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My nephew is a voracious reader and his folks got him a kindle fire. They want to let him text (they have a wifi gateway service) but only with some people - a short list of phone numbers. Any ideas? Did I miss a doc page somewhere?

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What gateway service are they using? –  VBwhatnow Jul 16 '12 at 8:34
    
He got an app called Text+ (and he also has the Disney parental control app and the WiFi parent app - if that helps) –  Ram Jul 19 '12 at 18:22
    
Well it seems there is no way to do this today. Perhaps a feature will be added to Text+ or a different SMS app will come out with parental controls. I'll award the bounty to the best responder for effort. Thanks all. Note that if it were up to me I would've split the bounty between the two best as they weren't far apart IMO - oh well. –  Ram Jul 23 '12 at 18:49

4 Answers 4

As the Kindle Fire only uses WiFi for web access, not a cell carrier, it does not normally have the capability of texting another cell phone.

It does have the capability to access websites that do texting, where the only parental control solution is to use Setting Parental Controls on Kindle Fire. I have no idea how effective these controls are.

You could also use an application such as the free textPlus (minimum age to use is 13). But the only control you would have is to keep a copy of the logon and password and ensure that the child knows you have it and that you will be looking (and threaten him to hell if he changes it).

There are also some safety instructions (also these ones) for hiding the child's presence (and age) from the textPlus community.

But it's certain that sooner or later the child will escape your vigilance, should he wish to. Self-discipline is the only long-lasting solution.

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Useful information thanks but does not really provide the answer has to how to enforce a short-list of 'contacts.' –  Ram Jul 19 '12 at 18:22
    
In our days there is simply no way to enforce any restriction, once the child has access to the web. There are simply too many ways of getting around these restrictions. If Chinese surfers can get around the restrictions placed by the Chinese government, do you think your child, by using the same tools, will not do it? The knowledge is freely available on google. The only way to block his access to harmful content is to block all access to the Internet. Point. Having some confidence in the child and in his upbringing is much more efficient. –  harrymc Jul 19 '12 at 18:40
    
The above methods I have listed are really the only ones I could find. There aren't any miracle products, I am afraid. –  harrymc Jul 19 '12 at 18:42
    
I hear ya harrymc, and I donate to the likes of openssh (actually openbsd) to help people world wide get around fsck'd governments like China and, more and more, the USA. AFAIK my newphew does not have access to google or the web at large. His Kindle has been locked down to reading and a few games and now a texting app. –  Ram Jul 19 '12 at 18:47
    
Your only texting protection is then to be found inside that texting application, for example if it keeps a history log you can access. I understand that for Internet access you have simply locked him out, but of course he can still google at his friends (and until he gets a desktop). –  harrymc Jul 19 '12 at 20:14

Sending SMS messages is a function of the mobile telephone networks (though it's lately been extended to VoIP networks as well). It's not possible to send them from a device not on one of those networks without going through a gateway of some sort, such as an email to SMS gateway, and usually such gateways are one-way only, making a conversation difficult or impossible.

If he only needs to be able to talk to a specific list of people, an instant messaging app such as imo might be more appropriate.

If you're willing to dig around a bit, you can find a copy of the Google Voice for Android app and use a Google Voice account for sending and receiving SMS. Google distributes this app only through Google Play Store, which means you would have to copy it to the Kindle Fire from another Android device. This is not guaranteed to work, of course, though some people have done it successfully.

While this is only a partial answer, it should give you some direction for further investigation and hopefully you'll find something you can work with.

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THanks for the information. Though does not address the main thrust of the question which is how-to establish a short-list of approved contacts for SMS. –  Ram Jul 19 '12 at 18:23

As we now know what app you are using for texting (Text plus), I can provide you with a somewhat acceptable answer.

But as a kinda young person, I must ask you: why? the texts are unlimited and free, what can go wrong? him talking to his friends more? Anyway, you do as you wish, it's your child...

The only way you could do a kind of what you want is go the opposite route. The only thing that is possible with the Text+ app is blocking user. Blocking a user means never agains being able to message him and never agains being able to receive message from him. You can do that fairly easily in the app, and you can go on and look at his kindle everyday or something to see if he sends a message to someone else and threaten him to block the number if he does. His friends / people he text with won't be able to change sms number that frequently.

For additional information about security in the Text+ app, you can look here

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Thanks Philippe but a block-list is not very useful, I want an allowed-list. Also he's not my son, per the question he's my nephew (not that it matters that much). For help with what can go wrong I would refer you to reality :) –  Ram Jul 21 '12 at 0:12
    
I know that a block-list is not what you're looking for, but it is the only possible answer in your current situation. Your best bet would be to send feature request to Text+ ... –  Philippe Gilbert Jul 21 '12 at 1:38

Unfortunately I cannot find any apps that have parental blocking for numbers.

I think you would be better off getting the kid an actual phone which can be configured to use fixed dialling numbers

That way you can safely limit who he can contact,who can contact him and get none of the downsides of using an sms gateway such as needing to be in range of a wifi hotstop to contact anyone.

Try looking for mobile phones designed for kids as these often have features you might be interested in.

I know this doesn't exactly answer your question but I could not find anything else that would be appropriate for your needs. You might be better served asking this on the android stack anyway.

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Thanks but this doesn't help since he does not have a phone and probably won't get one for a few years. –  Ram Jul 23 '12 at 18:50

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