The hudl2 tablet, from Tesco, received one of our rare five star awards (see Review: Tesco hudl2 Android Tablet). In this article we will take a look at the Parental Controls features available in the hudl2.
Deciding to allow a child to use an internet-connected device such as a tablet, unsupervised, is a big decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Tools alone aren’t enough to protect a child online and you may be unaware of sites your child is accessing online, even inadvertently, so these tools should be considered in tandem with other parental responsibilities towards child safety.
The parental controls feature is available through the “Child Safety” feature on the hudl2. The child safety screen has a friendly smiley face together with sections for Child Profiles and Safety Advice.
The simple chunky look of the child safety section is welcoming and the calming orange colour may offer some peace of mind to those looking at safety tools for the first time.
The Safety Advice section should be your first port of call and it currently has eleven sections covering: key tips, advice by age, using apps, browse the web, chat & social, photo & video, and others.
Tesco say they have worked with “The Parent Zone” to “create a comprehensive Child Safety app for hudl2”.
There is quite a bit of useful information, and advice, contained in the “Safety advice” section and I would highly recommend every parent read it thoroughly.
Three Key Features
The three key features of the child safety app include a dedicated web browser, “so that your child can only visit websites suitable for their age.”, a time limit feature, “so you have a greater control over your child’s hudl use”, and limited access to apps (for each child profile), “It’s up to you to decide which apps your child can use.”.
By default Safe Search is set on for Google and web content is filtered by child age: pre-school, infant school, junior school, and senior school.
The first step in setting up parental controls is to tap the Child Profiles icon. You will be asked to set a master security PIN lock so that your children cannot access the parental control features.
Fortunately, the PIN can be really quite long so try and set something they can’t guess. Kids are very good at guessing PIN numbers so spending a little extra time here will ensure the effort isn’t wasted later on (choosing the first letter from each word of a paragraph in a well-read book is a good start but try and obscure some of the letters). Google has quite a good section on setting passwords, see “Secure your passwords”.
Once a suitable security PIN has been set the “Manage Child Profiles” section becomes available.
The only option, when you first run Manage Child Profiles, should be “New Child Profile” so tap it and you will be asked for a child’s name and age.
Age is important as it is used to restrict the websites the child can access. You can also set an associated image either by taking a photo with your camera or by selecting an existing image from the document library.
For our example we will set up a fictional child, “Emma”, who is aged 10. Once the information is entered a summary will be displayed including an indication of the default safety features.
In our example both “Web Safety” and “App Safety” have been enabled but “Time Limits” have not yet been set.
A quick way of checking the feature has been configured is to return to the lock screen, on the hudl2, and the new login icon for the child should be available at the bottom of the screen.
Personally, I wish the child’s image icon was a little larger and separate from the parents icon – there is certainly plenty of screen space available.
To managing a Child Profile head back into the Child Safety section, then Child profiles, enter the security PIN, then tap on the child to manage their account.
From the Child Profile screen the name, photo, and age of the child can be updated. In addition there are three safety features which can be configured: Web Safety, Time limits, and App Safety.
For the “Web Safety” section a number of default web categories are included which can be allowed or blocked. For more information on each category tap the information icon next to the category name.
Default categories include Games, Search engines & portals, Religion, Charities & NGOs, Sports & Entertainment, Web-based email, News, Politics (including Business & Finance), General, Health & wellbeing, Lifestyle, Shopping, and a number of others.
Strangely, some very unusual categories are included such as “18+”, “Illegal Content”, “Dating & Personals” which all seem somewhat out of place in a Child Safety environment. Even stranger is that these categories can be “Allowed”. Considering the Child Safety app, according to the Welcome section, is aimed at children up to 13 one cannot imagine many circumstances when “Illegal Content” or “18+” might be appropriate.
Setting the access controls for the categories is very straightforward. It would be useful to be able to drill-down into just what websites are included in each category or to be able to get some reporting as to the categories the child has attempted to visit.
Time Limits can be set in two main categories: Weekdays and Weekends. For both of these sections a time range can be added where the child can access the hudl (the access is set between two points in a 24 hour period).
Setting a time range involves sliding blue circles, in 15 minute increments, to the appropriate start and end time (e.g. 6 am to 9pm). This is useful to prevent a child, for example, using the hudl in the middle of the night.
Furthermore, a maximum time can be set where the hudl can be used so if you want your child to use the hudl for no more than 30 minutes per day it can be set (in five minute intervals).
Setting time limits in this way is quite easy and self-explanatory. The visual nature is also useful if you want to sit down with a child and explain the times they can access the hudl. It is not currently possible to associate the time constraints with the web safety and app safety categories separately but as a starting point it is useful.
App Safety lists the apps available on your hudl and allows you to allow or block each one. Some apps cannot be set in this way including Gmail, Calendar, Google+, and Hangouts, but the rest simply require a tap to toggle the allow or block function.
When you start building up apps it can take a little time process them all and it would have been useful to be able to group apps. Grouping apps could have allowed mass allow/block and also time limits against particular groups of apps. I would also liked to have seen new apps blocked by default so they have to be manually unblocked by a parent. Hopefully, this kind of functionality will be available in a future version.
Overall, the Parental Controls feature on the hudl2 is a very useful starting point when considering giving an internet-connected device to children. The tools work hand in hand with other factors such as establishing boundaries with each child and educating them in online safety.
There are some improvements that hopefully will be made to the parental controls feature but hopefully this article provides a useful introduction to the tools currently available.
There are a number of online resources available which provides more information relating to child online safety, some of them include: