SmartPhone Nightmare

My 14 year old grandson has a cell phone on my Verizon account.

His mother had grounded him from using it because of failing grades. She said “he could have it back when his grades improve at least enough to pass”.

He accomplished this but it turned out he got busted sneaking to use it and viewing inappropriate things on the internet (Who’d thought a 14 year old boy would get into things he wasn’t supposed to? LOL)

His mother told me that “since he isn’t mature enough to use the net unsupervised, that she wants me to take back the phone altogether because he will no longer be allowed to use it”. She did say “he could have a phone that was only able to text and make phone calls but a smartphone was out of the question”.

My grandson lives a very rural place, out in the middle of nowhere. I feel a phone is essential in his situation. Especially since his house has no land line.

I knew he would find a a non-smartphone embarrassing and would refuse to carry it so I came up with a compromise. I asked his mother if it would be ok if I were able to make it so he could not get on the internet on his current phone. That way he wouldn’t be embarrassed and she would have her restrictions.

She was fine with that as long as I could guarantee he could not access the web and could not download or view videos from services like Youtube.

So I had my task before me.

The first thing I did was go to the Verizon web site.

I have a service called Family Base that allows you to put restrictions on each line on your account.

I thought “GREAT! Problem solved”. I should be able to block downloads and the web along with purchases and a few other things. However, after applying the blocks I was still able to get on the internet. It successfully blocked a few things but internet access wasn’t one.

My next move was to try and turn off his data usage but the site would only let me limit it to 500 Mb. It seems smartphones have to have a certain amount of data for updates and such (Why Verizon cant separate update and system data from personal data is beyond me).

So I called Verizon. The person I spoke to was very nice but wasn’t able to offer much help. It seems certain blocks need the Family Base companion app to work and the app was incompatible with his phone.

WTF? Wouldn’t the phone being incompatible with a major service they offer be information I needed to know before buying this phone through Verizon?.

He suggested I use a content filter (at an additional charge of course). Having used them in the past, I knew they are not very good and easy to get around, so I said ”no thank you”. Also that wasn’t what I told his mother I would do.

Verizon, failed me, so I had to look at other options.

I knew if I root the phone I would be able disable net access so rooting was my next step.

I have rooted phones in the past so I was familiar with the process and also knew there was a small chance I could brick the phone (make it unusable).

So I set out preparing to root the phone. I downloaded the proper files and familiarized myself with the procedure for this particular phone.

Rooting usually involves hooking the phone up to a PC in debugging mode and installing a custom recovery program.

For some reason my PC refused to see the phone.

I updated all drivers involved, made sure the USB connection was in MTP mode but no matter what I tried my computer would not connect. I even tried my own phone (we both have Samsung phones but mine is a different model) and it would not connect either (it had just a month ago).

I have several computers in my house. Tried them all, but none worked. I even tried using a Linux distro and that didn’t work. It has to be either a Verizon update that caused this or a Samsung one (My money is on Verizon).

My next step was to try the “one click” rooting apps that doesn’t need a PC. Tried several, including KingRoot, Towelroot, Framaroot, and Iroot. None worked. I didn’t really have my hopes up as these have a low success rate.

I was at my wits end. Nothing was working so I reached out to an old buddy on the net. He is an app developer and a bit of a guru when it comes to phones.

He told me of an app called “Package Disabler pro” (not one of his) and said “it should fit my needs”, so I gave it a try.

This was EXACTLY what I needed! I was able to remove (disable) anything that could let him download or connect to the net. I disabled the web browser, Youtube app, Play Store and most else that connects to the net.

The app is password protected so he can’t undo the changes and uninstalling it doesn’t revert the phone back either.

I was able to leave him access to his games, a app he uses for school and google play (for music) but that is it.

Problem solved. His mother should be happy because he cannot get on the web or view Youtube videos, he will still have a phone he wont be embarrassed to carry and I will rest easier knowing he can make phone calls and text.

The best part is that it is very easy for me to undo what was done should his mother have a change of heart.

Tough choices when it comes to kids and smartphones.

Paul