Most parents that we talk to did not even think about it until they brought the iPhone (or iPod Touch) home. They spend a few minutes on it and discover that they love to play with it. But their kids love it even more and can stay occupied playing with it for long periods of "quiet" time!
The second thought that hits them is, hey, this is a mini-computer. I couldn't agree more. Apple invented a netbook before netbooks became a category of computing devices -- tiny computers that are always on and instantly connect to the Internet, giving access to the essentials of the Internet age -- email, browsing, social networks, Skype, blogs, news. As Apple drops the prices of the iPod Touch, more and more parents are either purchasing or handing down the devices to their children, either to keep them occupied for brief periods of time, or as a personal Internet/gaming/learning device.
Here are 10 things parents need to consider before handing an iPhone or iPod Touch to a pre-teen or teen.
1. Protect the Device From Accidents
For all the convenience of a pocket handheld device, the iPod Touch can be broken relatively easily, and the glossy touchscreen can get dirty and scratched quickly. To be on the safe side, buy a hard case with a touch-sensitive screen protector, and a stand. If you have a pool in your backyard, you may want to consider a waterproof case.
2. Discuss Rules
Discuss the ground rules. Where and when can they use it, and what can they use it for. No running around with the device in one hand in the park, that they should be seated while using it, and no browsing late into the night, for instance. In addition, discuss this article with him/her, and explain why you are setting up restrictions. Our recommendation is that you baseline what you agree on, and use it to setup the controls described below.
3. Setup the iTunes Account
The iPhone and iPod Touch can be tied to specific iTunes account on your computer. Setup the account yourself, even if it has your child's username, so that you have control over the iTunes settings on the computer. For instance, you can setup a credit card for purchases from the iTunes Store so that you have fine-grained control over what can be purchased, and also to ensure you are notified upon a purchase.
4. Create a Device Passcode
It is conceivable that you or your child will personalize the iPod Touch with access to your personal email and other social networking apps like Facebook etc. If the device is lost or stolen and ends up in the wrong hands, these accounts can be misused or compromised. For safety, setup a passcode to access the iPod Touch itself, and share this passcode with your child. You can setup a 4-digit passcode by selecting Settings > General > Passcode.
5. Setup Internet Filtering & Web Parental Controls
Decide if you want to allow unfettered access to the Internet. The iPhone and iPod Touch are powerful browsing devices and can be used to access any website that can be accessed from a regular browser on your computer. This is a big departure from the previous generation of cell phones and handheld devices that had limited access to websites that had a customized mobile interface.
Thankfully. Apple has built excellent parental control restrictions for the iPhone and iPod Touch in the latest version of the OS (iPhone OS 3.x and later). As part of these restrictions, you can block access to the Safari Mobile browser and enable a safe browser such as the one offered by Mobicip.com as the default browser for your child. You can setup restrictions by selecting Settings > General > Restrictions and using a 4-digit restrictions passcode. Enable restrictions using a 4-digit restrictions passcode (not to be confused with the device passcode), and DO NOT share this passcode with your child. Do not forget it either, for you will have to jump through hoops to reset it.
The Mobicip Safe Browser offers a safe, secure and protected environment for your tween or teen or learn responsible and safe browsing. To customize the settings and monitor Internet activity through the browser, you can purchase a Mobicip.com Premium subscription.
6. Allow or Disable YouTube?
Depending on the age of your child, you may or may not want to allow access to the built-in YouTube app on the iPhone. While YouTube does a reasonably good job of keeping hardcore content out, kinky stuff does get in and they are fairly easy to come across as part of regular usage. Select Settings > General > Restrictions > YouTube > OFF.
7. Allow or Disable iTunes?
Decide if you want to allow access to iTunes. Not to be confused with iTunes on the computer, iTunes on the device allows the user to access and purchase content directly without going through the computer. You can disable access to iTunes completely by selecting Settings > General > Restrictions > iTunes > OFF.
8. Allow or Disable Third-Party Apps?
Decide if you want to allow your child to install and/or purchase apps from the App Store. You can choose to restrict apps by default, and only allow a purchase with your permission. i.e. when you enter the password. You can do this after you purchase all the apps your child wants, then have him/her come to you when they need an additional app. To disable the installation of third-party apps from the App Store, simply select Settings > General > Restrictions > Installing Apps > OFF.
9. Setup Age-appropriate Filtering for iTunes Content
If you choose to allow temporary or permanent access to iTunes, make sure that you setup age-based restrictions for the content. Select Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content
In App Purchases > OFF
Ratings For > United States
Music & Podcasts > Explicit > OFF
Movies > G
TV Shows > G
10. Setup Age-appropriate Filtering for Apps
If you choose to allow temporary or permanent access to the App Store, make sure that you setup age-based restrictions for the App Store content. Select Settings > General > Restrictions > Allowed Content
In App Purchases > OFF
Apps > 4+
For a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots to setup parental controls on the iPhone or iPod Touch, follow this link.
That is it! See, you don't have to be an expert at using these devices to make them safe for your kids. Apple and other providers have built ways and means to make the device just as powerful as you want it to be for your child.