iPhones and iPads are fantastic tools for parents to have at their disposal. Educational apps, storybooks and entertaining websites are all available in the palms of tiny hands. However, along with all the splendor of technology also comes risk. Access to the internet, phone capabilities and purchasing power in the iTunes store can quickly get children into trouble while using Apple devices. Older kids are granted personal access to a wide array of inappropriate content and social networking sites that can quickly compromise personal safety. Fortunately, parental controls are available to grant peace of mind to parents while giving children a taste of freedom while putting iPhones to work.
Parental Controls for iPhone 4 & iPod Touch
As iPhone devices have been upgraded, so have parental controls. The iPhone 4 still offers the ability to restrict access to Safari, iTunes, new app installation and the device’s camera. However, as an added bonus, parents can now set restrictions that limit the ratings of movies, music and podcasts that children can access.
The basic steps below can also be applied to iPod Touch devices to enable restrictions quickly and easily.
To set the basic controls on your iPhone 4, open “Settings,” and select “General”
Select “Restrictions,” set to “On” and enter a 4-digit code to lock the parental controls. Make note of the pass code and store it in a secure location for future reference. Unfortunately, if the code is lost or forgotten, the only way to re-set it is by re-setting the entire device. A re-set of your entire device will cause loss of all data and downloads.
After selecting a code, you will be given the opportunity to customize the limitations of your restrictions in the following screens. Decide if you want your children to have independent access to the iTunes store, YouTube, Safari, the camera and more. Consider your child’s level of trust, maturity and age when setting restrictions.
The second restrictions screen on iPhone 4 allows the bonus of restricting the ratings of music and video that children can access. Select a separate rating for each type of media. Restrictions may be turned off, or modified at any time as your child ages or gains/loses privileges.
Parental Controls for the iPad
The folks at Apple realize that just because the iPad is a little bigger than the counterpart iPhone and iPod Touch, there are still risks associated with unlimited content. Parental controls nearly identical to those of the iPhone 4 are available for iPad and just as simple to enable.
Select a 4-digit code that will act as your password to modify or turn off restrictions. If forgotten or lost, this code cannot be retrieved from the device. Write down and store the pass code in a safe location to avoid having to totally re-set your iPad in the case of a lost code!
Once the restrictions page appears, select the level of limitations to meet your needs. You will be given the option to disable Safari, iTunes purchases, YouTube and more. This screen will also give you the option to limit the rating of music, movie and TV media that can be viewed while restrictions are enabled. Most parental groups recommend disabling at least the “Explicit” rating in each category, however controls should be tailored for your child/children.
Under “Apps” in “Allowed Content,” parents can select an appropriate age range rating to determine which apps on the device will be accessible to children. If desired, all apps can be disabled by selecting “Don’t Allow Apps.”
Once the restrictions have been tailored to fit your needs, select the “Home” button to return to the iPad home page.
Safe Browser Apps
Aside from the built-in parental controls of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, app developers have created multiple “safe browsing” apps that allow parents to further restrict content viewed on the internet.
Designed to look and operate much like the original Safari browser, Safe Browser settings allow parents to select the age rating of material that a child can look at. Mobicip, the app developer, continues updating the list of acceptable sites on a regular basis by reviewing websites and designating them with an appropriate age rating. The only real complaint about the functionality of this app is that, if anything, it blocks too much content. Better safe than sorry?
Accompanied by a slightly higher price tag, the SurfBalance browser app is chock full of features. Beginning with a list of approximately 1,000 kid-friendly websites, parents can add or remove sites to the “approved list,” or filter the list by age. Beyond simply limiting sites, SurfBalance also gives parents the power to set limitations for on-line time per day and week. As an added bonus, at no additional charge, parents can request weekly e-mail updates that lists the websites that your child visits the most, along with any requests for sites to be “approved.” In the instance that your little web surfer stumbles across a site that may be appropriate, but that hasn’t made the list yet, kid users can send a “request” to their parents for the website to be approved. Overall, this app seems like a nifty way to develop internet checks and balances on mobile devices.
In the end, it’s all About Communication
Although parental controls restrict usage and limit the content that is accessible to children while using Apple mobile devices, there is no substitute for good old fashion communication. Be sure to talk to your kids about what is acceptable to look at, listen to and post online. Don’t be afraid to open up conversations about content by encouraging younger children to ask questions and tell you when they come across bad words or pictures online. Create a culture of open internet usage in the home and let older kids know that anytime they’re browsing the internet, they should be in an open area and constantly willing to share their browsing history.