Hello operator

Last year when our elder son entered first form, he was the youngest kid of the college, and one of the 2 in his classroom who did not own a cellphone. Despite having a fairly technology savvy father, we did not see the point of giving him one considering we’re living 3 minutes from the college and he already owns my old Macbook Pro.

As the year passed, it became obvious he would need one anyway. Not as a toy like most of his classmates who are 2 years older than him, but as a security tool. He crosses the whole city at 6PM 3 times a week for his tennis training, and since a few month, he even needs to take the bus as he’s playing in another town.

Before this, we wanted to make sure he would neither endanger himself nor anyone else by misusing his cellphone. This meant a very restrictive policy in which we can control everything he’s able to do so we prevent catastrophes beforehand.

We didn’t want to invest a cent in this, so I gave him my old iPhone 4 that was taking the dust. He can feel lucky as we wouldn’t have bought something as nice as an iPhone.

We’ve activated most parental restriction on the phone, starting with everything Internet related, plus the camera. We don’t want him to access questionable contents, buy apps (or in apps purchases from free apps) or anything else we won’t think about.

For the plan, the French ISP Free offers a 0.00€ plan with 2 hours call and unlimited SMS if you’re already a client (we are). What makes this plan even more interesting in the parental policy, which acts like a firewall. You can either allow everything and block what you want, or the opposite.

That’s the option we’ve chosen: blocking everything and white listing our home, my cellphone, my wife’s and his tennis trainers. We were so restrictive that he wasn’t even able to call his own voicemail in the beginning.

We then set 2 very simple rules:

  1. Never take your cellphone at school so it won’t ring during a course.
  2. Put your cellphone on the lounge table before going to bed so we’re sure you won’t play with it instead of sleeping.

Plus a non written, hacker targeted one: (almost) every restriction can be more or less easily bypassed. If you find the key, all the fun is for you, until we find out. Then, we setup a much harder restriction.

So far, things have been perfect. He’s neither lost his smartphone (which was my wife greatest fear), nor broken it. Since things are going smoothly, we’re considering extending the authorized numbers to his best friends.

He’s also found a way to bypass a few things. He social engineered the baby sitter to get the WIFI code (true story), and found the parental lock code and was able to install Chrome and hide it into the second pane of an app folder. It took me a while to figure out digging into our router’s logs.

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