Parental control and data usage tips for Android
This page provides basic tips on managing data and controlling the usage of your Android device. It includes the use of parental controls and “screen time” systems.
Android is the name of the operating system created by Google. It’s found on devices sold by Samsung, Motorola, LG, or Google, among others.
The Android support pages can be very helpful for general, common tasks or issues.
However, we strongly recommend going to your manufacturer’s website for advice and support specific to your device.
These are systems that allow you to control who can access what devices, services, or internet pages at any given time.
They can be particularly useful for managing child/student access to devices, keeping younger people safe online.
They are also useful in managing or preventing addictive internet behaviours, or keeping you focussed on a particular task.
Such controls can form a key part of a cyber-safety program. More information about online safety and cyber-security is available on the Regional Tech Hub here.
Disclaimer: Regional Tech Hub are not specialists in this area. This page presents a small sample of the tools you can use to manage yours and your child’s device. We encourage you to read widely on this topic if you have primary or secondary age children, and remind you that many social media platforms require children to be at least 13 years of age to join.
Some general information:
- TechRadar: Parental controls on Android: how to make a phone or tablet child friendly
- Tech Advisor: How to Use Android Parental Controls
- TechJunkie: How to Enable Parental Control on Android
A note about Android parental controls
Unlike iPhones or iPads, where the phone and the software are controlled by Apple, Android phones are sold by many different companies, such as Samsung, Nokia, or Oppio.
Each of these companies makes their phones use the Android system a little differently.
This means that a user control system that works in one kind of phone may not work well, or at all, in another. It may be possible for children, students, employees, and so on to bypass the controls you set by putting their SIM card into a different phone.
However, each individual phone may well have its own in-built set of parental controls. It’s worth doing a web search for “[your phone name] parental controls” and seeing what comes up.
Google Play Store settings
The only thing all Android devices have in common when it comes to parental controls is the Google Play Store settings.
Google Play is where you download apps for Android phones.
However, it is also possible to download apps from other places aside from Google Play, so these settings may not entirely protect you or your children.
Google Play: Set up parental controls on Google Play
Android’s Digital Wellbeing feature tracks your daily screen time, notifications, and phone unlocks. It also gives you access to parental controls, screen time, data tracking, and other usage systems.
The Digital Wellbeing feature is accessible through your device’s settings. You need to turn it on.
The first time you open Digital Wellbeing, you need to set up your profile.
- Open your phone’s Settings app.
- Tap Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.
- Under “Your Digital Wellbeing tools,” tap Show your data.
Android: Digital wellbeing
Google: Digital wellbeing
Lifewire: How to Check Screen Time on Android
Google Family Link
The Google Family Link app lets you connect a child’s device to your own so that you can set “digital ground rules”. You can use it to create a Google Account for your child, manage the apps they use, keep tabs on their screen time, and set a bedtime after which they are unable to use the device.
You can turn on Family Link in one of two ways.
- Open Settings.
- Tap Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.
Or download the Family Link app to your Android phone.
Android: Family Link
Google: Family Link page
Parental control apps
In addition to the systems built-in to Android, there’s a range of other services you could look at.
- Microsoft Family Safety. This works for anyone who has a Microsoft 365 account, can be viewed via a webpage when on a computer, has apps for Android systems, and may be useful if you’re trying to manage a range of devices and computers.
- NetNanny software. Available for Mac, Windows, and mobile devices.
Browse these lists to find other options.
- TechRadar: Best free parental control software and apps in 2021: protect your kids online
- Best Parental Control Apps: Top 10 Best FREE Parental Control Apps for Android
- PC Mag Australia: The Best Parental Control Software for 2021
- TomsGuide: The best parental control apps for Android and iPhone 2021
Other time-tracker apps
If you just need to track your time, you might find the parental control systems too limiting. You may need to track and record time for work purposes, for example.
Look instead for apps or software that track, record, and manage your time.
Control data usage
There’s a range of ways to prevent your Android devices from using more mobile or Wi-Fi data than you’re expecting.
We’ve listed the easiest and most common ways to turn off, or on, various features built-in to the devices, to keep data usage to a minimum.
Note that many of these options relate to automatic or background functions of the device or of apps. You may find you don’t get notifications, that apps are a little out-of-date, or news doesn’t refresh, when you use some of these functions.
Experiment with turning various features on and off until you’ve got the right balance of being kept informed and up-to-date, having to manually update content, and keeping data costs low.
You may need to re-apply these settings after completing an update to your device.
You may find using an app to monitor your usage can help as well.
Tech Commuters: 10 Best Phone Usage Tracker Apps for Android & iPhone in 2021
Mobile data saving tips
- Even if you have mobile access at your property, connect your mobile phone to your home or property Wi-Fi network, as this internet connection most likely has more included data.
- Turn off “push notifications” for emails, social media and GPS apps.
- Turning off video autoplay for social media. Change your settings in apps like Facebook and Instagram so videos do not automatically start playing.
Using SMS messages rather than apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, because these apps use data to send text messages.
Disable or defer automatic updates
By default, your phone or device will automatically download and install updates to the operating system when it’s night-time, plugged into power, and connected into a Wi-Fi network.
Updates can take up a lot of data, however. They’re not counted in data usage on an nbn™ Sky Muster™ Plus plan, but they are counted as data on any other home internet connection.
To manage this, you can turn off automatic updates in Google Play, until you’re connected to a less-restricted network by: .
- Opening the Google Play Store app on your Android device.
- Tapping the three bars at the top-left to open a menu, then tap “Settings.”
- Tapping the words “Auto-update apps.”
Selecting “Don’t auto-update apps” and then tap “Done.”
Stop apps using your mobile data
Firstly, check what data is being used by apps.
These instructions may vary slightly between different Android devices. If in doubt, find the user manual for your phone and find the instructions for turning off background data.
- Open “Settings”.
- Find the “Mobile network” or “Network” setting.
- Find the “Data” or “Data usage” setting.
- Look through your apps to find out how much data they’re using.
- Tap the “Use background data” button to stop individual apps from using data when you’re not actively using the app.
Notifications can use just a small amount of data each time, but your device is constantly checking to see if there’s anything to be downloaded, so it can rapidly add up. This can use both battery and data.
Turning off notifications varies between Android versions. Use the Android support page to find the right instructions for you, or check in the manual for your phone.
Android Help: Control notifications on Android
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