My step-kids are in elementary school and well past the afternoon nap age. It’s a welcome break to get stuff done around the house when they are occupying themselves with their electronics.
Dude got the newest iPod Touch last Christmas and Dudette got the iPad Mini. Their devices are great for them, and for us, in many ways, and not just as babysitters. We did a lot of international travel this summer (with and without the kids), and FaceTime and iMessaging allowed us to talk to and see the kids every day for FREE!
BUT…. it does cause me great concern about their unfettered ability to connect to the internet. Once I realized the endless possibilities for a 1st grader on her iPad Mini, I set out to educate myself on these devices, the restrictions available, and all of the possible loopholes (yes, the 1st grader is mighty crafty). I needed a battle plan. A battle plan to keep my kids (and my bank account) safe.
Step One: Educate myself (Google & You Tube are your friends)
I literally had to Google what “Twitter” was after constantly hearing about it in the news a year ago. And then Pinterest. And Instagram. You get the idea. So I had to employ Google once again and literally typed in “parental restrictions on iPod Touch” and came up with a goldmine. But now I was on the right track. Apple itself has a wealth of information about its specific devices on its support websites . There are also lots of user forums out there with other parents asking similar questions with very helpful answers from parents who have been there, done that. You Tube videos are priceless if you need someone to really hold your hand and give you step by step tutorials on your specific device (no shame in this!)
Step Two: Confiscate Devices and Employ all Restriction Options
I’m ready to lock those suckers down (the devices, not the kids)! Adding general parental restrictions to Apple devices is fairly easy:
Settings > General > Restrictions (set to “On.”)
It allows you to set a passcode for these restriction options (yes, this lady is the only one in our house that knows the code…not even Daddy can be trusted). If they try to incorrectly guess this passcode too many times, it locks them out. Thank you Apple.
Set age appropriate restrictions for songs, apps, movies, and TV shows (they give you age range choices). You can also restrict their ability to download (or delete) apps. Remove Safari and You Tube completely if internet access is a concern.
iMessaging is trickier. I’ll be honest….it did not occur to me when we bought these devices that iMessaging was on there and they could literally text other Apple users (freak out moment). This is sort of a loophole that took some effort to figure out how to restrict and the Apple user forums showed me the way.
First step is to turn iMessaging off (same with FaceTime, Facebook, and email capabilities). But any savvy 7-year-old can simply find that setting and turn it back on because it is not under the “Restrictions” password protected area. You must take it a step further and go back under
General > Settings > Restrictions > Allow Changes > Accounts > check “Don’t Allow Changes.”
Use this method to ensure all of your restrictions stay in place. If you do want your kiddos to be able to iMessage or FaceTime grandma, you can also create certain approved Contacts on their device, then go back and reset “Don’t Allow Changes” to lock those in and not allow any new contacts.
Step Three: Sit Soldiers Down and Spell Out Clear Rules and Expectations
Time for a sit down family meeting. Clear rules and expectations were set out. If I pick up your device at any given time and can’t get into it, you lose it (I always know their passcode).
Always ask permission to purchase any apps or songs, even if they are free. Even with the age restrictions in place, this forces a dialogue about what they are doing. Sign up to get email notifications from Apple and Amazon with any purchases. Nothing like the looks on their faces the first time I yelled out, “Who just bought Gangnam Dance Booth?!?!” (Yes, the dog’s head dancing Gangnam style is funny, but you did not ask permission first.)
Have the kids share one iTunes account…anything added to one device is automatically added to all devices linked to that account. If someone does something inappropriate, they tell on each other. Aren’t little sisters great?
When all of these methods fail, and your child goes on a shopping spree on iTunes, take some comfort knowing that, in most cases, Apple will have pity on you (the first time at least) and refund your money. They will give you a gentle lecture about whether you aware of the restriction options. When you reply yes, and try to sheepishly explain, “But we are in France and our daughter is at home and she asked permission to buy just one Justin Beiber album, but instead developed Beiber Fever and bought $150 of Beiber related apps, songs, and videos!,” they will then tell you to remove your credit card as a payment option. Duh. It cost me $2.50 per minute on an international call to Apple for this helpful little tid-bit that I can now proudly pass on to you for free. Pre-loaded iTunes accounts are the way to go.
Step Four: Enforce Rules and Always Stay One Step Ahead of the Enemy!
The kids honestly think I know everything about this subject (evil laugh) and they can’t get away with anything. Dude has a friend in school who encouraged him to wipe his device clean of restrictions by restoring it to factory settings (a loophole for older kids obviously). Our good little boy told his friend, “No, because my stepmom will find out. She always finds out.” SUCCESS!