Let's face it: Even the littlest kids these days can figure out how to operate your phone or tablet practically before uttering their first words. Kids Place, which is best suited for toddlers and young children, offers more security than the usual locks and passwords, so it can prevent your tot (but probably not your teen) from calling your boss or downloading the latest spy thriller.
A basic app best suited for little ones. Kids Place isn't as sophisticated as many of the web-based programs like our best picks Net Nanny (Est. $40) or Norton Family (Free) -- but consumers also don't rave about those programs' Android apps. Kids Place, which provides parental controls and child locks, is ideal for small children (the big kids can more easily circumvent it) and is one of the most popular parental control apps for Android devices. Kids Place doesn't act like a traditional web-based browser by blocking questionable sites but instead allows parents to stop their kids from accessing apps, browsing the Internet, making calls, sending texts or purchasing online materials, like books and music.
After downloading Kids Place (it takes less than a minute), you'll choose a four-digit PIN and create a customized home screen that includes only apps you approve. You can manage the apps and disable Kids Place (so you can use the device) by punching in the PIN. Important to note: Unless you change the settings, shutting down the device will disable the app. Kids Place doesn't create customized settings or multiple accounts for multiple users, which is helpful in homes with kids of different ages. Instead, you need to manually change the settings depending on who is using the device. Kids Place also works on Android-powered tablets. Parents, especially of young children, say it gives them the peace of mind that their kids aren't running up their bills by downloading random apps or accidentally making overseas calls.
Timers and parental controls, but books can't be added. Parents of little ones who like to mess around on phones -- accidentally buying a book or sending random texts in the process -- say Kids Place makes it less stressful for their children to use their devices. Kids Place doesn't filter or block content; instead, it's all-or-nothing access or blocking. As a result, the app is best for tots and young children who don't need to browse or download content but instead want to play their favorite games or watch videos. To protect Android devices for older kids, check out Qustodio (Est. $50) , which works on PCs and Macs as well.
The app is fairly simple and allows you to stop kids from buying or downloading new apps or making calls. You can also block incoming calls while Kids Place is running or turn off wireless signals altogether. A timer feature locks the app, effectively freezing use of the device, and is a great way to limit your kid's screen time. A major drawback for Nook users (and book lovers) is that there's no way to block access to adult books without also blocking children's books. Some say Kids Place could use more customizable features, but many parents say they're grateful that the app is free and appreciate the multiple wallpaper options (including customizable wallpaper).
Does its job, but can be circumvented. There aren't any in-depth professional reviews testing Kids Place's performance, but parents widely report they're happy with the app. There is room for improvement, however. Several parents report their older kids (and even some tots) can easily bypass Kids Place -- most by simply restarting the device or by hitting an unlocked home button. (The app should be able to lock the home, back, search and call buttons.) Kids Place says the app will automatically relaunch after a shutdown only if "start on reboot" is checked under the app's settings; otherwise, Kids Place recommends setting a PIN on your phone.
Several Nexus 7 users say Kids Place doesn't work well with their phones. While the vast majority of reviewers have no complaints and report the app is highly effective, some Kindle Fire tablet owners instead recommend Kindle Fire FreeTime Unlimited (Est. $3 per month per child), a subscription service offering unlimited age-appropriate books, videos, games and apps for kids. In addition, the Kids Place volume can't be controlled once you're in the app, so make sure the settings are to your liking before launching it. The design isn't particularly sophisticated (some of the icons come out blurry).
1. Google Play
Kids Place is the most (and best) reviewed parental control app on Google Play, garnering 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 2,400 reviews. Most of the reviews are short and provide limited information on the app, however.
Review: Kids Place Parental Control, Contributors to Google Play, As of April 2013
Amazon.com has about 430 reviews for Kids Place, which is awarded 4.4 out of 5 stars overall by reviewers. Some of the reviews are fairly detailed and provide insight into the pros and cons of the app, including its effectiveness (generally strong) and its lack of customizable features.
Review: Kids Place - Parental Control, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2013
Kids Place is one of 10 apps featured in this article on child safety. The app isn't tested and the write-up is short, but Android Authority highlights most of the features Kids Place has to offer.
Review: Best Android Apps for Child Safety , Paul Nunal, June 8, 2012
4. Laptop Magazine
This blog on Android parental controls praises the Kids Place app, along with those of NQ Family Guardian, Kyte and Norton Family for providing "flexibility and granular protection options that extend throughout the entire [operating system], not just the web browser."
Review: Does Android Provide Better Parental Controls Than iOS?, Brad Chacos , Sept. 20, 2012