Whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, we want the latest and greatest digital devices—and so do our kids. Researchers at Gartner really drove this point home with a recent study that found that young adults ages 18-24 actually prefer a new cell phone over a new car. Yes, we live in a different world.
Even though the young adult crowd doesn’t bring all the same online safety concerns as they do with younger children and teens, this is a reflection of the direction we’re headed in as a society. As parents, we have to be vigilant when it comes to protecting and educating our children, and the holidays are a perfect time to start doing that.
Unfortunately, most popular smartphones and tablets fail to come with any kind of pre-installed parental control tool or safe web-browsing option—both of which are very important to the safety and privacy of our kids online. But there is one set of family-safe digital devices that I use in my own home and can recommend to you: Apple devices, i.e. the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch.
Apple makes it easy by providing parents with something called “Restrictions”. Simply put, Restrictions allow parents to block things like specific apps, web browsing, camera usage, location services (geo-tagging) and downloading from the App Store.
Since all three of these devices use the same operating system (iOS), the parental control set up processes are almost identical. For the sake of clarity, this guide shows screenshots for both the iPhone and iPad.
1. Tap the “Settings” icon – outlined in yellow boxes below.
iPad iPhone/iPod Touch
2. Once you’ve entered into the “Settings” menu, look for the “General” tab (Both outlined in red in the screenshots below).
3. Once in the “General” menu, you’ll want to tap the “Enable Restrictions” button (outlined in red in both screenshots below). A pop up menu will appear that asks you to enter a password.
4. After that you can start choosing which functions you would like to disable.
*Note: Disabling a function will remove the icon from the device’s home screen. As soon as you “un-restrict” the function it will reappear back on the device’s home screen.
Because Safari doesn’t have any content filters built into it, your child can easily access any website they want. For that reason alone, I highly recommend restricting Safari altogether (Step 4 above) and going with something like the AVG Family Safety app, which is free in the App Store.
The AVG Family Safety app is a great, safe web-browsing solution that allows you to block inappropriate websites. Most objectionable sites are already blocked by default, but you can easily add any website to a “block list”.
Content filters or SafetyMode are not available on the mobile version of YouTube, so I would recommend restricting this app depending on the age of your child. This was one of those apps I hated restricting as my two younger boys love watching videos on YouTube.
Though you can set age restrictions to limit the type of apps that your child can download in the App Store, there are plenty of age-appropriate games that encourage players to buy virtual goods. These “in-app purchases” are directly tied to the credit card associated with your child’s iTunes account, which is probably your credit card. So, to prevent any large, unwanted credit card bills, I recommend either removing your credit card information from your account, or turning “Installing Apps” off. It’s quick and easy to turn “Installing Apps” back on (then off again) when your child has added their iTunes gift card to their account.
On a separate note, this would also prevent your child from downloading alternative web browsers.