Everything Parents Need to Know About the iPod Touch
The iPod Touch is a great device that can be used to help ease children into smartphone ownership. It has the same touch based interface and operating system as the iPhone, but without the ability to access data anywhere, and as a result the iPod Touch has less of the headaches associated with smartphone ownership.
I liked the Touch so much that I bought two of them, one for each of my boys; they really like them and it helped cure their itch for a smartphone. However, like with all technology, there are some issues with the iPod Touch that you need to be aware of.
It can be used to send texts, and subsequently, picture texts.
I’m not against texting, but when it comes to younger children I believe it should be moderated and monitored to ensure they aren’t chatting with strangers, being bullied or having inappropriate conversations with their friends. I covered Snapchat a while ago and you can read why I don’t recommend it as a messaging app for children, simply because there isn’t any oversight, it caters to older teens and adults, and in a lot of ways it encourages sexting.
For a similar but safer experience, I recommend using Text Free. It’s a free texting app that works similar to Snapchat, except parents have access to a dashboard where they can monitor their child’s texts.
Social networking and video chatting apps can all be accessed on the iPod Touch.
Since the iPod Touch uses iOS (the same version of the operating system which powers the iPhone) all of the social media apps that work on the iPhone work on the iPod Touch as well. That includes the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps, among others.
I previously covered Instagram and the dangers it poses to children, but Facebook and Twitter also contain inappropriate content, such as drug use and pornography. It’s also illegal for anyone under the age of 13 to be on any of these social networks, according to COPPA law.
Video chatting apps, such as Omegle, are also available for the iPod Touch. Omegle is a video chatting app where users can randomly chat with strangers — similar to Stickam, which we covered in detail here. The danger with these apps is that your children can literally video chat with anyone that’s using the app. The majority of users on these sites are harmless, but from a statistical standpoint, there will be users who act inappropriate or try to get other users to engage in inappropriate behavior.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to password protect app downloading on the iPod Touch. Below I break down the steps necessary to do so.
First, tap the Settings button on the homepage.
Then, click the Restrictions tab and input a 4-digit PIN.
From the Restrictions list, you can disable certain features, such as installing apps and explicit language.
Once that is taken care of, your children won’t be able to install apps without entering the PIN, so make sure to keep it hidden.
Remember the huge outcry over the Smurfs app in 2011, when children were spending up to $1,400 on in-app purchases? Those were due to lax purchasing controls on Apple’s part; recent updates have made it harder for children to make in-app purchases, but they’re still an issue. However, the issue can be easily solved by going through the Restrictions menu shown above and implementing a PIN for all in-app purchases.
UPDATE: If you have iOS7 installed on your child’s iPod Touch (and I recommend that you do), you’ll notice that Apple has integrated some very effective and easy-to-use parental controls in Safari. You can see a detailed breakdown of how to set this up, here.
As I mentioned in the original iPod Touch safety article that I wrote back in 2010, it’s important to realize that the default Safari browser on the Touch does not have a content filter. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe browsers that you can use instead. Here are a few that I recommend:
Once you’ve installed one of these safe alternatives, you need to go into the Restrictions menu and disable Safari. This will remove it from the iPod Touch user interface. Now, just simply put your new, safer browser in its place.
The iPod Touch isn’t a perfect digital device for children, but it is one of the best options on the market simply because it combines the versatility of a smartphone with the affordability of a video game console. It can also be used as a tool to teach your children about smartphone ownership and digital responsibility.