KidFox: native parental controls for Firefox on Android

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 24, 2015

Mozilla plans to release the first version of Kidfox, a parental control system for Firefox running on Android tablets, in Firefox 42.

This control system allows parents to customize and lock down specific features of the web browser for children that use the device and Firefox.

The main idea behind the feature is to give parents more control over what their children can or cannot do when using Firefox.

The initial version that will ship with Firefox 42 gives control over Firefox features only which means that they won't allow parents to block certain Internet sites or categories for example.

While that is the case, it is possible to add further protection by installing and configuring add-ons that run in the browser while children are using it.

List of initial parental controls

Parents can enable the following restricting policies for the Kidfox version of the browser:

  • Disable the installation of add-ons.
  • Disable Private browsing
  • Disable Clear Browsing History
  • Disable Master Password
  • Disable Guest Browsing
  • Disable Location Services
  • Disable Home Customization
  • Disable Developer Tools
  • Disable bookmark import
  • Disable Display Settings

How KidFox works

KidFox makes use of restricted profiles, an Android feature introduced in version 4.3 of the operating system.

These restricted profiles are created by the device administrator, and they may restrict access to certain device features and apps installed on the device.

This mode supports individual app restrictions as well if supported by the application, and that's what Firefox makes use of in KidFox.

This means however that KidFox becomes only available if parents have created restricted profiles for their children.

Firefox on Android checks if a Restricted Profile is used and starts the browser in KidFox mode instead of regular mode when that is the case.

Future Plans

Mozilla plans to improve KidFox significantly in future updates. One of the first additions the organization plans to add to the parental control mode is a country-specific filter.

It appears that Mozilla plans to work with partners to use blocklists automatically at this stage. It is unclear if overrides will be provided and how this will look like in detail.

Closing Words

KidFox is currently available in Firefox 42 (not yet available on the stable channel) for Android 4.3 running on tablets. The tablet restriction is imposed by Android and not by Mozilla.

The first iteration of KidFox makes the browser simpler to use and locks down some features that kids could use to bypass certain restrictions.

It is missing features such as blocking the uninstallation of add-ons or blocking access to about:config which Mozilla should consider adding in future versions of KidFox. (via Android Zeitgeist / Sören Hentzschel)

KidFox: native parental controls for Firefox on Android
Article Name
KidFox: native parental controls for Firefox on Android
Mozilla plans to ship KidFox, a parental control system for Android devices with Firefox 42.

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  1. Yuliya said on September 24, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Pretty useless, imo. Not only Mozilla’s attempt, but all attempts like this. If your children are too young to fully use a phone without any sort of restrictions, then they’re simply too young to own a phone. Simple as that. And technology is easy stuff that you learn by yourself at any age if you’re interested into, no need to put your child in front of the TV/PC/phone/whatever all day long.

    But that’s just my personal view, ofcourse. Other people might think different :)

    1. svim said on September 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I’m have to tentatively disagree that this is a useless project. Having worked for a few years as a tech contractor at an elementary school, fully open online access just isn’t an option. Content filtering is a very significant issue that’s easier to control in a school setting but parents are always asking for suggestions at home. Snarky comments are everywhere that parents are always responsible for what their kids get into at home but in reality there just isn’t a 100% solution. Adults have lives to live and work to worry about, and we should never forget that kids are incredibly imaginative and very, very curious. Negotiating the fine line between censorship and stewardship is a tricky process and on top of all this there are parents who very tech savvy and those who are not. I think something like KidFox has a lot of potential, I’d also recommend parents look into the long standing ‘OpenDNS’ service.

    2. Sören Hentzschel said on September 24, 2015 at 10:37 am

      “If your children are too young to fully use a phone without any sort of restrictions, then they’re simply too young to own a phone.”

      Children can use the phone of their parents for a few things. It’s not only useful if children own the phone. ;-)

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