You just discovered a few hundred dollars worth of in-app purchases from a popular Android mobile video game. The likely culprit — other than the game developer — is your eight-year-old kid. How do you set a parental lock on Android? The ultimate answer depends on the version of Android on your smartphone or tablet.

256px-Android_homeAndroid Jelly Bean (4.3) Provides the Best Locking Features

Android 4.3 — code named Jelly Bean — enhanced the profiles feature introduced in the 4.2 version of the mobile OS. With these new restricted profiles, it is possible to set up a separate password-protected user account for everyone in your family. For each account, there are settings allowing you disable in-app purchases and filter apps based on their content maturity level.

It is also possible to restrict access to all the apps on the device for each separate user account. So if you download Bard’s Tale after setting up user accounts, a simple toggle switch makes the app invisible to your child. This user account functionality is available under the Android’s “Settings” section.

Older Versions Require More Work for Parental Lock on Android

Older versions of Android don’t have the same restricted profile functionality as Android Jelly Bean, so implementing parental control requires a bit more effort. The first thing you should do is go into the settings for the Google Play store and make sure your password is required for any app downloads and in-app purchases. You can also set up content filtering, but this affects the whole device. Additionally, you’ll need to disable the option that allows the installation of apps from unknown sources in the Android settings.

Other apps, such as Kid’s Place or AppLock, are useful for providing a parental lock on Android. Kid’s Place also adds a timer control, so you can limit the amount of game time your child gets on your tablet or smartphone. While Android Jelly Bean provides the best locking support, making sure your app downloads and in-app purchases are password protected — no matter which Android version you have — prevents surprises when you get your next bill!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Paul Williams
Paul Williams

Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.