If you are wanting or needing to give your child a cell phone, but want to be able to apply parental controls to restrict access, or even to make their access fully restricted access with them being able to call just a few numbers that you designate, then here is how to do it with T-Mobile. It is important that you understand these steps, and that you both a) don’t let Tmobile tell you that it can’t be done, and (equally important), b) don’t believe T-Mobile when they tell you that it has been done. You will need to do it – or at least check that T-Mobile has really done it – yourself.
Here is how to lock down your child’s cell phone account and access, and apply full parental controls, so that they have no Internet access, and can only call and text to pre-approved numbers.
Note that this article is intended to help parents who do not want their children to have access to the Internet on their cell phone, and/or who want their child’s phone to be able to call or text only telephone numbers that have been pre-approved by the parent. The dangers to younger children of full access to the Internet, and of unlimited phone and texting access, are well-known and well-documented, and as such we at the Internet Patrol fully support these parents.
Again, these instructions are for (and only for) T-Mobile phones.
First, if you haven’t already done so, you will need to add a new line to your T-Mobile account, for your child’s phone. You can choose just about any phone offered by T-Mobile, and what we are about to tell you should work.
Be sure to tell T-Mobile that you do NOT want a data plan for your child’s phone line, you want ONLY “talk and text”. Repeat this to them at least twice, and make sure they confirm that your child’s phone line has NO data plan.
Second, you have to tell T-Mobile to add the Parental Controls called “Family Allowances” to your account. It may be free, or it may cost you $4.99 a month, depending on what plan you have.
Ok, now that you have that phone line for your child, and you have Family Allowances turned on, you will need to log into your T-Mobile account on the T-Mobile website (if you haven’t already set that up, you will need to do that too).
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Once logged in, go to the top of the page, and at the top menu hover on “Manage”, and then hover over the “Your Profile” link, and from the drop-down select “Phone Controls”:
Once in “Phone Controls”, you will see two settings that you need to set. The first one is “Web Guard”, and the second allows you to set the “Family Allowances Parent”.
Set Web Guard to “ON” for your child’s phone line.
Then make sure that your phone line is set as the “Family Allowances” ‘parent line’:
Be sure to save your changes!
Next, go back to the “Manage” menu at the top, and again hover over the “Your Profile” section, and this time select “Security Settings”:
Now, look part-way down the page to where it says “Set account access levels”.
For the account which is your child’s line, you want to set it to “Restricted view”:
Don’t forget to save your changes!
Now, go back up to the “Manage” menu again, and this time, on the far right-hand side, hover over “Parental Controls”, and click on “Family Allowances” under Parental controls:
If you don’t have “Family Allowances” listed under ‘Parental Controls’, then you will need to call T-Mobile customer support and tell them again to turn it on.
Selecting ‘Family Allowances’ takes you to a page showing the Family Allowances for each line. These allowances, on this page, refer to the minutes that are allowed to be used for each line, and the default is set to “no limit”. Each line’s limit is represented as a slider, with the far right-hand side of the slider representing “no limit”.
T-Mobile Family Allowances Set to “No Limits”
T-Mobile Family Allowances Set to “100 Minutes”
You, however, want to set the slider to “0”. (Trust us, even though it is counter-intuitive, you want to set it to “0”. This means that your child is not allowed to make any calls – with the exception of numbers that you are going to list as exceptions.)
Family Allowances Slider Set to “0”
Once you have set the slider to “0”, go down to the bottom of the page and hit “save”:
Next go back up to the ‘Family Allowances’ menu bar, and select “Messages”. This is for text messages. Set the slider for your child’s account in this section to “0” as well.
Don’t forget to hit “save” at the bottom of the page!
Now, do the same for the “Downloads” section, again setting the slider to “0”:
And, again, be sure to hit “save”.
Finally (for this section), go to the “Allowed Numbers” section:
The default for each line is to have nothing but 911 and T-Mobile customer care “always allowed”, and to have no numbers “never allowed”.
Now, here is the thing, and this is very important to understand. Right now, your child’s phone line is set to “0” minutes and “0” texts. This means that you have already “never allowed” all numbers. The only numbers your child’s phone can call right now is 911, and T-Mobile customer care. (Do you see where this is going?)
You don’t want to touch the “never allowed” numbers section at all. You would only use that section if your child’s minute and text allowance was set to anything other than “0”. In fact, given how finicky this system is, we suspect that putting anything in the “never allowed” section might open your child’s phone line up to being able to call people other than those you want them to, so just don’t risk it. Ignore the “never allowed” section. Again, remember, right now your child’s phone is unable to make calls to any number, other than 911 and T-Mobile customer care (611).
Now, go to the “always allowed” section for your child’s phone line, and enter the numbers that you want them to be able to call and text. Here’s how our sample looks:
Once you have input all of the numbers you want to let your child access (call and text), be sure to hit “save” down at the bottom!
Ok, now you are almost done! You have fully restricted the calls that your child can make and the texts that they can send to only those numbers that you designate.
You may notice that we have not told you to do anything with the “Schedule” section of Family Allowances. That is because that section, which restricts the times that your child can call and text, does not work with this set-up. The “Schedule” only works for numbers that are not designated as “always allow” – numbers that your child could call if their calling limit were set higher than “0”, and they could call numbers other than the ones you have added to the “always allow” list. So, ignore this section.
You are now done with everything that you have to do in your account through the T-Mobile website, however there is one last thing that you have to do.
Even though you have locked your child’s phone down as fully as you can on your end, and even though you have turned on Web Guard and even though T-Mobile has assured you that your child’s phone has no data plan, your child can still get on the Internet with their phone!
“What?” you say, “How can this possibly be?”
You see, every T-Mobile phone (and probably every AT&T and Verizon phone too) can access the Internet, natively, on a “pay as you go” basis. In the case of your child’s T-Mobile phone, if they tried to go to YouTube, or to use the browser, or to select any other Internet service, the T-Mobile system, noting that they have no other access to the Internet, would ‘helpfully’ offer to let them use Web2Go, the pay-as-you-go system, for $1.99 per access. So not only would they still get on the Internet, but they’d rack up a bunch of charges, too.
Because of this “helpful” service, the very last thing you need to do is to call T-Mobile customer service, and when you get a live person on the line tell them that you need to talk with technical support. The first customer service representative that you get will not be able to help you – you need someone in technical support because you need to have them manually go into your account, find your child’s phone’s connection, and manually remove the Internet. In fact, that is exactly what you need to ask the technical support person to do: you need to say to them “Please remove the Internet from that line.”
Now, here is something else very important to know: if you ever remove the SIM card from your child’s phone, and then put it back in, the phone will reconnect to the Internet, so be sure to call T-Mobile again to have them remove the Internet connection. It’s also a good idea to check the phone every so often just to be sure that the connection hasn’t for some reason re-set and reconnected. Even if it has, your child would have to try to do something on the Internet in order to realize that it was connected, but it’s still a good idea to check every so often – even if your child would never do that, one of their friends may well.
Ok! Finally! You now have a phone that your child can use without getting on the Internet, and with access to call and text only those whom you have pre-approved.