Parental controls for mobiles and tablets

27 December 2013


You may have given your children a new mobile phone or tablet for Christmas but did you know there are ways you can help manage their access to them?

All mobile phone providers offer free parental control services which limit the content children can access via the mobile network to items suitable for under 18s. However, they may not always be automatically switched on.

Check with your service provider that the parental control settings are switched on, and ask for them to be switched on if they are not. For advice on the safety tools available, contact your child’s mobile network provider.

However, mobile operators can’t filter content your child receives directly from their friends, for example via text or picture messages.


Mobile operators typically can’t filter content accessed via apps, as opposed to via an internet browser. Discuss with your child the types of content you’d be unhappy for them to receive or share with others and the kinds of apps they should and should not install.

Make sure they realise they should never give out personal details – such as name, address, school and telephone numbers – to online friends they have not met face-to-face, and tell them never to respond to junk email or open attachments from people they don’t know.

Children can also access the internet through publicly available Wi-Fi – in shops, coffee bars and so on or through your own home Wi-Fi.

You can download and install a number of parental control apps to your child’s device which can filter the content they see and the apps they can install. These apps vary in price and offer everything from basic web page blocking to full-scale monitoring.

You should also check what parental controls are available for the specific device; some devices may have options for switching off the internet browser. Some tablet device manufacturers also enable parents to set up alerts restricting how much time the child spends watching videos or playing games.


Talk to your child about the importance of keeping their device safe and what to do should it be lost or stolen.

If a contract mobile phone – or a mobile-enabled tablet – goes missing, contact the mobile provider as soon as possible to avoid facing high charges as a result of unauthorised use.

If you are in doubt that the handset has been lost or stolen, err on the side of caution and report it immediately.

Make sure that a passcode is put on both the mobile handset and SIM to make it more difficult for thieves to use. Ofcom’s video guides show you how to do this on some popular smartphones.

Ofcom’s guide on keeping your smartphone secure explains more about the precautions you need to take in case your phone is lost or stolen.

It also includes information on apps, using antivirus software and how to erase data on a phone if it goes missing.