.      Apple Safari
2.      Google Chrome
3.      Opera Mini

There are others, but not so well known but easily accessible via searching the App Stores. Those other Browsers are less popular and pose little threat to Parents, as Children tend to gravitate to the Brand Name Browsers that they know and have heard about!

Whether it is the App stores or the Browsers on your Child’s Tablet or smartphone, of greater concern to you should be the free and proprietary Games such as Rovio’s Juice Cubes, PopCap’s Bejeweled and iWin’s JewelQuest, King’s Candy Crush Saga and even Threes!. As described in my blog article entitled “Threes!, an Engaging Mathematics Puzzle Game for Apple iOS - Sudoku in Multiples of Three by Sirvo LLC Design Trio should be Inspiration to Game Developers in Jamaica”.

These games are a mere distraction and waste your Child precious time and the money you invested in buying the Tablet or smartphone for your Child. Even more distracting is YouTube and other Video Websites as listed in my blog article entitled “UWI'splanning to increase all Tuition by 5.5% come the new Academic Year 2013-2014 -How to Download ANY Video, including Facebook Videos, Convert and Free VideoHosting Online”, all of which have Apps, be they Web Apps or Apps that are downloadable for your Apple iTunes Store or Google Play Store!

Defense Against the Dark Arts - Apple iPhone and Apple iPad

To enable restrictions for in-App purchases if your concerned about them using your Prepaid VISA Debit Cards such as Scotia VISA Debit Card or CIBC VISA Debit Card on your iDevice, use the following steps:

1.      Tap Settings icon
2.      Choose General
3.      Select Restrictions
4.      Press Enable Restrictions
5.      Enter a four digit password
6.      Tap In-App Purchases

Alternately, you can make it such they cannot purchase anything at all without having to enter a password:

1.      Tap Settings icon
2.      Choose General
3.      Choose Passcode
4.      Set passcode to immediately

This will prevent them from making unauthorized purchases in the Apple iTunes Store.

To prevent them from searching for content on the Internet, best to lock down the YouTube and Safari Browser:

1.      Tap Settings icon
2.      Choose General
3.      Select Restrictions
4.      Press Enable Restrictions
5.      Enter a four digit password
6.      Select the Allow section
7.      Set Safari and YouTube to off
8.      Select Allowed Content tab
9.      Change the settings for Music & Podcasts, Movies, TV Shows and Apps to preferred level

It's recommended that you set Apps to 12+ or less, to prevent the installation of alternative Browsers, which are rated at 17+ as stated in “Safeguarding a Child’s Mobile Device From Pornography”, published January 11, 2012 By BOB TEDESCHI, The New York Times.

Defense Against the Dark Arts - Google Android smartphones and Tablets

To enable a PIN (Personal Identification Number) in Google Android devices as described in “How to set up Parental control on Android: restrict Android App permissions”, published 30 July 2013 By Marie Brewis, PC Advisor, be they smartphones or Tablets, use the following instructions:

1.      Go to Settings
2.      Scroll to the Set PIN feature
3.      Click on the Content Filtering tab
4.      Change the Android Market settings to display Apps of a certain maturity level

Next, you can disable the built in Android Browser or kill YouTube (super strict) for Google Android by just dragging it to the Trash bin, which really shuffles it to another screen other than the main home Screen. If you scroll and find it again in an alternate Screen, do the following:

1.      Click and hold down the icon
2.      Access the Options Menu that appears
3.      Hide to make it vanish for good

If you really don’t trust your Child, you can uninstall these default programs permanently:

1.      Go to Settings menu, Apps or Application Manager, depending on your Google Android device
2.      Select the Apps you wanna uninstall, in this case YouTube and the Google Android Browser
3.      Select Uninstall

Alternately, you can give your Child more freedom via creating a Restricted Profile for them. This so that you don't have to lock down your entire Android Device! This feature is available in Google Android 4.3:

1.      Go to Settings
2.      Select Users
3.      Add user or profile
4.      Tap New Profile to create a profile for your Child
5.      Select the feature to restrict access

Defense Against the Dark Arts – Apps to Block, Protect and Notify you of your Child’s whereabouts Online

Optionally, you can receive notifications from your Child's Tablet or smartphone whenever they attempt to access the Google Play Store and download an App.  This as if you disable the built in Google Android Browser on a Google Android Tablet or smartphone, smart kids will try to download Google Chrome for Android App or the Opera Browser for Android from the Google Play Store to attempt to get around content filtering. Tracking their activity on the Tablet or smartphone allows you to know if they are trying to circumvent any setting you've put in place.

To this end, you can also install the following Tracking Apps or Browsers on their Tablet or smartphone as described in “How to make Android Child friendly”, published March 7th 2013 By Neil Mohr, TechRadar and “Five Parental control Apps to help safeguard your kids”, published May 1, 2012, 1:35 AM PST By Brien Posey in Five Apps, TechRepublic as well to Track their activity online.

Here’s a list of some great Apps that can get this job done on your Child’s Tablet or Smartphone securely and yet are quite easy to configure. For Young Children ages 3 to 12, you have the following Apps available on the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play Store:

For Teenagers ages 13 to 17, we’re looking at more advanced, industrial Strength Apps and Browsers, mainly from the Google Play Store:

You can find more of them by searching the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play Store using the search term “Parental Control” as the list is very long and I can’t do an exhaustive listing here. You can try them out to get a feel for which ones work best for you and your Child.

Once installed, you can not only set website access on the Browsers as well as the App Store but you can also receive regular Notifications from the Child’s Tablet or smartphone on your Child’s activity and whereabouts both on the Tablet or smartphone as well as their physical Location.

The logic is thus simple; if you STOP receiving Notifications that suggests that either your Child has disabled the Tracking and Monitoring Apps or their Tablet or smartphone has been stolen. If it’s a case of the latter, most of the above Tracking Apps have the capability to Track the whereabouts of the Tablet or smartphone and allow you to contact the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) aka the Jamaican Police and have them recover the Tablet or smartphone.

Good to note that to the Jamaican Police, this is worth their time and effort, as there is a growing Black Market for the sale of Stolen Tablets and Smartphones as described in my blog article entitled “How smartphones are stolen and IMEI changed – Uninformed Jamaican Police Tracking Jamaicans even as GOJ ID Registration by Telecom Providers needed”.

Criminals are now turning to stealing Tablets and smartphones to not only flash and resell due to their relatively high resale value, but to utilize them as a means of covert communications to organize their criminal activity. To that end, the JCF is tasked with the recovery of Tablets and Smartphones in the even they are reported stolen, as these are powerful Telecommunications tools in the hands of criminals!

Most likely too, when the JA$800 million E-Learning Project II is in full swing across all 38 schools in Jamaica, a special JCF Branch will be tasked with recovering these highly valuable devices, with legislation that will criminalize their possession on a level similar to possessing an illegal firearm.

So locking down your Child’s Tablet or Smartphone is not only to protect them from harmful content on the Internet, but it can also give you the ability to track their physical whereabouts and know where they are at all times. It can even help you to locate your Child’s Tablet or smartphone should it be stolen or just lost!

If you know of other Apps that can safeguard your child’s Tablet or smartphone, please don’t hesitate to contact me so I can add it to my list!
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