Although the majority of iPhones, iPod touches and iPads are bought by adults, some of the biggest users of the devices are kids. This is due to what’s become known as the “pass-back effect,” as in passing your iPhone back to your kids to keep them entertained on a long car ride. This secondary market has become one of the main growth drivers of Apple’s App Store, with tens of thousands of apps devoted to games, picture books, and other kids’ entertainment.
But as numerous parents have found out, handing your iPhone over to your child has risks. The iPhone is a highly sophisticated device with instant access to a powerful camera, the Safari web browser, and numerous built-in apps. It also provides for instant access to iTunes, with the opportunity to download millions of songs, TV shows, movies and yet more apps.
For parents who have carefully installed parental controls on home computers, moderated e-mail activity, and locked down search engines, this new-found freedom for their Internet-innocent offspring can come as a bit of a shock. However, all is not lost. There are some highly-effective parental controls or “restrictions” on the iPhone. While most of them are of an all-or-nothing nature – i.e. they allow access to certain functions or they don’t – they can provide some comfort that the iPhone is not going to be used in an inappropriate manner.
Here’s how they work:
- Select the Settings icon off the Home screen and then select General.
- From the General menu choose Restrictions. The first time you use Restrictions, you will be prompted for a 4-digit Passcode, which will prevent your child from disabling or changing the settings at a later date.
- Once you enter the Passcode, you will be presented with a series of Restrictions that can be set to ON or OFF. Here, if you wish, you can turn off the Safari browser or restrict access to YouTube, iTunes, or the App Store. You can also turn off access to the camera or to the FaceTime video calling app. If you choose any of these options, the feature is disabled and the relevant icon is removed from the Home screen. (Apple has unnecessarily confused the Restrictions page by using the header Disable Restrictions. Better to focus on the Allow header, where ON means the feature is allowed and OFF means it isn’t.)
- The Allow Changes section allows you to block location services or any changes to Mail, Contacts or Calendars.
- The Allowed Content section gives you options to restrict the type of content that can be accessed and downloaded from the iTunes Store. For example, you can restrict access to songs with explicit lyrics, or filter movies, TV shows and apps according to their age ratings. This section also allows you to turn off the ability to make in-app purchases, and require a password every time your child tries to make an iTunes purchase.
- Finally, the Game Center allows you to restrict access to multiplayer games and the ability to add friends to existing games.
Parents should be aware that some of these restrictions are easy for even moderately tech-savvy kids to circumvent. For example, if you block access to YouTube and not Safari, your child can simply enter YouTube in the Safari search bar and pull up the video-sharing site without any restrictions. As with kids and any tech device, careful monitoring is still highly recommended!