How can I filter my child's mobile internet?
3 years ago
Stuart Houghton Freelance writer and IT nerd London, UK
I would usually recommend that you don't rely on filtering software to protect your children from adult or other unsuitable content as it can give a false sense of security. No filter is perfect and all are best used (if at all) in tandem with simple precautions like restricting time on the computer and honest discussion with your child.
Things become somewhat trickier if your child has a smartphone or tablet that can access the internet. It is much easier for them to browse the web or use chatrooms and social media away from your supervision and of course they will probably be able to access the internet outside the home.
All UK mobile networks offer filtered internet access and many turn it on by default - particularly for PAYG accounts. Enabling adult content on a filtered SIM card requires the action of the bill payer so will be difficult for your child to circumvent.
iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) have pretty good parental controls built in that let you lock access to Safari, YouTube, Camera and other apps. There is a good guide to setting restrictions on an iPad here.
Windows Phone is more limited, but you can at least turn off the ability to download and install apps.
Android has no built-in controls (there are some exceptions - eg some Android tablets will let you set up restricted user profiles) but it does have many third-party options. AppLock lets you remove access to all but a selected few apps, so you could allow SMS, Email and Fruit Ninja but no web, for example. More full-featured products like Norton Family can restrict access to certain sites as well as apps and SMS and you can even get an alert if they try to access something you'd rather they didn't.
When they are at home, they will probably be using your home wifi to access the internet. Your ISP may offer parental filtering services for your connection that can be activated either by calling them or via a password-protected area of their site. The UK Safer Internet Centre has advice for the four main UK ISPs - BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - here.
Another option is to use the free OpenDNS service to filter sites. DNS (Domain Name System) is the system that converts internet 'host name' addresses to the numerical IP addresses - e.g. "www.bbc.co.uk" points to the IP address 18.104.22.168. Every ISP provides DNS servers that your home router uses whenever you open a website or send an email but you can change your router's configuration to use OpenDNS instead. This will filter any device that connects via your home router, including mobile phones signed in to your network.
Do you monitor your child's mobile internet activity? Tell us in the comments below.