Is there a way (an app, or a special launcher, a set of apps with instructions) that allows turning an Android phone into a child-proof "only call parents" one?

Here are my main requirements (and some possible implementation ideas I was thinking of as bullet points):

  1. The phone's main purpose is to serve as an emergency way to contact parents etc...

    Yes, I know there are special child proof phones like LG Milo - I am interested in how to turn an Android phone into that same functionality when not "unlocked".

  2. When "locked down", the only thing a child must be able to do would be to call one of several pre-defined phone #s.

    • Whitelisting #s in dialer app (requiring password for non-whitelist)

    • or, having a custom dialer that only has "call Mom" etc... buttons with no way to dial specific phone #s; and tuning off access to Android dialer app (see item #2)

  3. When "locked down", access to ALL non-whitelisted apps is restricted

    • Password protecting ALL apps not whitelisted (including of course Play Store and browser).

    • Or, custom Launcher that doesn't have anything but a widget for calling whitelisted #s and apps.

    • Or, if push comes to shove, I'm OK with ONLY phone functionality being whitelisted if no other apps can be to get this to work.

  4. Less importantly, it's a nice-to-have if the phone can be "unlocked", perhaps via "parent" password, to allow full Android functionality without having to re-flush/reinstall etc...

  5. This does NOT need to be genius-child-proof. E.g. if the way to unlock it is to reboot and launch Recovery mode, that's safe enough for me. The goal of locking down is mostly to cut down on accidental bad usage; and on temptation to do stuff that the phone isn't designated for in school (IOW, emergency contact method); if a child is smart enough to bypass lockdown, it's not the end of the world.

As far as what it takes to do this, I'm extremely comfortable with rooting, somewhat comfortable with flashing as a process (but less comfortable with flashing a random ROM of questionably stability, for obvious reasons); very comfortable with generic Unix commmand line; shell, Perl and C programming; but not Java or Android development. Basically, the sky's the limit technically as long as I don't have to actually write a genuine Android program

  • To anticipate 2 possible questions: (1) Android version and phone model don't matter - if the advice is only applicable to specific version/model I am willing to get that one as long as Verizon carries it
    – DVK
    Jul 2, 2012 at 6:42
  • 5
    If the main purpose is to call the parents, don't you think a smartphone is overkill? I can imagine situations where you would like the child to have a computer on the go but since you are OK with having only phone functionality, a dumbphone might be more appropriate. Also, they're more reliable due to their longer battery life.
    – Nova
    Jul 2, 2012 at 7:41
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    Also, I don't like the idea of getting a child used to general-purpose computers being technically restricted from the start.
    – Nova
    Jul 2, 2012 at 7:43
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    @Erik - given the cost of smartphones these days, AND the fact that Verizon just raised the line cost of a dumb phone from $10 to $30 (vs $40 for a smartphone), getting a dumb phone seems... dare I pun it... dumb :)
    – DVK
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:22
  • 1
    Plus, in classic phones, you can't lock games etc.
    – iOS
    Jul 3, 2012 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

  1. Activate Fixed Dialing Numbers feature from Call Settings (and, add numbers there to allow). You may need to contact your carrier. This is supported by even classic Nokia phones, so all ROMs should support it.

  2. Kiosk lockdown the device and allow only Phone/Dialer app in Kiosk Mode. For Kiosk Mode, try searching "Kiosk" in Play Store. SureLock Kiosk Lockdown app looks great to me.

Don't forget to allow kid apps other than phone in Kiosk Mode. Happy Parenting!

  • "Don't forget to allow kid apps other than phone in Kiosk Mode." - as the mode is for use in school in case of emergency (and to the best of my knowledge, you aren't supposed to play apps in school - though rules May Vary), other apps might not be advisable. I will research it though
    – DVK
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:22
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    @DVK You can exclude that sentence from the answer.. I hope, you aren't assuming it as mandatory thing of the solution.. :-)
    – iOS
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:47
  • Thanks Sachin for recommending our software. I'd like to add that you can even control the "Kiosk" settings in SureLock remotely by hosting a setting file.
    – PC.
    Jul 3, 2012 at 3:20
  • @PC Can you please provide premium version to individuals? As you can see in this question, the problem isn't only limited to enterprises.
    – iOS
    Jul 3, 2012 at 3:51
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    a new version for consumers/individuals will be available soon. It will allow multiple users like parents and kids to share the same tablet or phone but with different permissions and allowed set of apps
    – PC.
    Jul 3, 2012 at 7:12

Google has Family Link which allow for some restrictions on the child's device.

  • Approve/disallow apps
  • Screen time limits
  • Location - find child's device

The full list of features is here: https://support.google.com/families/answer/7158477

A few limits:

  • Child account at 13 years can choose to leave Family Link
  • Website filtering is limited to Google's SafeSearch & related filtering tools.
  • Will still see ads

Google Family Link FAQ

Parents should review Google Family Link FAQ and see what data collection is acceptable.

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