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This year smartphones are among the most awaited Christmas presents by children on Santa’s nice list. Their parents, however, might worry about the “naughty” things their “nice” kids can do with these handheld devices.

A study on the use of smartphones at a Colorado high school revealed that the students installed applications with sexting – sending and receiving sexually explicit messages – options that are normally seen as calculator or other mundane programs. Parents have also complained about being highly charged for the children use their credit cards to buy characters or poker chips on free downloaded mobile games.

According to Caroline Knorr, an editor from Common Sense Media, a website that provides evaluations of family contents and goods, giving children a smartphone means giving them a lot of power, and parents may be unaware of how knowledgeable their kids are when it comes to digital issues.

These issues are becoming increasingly serious. A study released in 2014 showed that over a fifth of seventh-graders admitted sending and receiving sexy texts via their phones. Google Play and App Store, the application stores for Android and iOS phones respectively, are abundant of attractive applications which are free to download, but include their own mini in-app stores, which induces the kids to buy goodies. The research firms App Annie and IDC revealed that money spent on these so-called free applications increased by 211 percent within one year, from 2012 to 2013.

The parental controls of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems were put through careful testing with five typical situations that parents may encounter, which are preventing children from viewing adult contents on a browser, preventing children from uninstalling applications, monitoring disguised sexting applications, blocking in-app purchases and preventing children from exceeding data plan.

The tests concluded that while an Android device may help to save money as most models are cheap, parents tend to choose an iPhone to impose tight control on their kids’ activities. The installment on Apple’s devices may take longer to complete, but supply more comprehensive restrictions and protections compared to the lack of necessary features and modest solutions offered by Google.

Apple in a statement claimed that they want all clients to get a positive and safe online experience with their devices, and that was the reason why they supplied parental control functions for all their products, from iPhones to Apple TV and Macs. In particular, the top parental control from this tech firm is a so-called feature Family Sharing.  Parents register their iTunes accounts as the primary credit card holder, and they can invite as many Apple accounts as they want to the group, which allows family members to make purchases from the same credit card and share the content with others.

The key function of Family Sharing is Ask to Buy. As long as this function is enabled, parents are notified of any downloads or in-app purchases made by children, and of course they can choose to accept or deny the action.

The Restrictions feature in an iPhone’s settings helps parents to enable or disable certain features on the device. For example, they can block the Safari browser from loading adult contents. Besides, parents can stop applications such as Netflix or Apple Music from using cellular data, which prevents their data plans from getting burnt.

The Android operating system, on the other hand, lacks the aforementioned features, or if there are several, they do not help much. Users can perform limited restrictions on the web, or even have to download a third-party application to filter the inappropriate contents, or lock certain applications as they wish. Several third-party apps even charge downloaders.

The open-source nature of Google’s Android permits manufacturers to customize the system to their preferences, and that may be a reasonable explanation for its lagging behind iOS.

Technology seems to be thorough, but it alone cannot handle all issues, said Ms. Knorr from Common Sense Media. It is essential parents talk to their kids about what is appropriate and what is not. They cannot be around all the time for supervision. The children, therefore, need to know how to manage their own time, what they should download and see.

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