How to make smartphones and tablets 'child safe'

Fake apps - based on real games such as Angry Birds (pictured) - can add thousands to parents' phone bills. (Image: Rex)

Children using smartphones and tablets are at risk from cybercriminals - and innocent mistakes can cost their parents thousands.

Complaints of children accessing apps and games on smartphones have increased by 300% as fake games which look like hits such as Angry Birds are downloaded free - but charge high fees of up to £15 every time the game or is accessed on a smartphone.

A recent report from PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of phone-paid services says parents could find themselves responsible for thousands of pounds of bills if they ignore their children’s phone use.

How can you avoid fake, high fee charging apps and games?

Following the five steps below can help reduce the risk of a child downloading a fake app and costing you a fortune.


[Related: How to create a 'hacker-proof' password]

Talk to your network

If your child has a dedicated mobile phone, you can inform the network that it belongs to a child and ensure that limits are set on talk time based payments and block access to certain websites that may carry fake games, adult content or gambling offers and promotions.

Protect your card details

Both iPhone and Android smartphones require a debit or credit card to be registered with a Google Play or an Apple ID account in order to download games, music and apps.

Avoid allowing your child to access your credit card details and your personal phone which will hold these details if you’ve paid for a music download, game or app on iTunes, the Apple App Store or the Google Play store. They will only need your user ID or email and password to be able to pay with your registered credit card.

Disable app downloads

Android and iPhone phones and tablets allow you to lock the device from the start screen but there’s also an app for Android phones called App Lock which allows you to choose which apps and games to password protect on a phone.

This gives you the ability to password protect Google Play, the service which allows fee paying downloads. Using this technique, only the password holder can download fee paying content to the phone.


[Related: How to create a 'hacker-proof' password]

Download a protected browser

Anti-virus security company AVG offer a free family browser called AVG Family Safety which blocks adult content but also tracks and blocks fraudulent businesses and ‘phishing’ sites which hunt for credit card details.

These companies can operate through mobile internet browsers, rather than dedicated app stores and services so it’s important to protect your children while browsing as well as downloading.

Monitor smartphone behaviour

Norton Safety Minder is an Android app which allows you block specific websites but also tracks what sites your children visit and an upgraded version allows you to be alerted to what apps they’re installing as well as what texts they’re sending.