Managing Mobile Phone Usage for School Children

Whilst many companies have been concentrating on securing corporate Mobile devices and rushing policies in place for BYOD there is another group of problematic users that has been largely forgotten; school children.

According to a new international study three-quarters (73 per cent) of UK 10-year-olds have a personal mobile. There are mixed views from the academic community as to whether this is a good thing or not and this has led to some schools banning mobile devices completely. However there is a third option besides simply prohibiting them altogether or allowing free unfettered use and that is to control the use of the phones based on what parents or schools think is acceptable usage. It is even possible to control the usage within the educational establishment but allow free usage when the devices move outside of the school boundaries. This blog shows how this can be achieved with MaaS360.

What should be controlled?

Obviously opinion will differ amongst parents and educators what they would or should allow and so rather than giving my opinion I will show what can and can’t be done remembering that the features of Apple’s iOS are different to Google’s Android.

Browser Usage

Probably the thing that most parents worry about is what their children are able to access on the internet. MaaS360 can do 2 things to help with this; firstly it can remove the native browser (e.g. Safari) and then replace it with a secure browser from which you can block categories of web sites such as pornography, child abuse, etc. These groups use the same categorisation as google and means that as a parent or educator you don’t have to worry about blocking individual URLs.

In the example screenshot below I have blocked the categories “Pornography/Sexually Explicit” and “Child Abuse Images”. I have also blocked News sites to demonstrate that I can block a category and then add an exception that is allowed. In this case the BBC.

You can also see that I can choose whether I just Block, Block and track or Allow and Track.

URL_Filtering  App_Install geo-fencing

App Downloads

There are a few issues with Apps and App downloads. Firstly you may wish to restrict the download of apps completely and you can do this by turning app purchase off entirely. This can be done for Android and iOS.


However if you do not want to go this far you can block (black list) individual apps. This coupled with a compliance rule will mean that if an app you have chosen to block is downloaded you can trigger various actions from sending a message to you and the phone holder to wiping the device completely if it is not removed in a given time period.


You can also choose to have a more relaxed attitude and just store an inventory of the apps that have been downloaded so that you can look at these when you feel fit.


You can also see that in the list above there is one app that I can remove remotely. This is because MaaS360 has its own app store where you can import any iTunes or Google Play app and distribute it yourself thus allowing you to control the apps on the phone.

Lastly you probably will have heard of horror stories of children buying credits from within a “Free” app that has cost the account holder many thousands of pounds. For example to show the scale of this issue Apple recently had to refund at $32.5m (£19.9m) after a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). MaaS360 can stop this completely by preventing in App purchases.


Lost and Stolen Phones and Device tracking

It’s a bit of a caricature to say that students are more likely to lose or have their devices stolen but even if it is not true I know from personal experience how useful it is to be able to track and lock your device. MaaS360 offers both these facilities.

MaaS360 will (unless you tell it not to) track the location of your device so not only can you find where the device is currently (more on this later) but also view where it has been. This will not only help you to track where your children are but also where the device is if they have left it somewhere or had it stolen.


If this does happen you can also remotely lock the device and put a contact phone number on the screen so that firstly the person who finds it cannot use the device unless they have the access code and secondly it will allow anybody who does find it to return it to you.


Blocking Camera Usage inside School Premises

A camera would seem quite a harmless tool however there have been stories of children posting videos of their teachers on YouTube and using video to bully their fellow students. You have the choice of removing the camera completely however MaaS360 has the option to use Geo fencing. This means that you can assign different policies based on location so that a student entering a school will receive a new policy that will restrict their phone whilst on the premises and will revert back when they leave. This could also be useful for other types of phone users such as hospital workers.

The way it works in practice is that you create 2 policies; one default policy and one for the school or educational establishment. You then create a location based on a post code or address and decide what range outside of this area the policy should take effect. In the example below I have chosen ½ a mile.


You then assign a policy to this location so that when the chosen type of device enters the location the policy will be implemented.


In the example below you can see that my phone has checked in to the Office location and removed the camera and FaceTime via the Chapel iOS Policy. When I leave this location my policy returns to the default and I am given the “Orb Data iOS MDM” policy again.

Obviously this policy could be used to remove or restrict more than just the camera however it serves as a good illustration how Geo Fencing can be used in practice.


Lastly you can also use this feature if you want to know when your children have left school. You are able to set up geo-fencing compliance alerts so that you (and your children if you choose) will get a message.


Blocking purchase of age inappropriate films/games

Is probably not something you have thought too much about but now that it is possible to download films and games to your phone and tablets you may want to consider making sure that anything that does get downloaded is age appropriate.

This is easily achieved in MaaS360 (as is shown below) so that Movies, TV shows and Applications (games) can be restricted to the age of the device’s user.


The ratings used can be set for any country that you wish.

Monitoring data usage

One of the features of MaaS360 is the ability to set expense policies to proactively monitor and track mobile data and application usage. It will allow you to track and alert on data limits you have defined and view real-time data usage so that you do not suddenly get a nasty surprise at the end of the month when the latest box-set has been downloaded to your child’s device.


Apple iOS or Android?

There is an issue with iOS in that any policies deployed to Apple devices can be removed by the user. This is because Apple considers the device to be a consumer appliance whereas Google is happy for Android devices to be locked so that anything you deploy with MaaS360 is unable to be deleted. However this does not mean that iOS cannot be made to work. Firstly you can monitor for the device being removed from control and receive an alert if it is. As a parent or teacher you can they take the action needed to redeploy any policies you have decided are needed. Secondly you can use the Apple Configurator to deploy the device in Supervisor mode which can further lock the device before deploying MaaS360. Alternatively you can buy an Android device.

The other thing to point out is that Android is an open operating system with the security levels that can be achieved depending very much on the manufacturers implementation. For example Samsung has added many security features above the base operating system in SAFE™ (Samsung for Enterprise). It is perhaps worth checking what can be implemented on the type of phone you decide to buy before you make the final purchase. MaaS360 helps with this choice by displaying next to any restriction which version of Android or SAFE you will need to implement.

For example if you wish to restrict Audio recordings being made you will need an Android phone with SAFE 4.0 or higher installed.



There are probably things you may want to do that I have not mentioned so feel free to send me a question if there are questions you have about MaaS360 or Mobile Device Management in general. Alternatively you could try the product yourself for 30 days for free. Simply click here and register.

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