Guide to Cell Phone Carrier Parental Controls

All of the major cell phone carriers offer parental controls of some level, including the ability to set content filters on Web-enabled phones as well as restricting calls and text messages by caller or time of day. Some features are free while others are fee-based. Consider features carefully to see which plans match your family’s needs.

Verified January 31, 2009


AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless) offers parental controls called Smart Limits (for its wireless plans) and MEdia Net parental controls for its MediaNet plans that offer Web access. With Smart Limits, parents can restrict the time of day calls are made and set limits on downloads and text messaging. Specific phone numbers can be specifically allowed or blocked. Parents can also block children from purchasing premium downloads such as ringtones and games, or set a dollar limit. But limits cannot be set on minutes used. A Smart Limits bundle allowing these parental controls is $4.99 per month. There is no extra charge for the filter. For children using MEdia Net, which allows Internet browsing, parents can activate a content filter that will restrict access to sites with mature content, including dating forums and chat rooms. There is no charge for MEdia Net parental controls, other than the usual per-minute charge to connect and turn the purchase blocker on and off.

To see details on parental controls for AT&T visit the following links:
AT&T Smart Limits

MEdia Net parental controls


Verizon offers a variety of usage controls, including content filters. Parents can restrict the time of day calls are made or received and allow or block specific phone numbers. A limit can also be set on minutes used. Parents can also set content filters. The parental controls cost an additional $4.99 per month. There is no extra charge for the filter, which can be set as suitable for children 7 and up (C7+), 13 and up (T13+) or 17 and up (YA17+). (Filter out music, video, Mobile Web and more.) Internet access can be disabled.

To see what the ratings mean and view more details about Verizon’s parental controls visit:
Verizon parental controls


Sprint offers a variety of parental controls and content filters. Parents can use limit calls and messages to a list of contacts they approve. Text messages and download purchases (such as ringtones, games and wallpaper) can also be blocked. On many phones, Internet access can be disabled, or just filter content. The filter blocks Web sites in accordance with content guidelines from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the wireless association CTIA—generally filtering for ages 17 and under. Additionally, the camera can be turned off on some camera phone models. The filter and all of the parental controls features Sprint offers are free, and they can be managed on the cell phone or online (for example, go to you’re my Sprint account to enter a list of phone numbers you’d like blocked.) Sprint (Nextel) also runs the Sprint 4NetSafety program designed to encourage parents and kids to talk about safe cell phone and Internet use and how to avoid predators.

See Sprint’s safety and security information at:
Sprint Safety and Security


T-Mobile’s Web Guard program is free (in fact, mandatory) as part of all KidConnect phone plans and can also be added to postpaid, prepaid and SmartAccess accounts. It is also preloaded on all T-Mobile Sidekick accounts. Once Web Guard is set, it cannot be turned off via cell phone; the primary account holder has to call customer service or go to My T-Mobile. Web Guard allows parents to take a variety of measures to restrict access to Web sites with adult content as well as sites that fall into a set of categories such as alcohol, drugs, weapons, gambing and hate. A feature called Family Allowances ($2 per month introductory price) lets parents set limits on calls, messages and downloads—but for safety reasons you can also set Always Allowed numbers. Parents can also block calls and texts from Never Allowed numbers and restrict times for calling and texting. Family Allowances limits can be changed online anytime.

To see a full list of Web Guard features go to:
T-Mobile Web Guard

For kidConnect and Family Allowances features go to:
T-Mobile’s Family Allowances


Alltel has no name for its parental controls features, which are free and accessed via the My Account menu. The optional filters can be set to match age groups (Level 1 is all ages, Level 2 is 13+ and Level 3 is 17+) and/or to restrict access to URLs, chat rooms and downloads. Call Alltel customer assistance to cut off Internet access.

To see Alltel’s features go to:

13 Responses to “Guide to Cell Phone Carrier Parental Controls”

  1. […] Needham High School Principal Paul Richards sent out this e-mail to parents today. Dear Parents, A parent (who will remain anonymous) forwarded this information along regarding controlling the hours your child uses his or her cellphone. Take care, Paul Richards Verizon allows you to set Time Restrictions if you pay for Usage Controls ($4.99/line per month). What are Usage Controls? Usage Controls is an easy- to-use service that puts you in control of your child’s cell phone. Usage Controls enables you to: o    Set allowances for voice and messaging usage o    Designate specific times during the day when your child is not permitted to use certain services on the cell phone o    Create lists of phone numbers that are not permitted to call or message your child o    Customize the settings for each line on your account Usage Controls provides you with the peace of mind that your child is responsibly using his/her cell phone, reducing the risk of unexpected charges on your wireless account. Please see additional information on various types of blocks available. To see how this works with other carriers, check out: […]

  2. Greg says:

    Is there a phone out there which tracks only numbers “allowed” and blocks all others instead of controlling “disallowed” numbers? I’d rather make a list of people my child is “allowed” to talk and text with and block everyone else and then have the ability to add and subtract from the “allowed” list. Does that exist??

  3. Nicole says:

    Yes, a Flyphone or Glowphone. You can set up to 50 numbers in the phonebook and all other numbers are blocked. If you get an unlocked one, you can use it with any GSM carrier.

  4. Alan says:

    “Is there a phone out there which tracks only numbers “allowed” and blocks all others instead of controlling “disallowed” numbers? I’d rather make a list of people my child is “allowed” to talk and text with and block everyone else and then have the ability to add and subtract from the “allowed” list. Does that exist??”

    Yes, Kajeet has controls that allow exactly that.

  5. Kelly says:

    AT&T Smart Limits, which costs $4.99 a month, you should be aware you can set time limits but the great limitation to this feature is it still allows incoming calls and texts. What is the point? Obviously we are trying to shield our children from disturbances so they can get some sleep, do homework, etc. What is the point if they still have incoming texts and calls all the time. They are still bombarded and just frustrated they can’t respond. I want the phone TURNED OFF with time limits. AT&T is a waste of time if you want to find a service with decent parental controls, don’t get locked into a 2 year contract with them, go elsewhere.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Is there a cell phone (or cell phone provider) that blocks unwanted web content?

  7. Justin says:

    my son uses his phone all hours of the night and goes on sites i dont like him going on is there a control that can stop this? can i see all the stuff he deletes?

  8. Chris says:

    Is there any text monitoring service out there that allows me to log in and review what is being said in all the Texting traffic? The kids know how to delete things once they are sent, with no way to supervise this line of communication. Also, I can’t seem to find anything that lets me disable the MMS (picture texting). Texting is the #1 choice of teens for sexting and sending photos, and I can’t believe the carriers don’t have something for this. I’d pay for it if it existed. Can anyone help me?

  9. […] I don’t know about you, but I had no idea,and I’m impressed, I like it… but what about the cell phone? Apparently I can limit that too via my carrier (I have not inquired yet, but I  hope usage includes texting!) I am thinking that I will no longer have to collect all devices ever night I just have them shut down…. I like it!!!  They will be on a timer like the irrigation system… So I check in to the cell phone parental controls and I find this website: […]

  10. Ed says:

    AT&T offers to turn off data or internet which basically makes the phone only capable of being used for texting and as a phone. No pictures can be sent or received when you block the internet.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Also, I can’t seem to find anything that lets me disable the MMS (picture texting).”

    Your cell phone providers customer service can block anything. You can pick and choose what you want to block. If you want the phone to make and receive calls but not text they can do that. If you want the phone to text but not picture message they can do that. Just call and ask.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sprint does not allow you to filter web content like this article says. I talked to several different people at Sprint and you can not filter adult content. You can turn of the web but not filter.

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