What You Need to Know Before Giving Kids an iPod Touch

Well, we finally ushered my daughter into the Apple device family by getting her an iPod Touch for her birthday. Before you ask, no that child in the pic is not mine, and no my daughter doesn’t have a buzz cut…

Of all the tech gadgets kid’s just “have to have” and that parents “have to go out and buy”, the iPod touch seems to be at the very top of that list. And for good reason too, the iPod Touch is great for music, videos, pics,  games and a whole assortment of apps! However, how safe is it for your children? Could it get your kids into trouble?

While it is great that the Touch gives the user access to all these various types of media; not all of that media is Dr. Seuss or The Smurfs now is it? Along with all this different media – including explicit songs, adult videos and even explicit apps – the user also has the capability of surfing the web and we all are well aware of the dark corners that lurk out their for the kids. However, don’t slam the door on your kids dreams for an iPod Touch just yet. The touch is an extremely fun and useful device, and can be a great asset for you and your child with some general knowledge and parental oversight.

The iPod, iPhone and iPad all come with some parental controls built in, and the iPod 4 has some additional parental improvements. Here you will be able to lock down the iPod touch or just lock a few doors as you deem necessary to disable these feature. Here is an overview to how this process works, it is hard to provide detail as every setup will be different per family. I will provide links for step by step instruction and provide as much detail that will fit all cases.

From the Home screen, select settings>General> select Restrictions. Now when you select “Enable Restrictions: you will be prompted for a 4-digit passcode. Makes sure you remember this passcode and do not share it with your child, because you will need this anytime you want to make changes.Here is a link for step by steps instructions with screenshots:

How to set Parental Controls on iPod Touch (iOS 4 Edition)

Now that you have the restrictions screen pulled up there are some settings that are a few  “no brainers” you are going to want to shut off. Switch off Safari, YouTube, Installing Apps. If you have taken the iOs4.2 Update you will have the ability to switch off Deleting Apps and Disable Email accounts. I highly recommend taking the update, those extra features are worth it. It will prevent your child from uninstalling an app; say a web monitor, that you installed and depending on your child’s age there is no need for an email; even though they make “kid friendly” ones.Another important feature is to disable “In App Purchases”, because some of  the apps that you will authorize and install for your child have extra things that require purchase; sometimes it is extras in games, or extra features; regardless, if this isn’t turned off and they have one of these apps they can make purchases withing the app without your consent. Best advice turn this off.

Now you’re probably thinking , “Okay, so now they can’t access the internet, YouTube, install any apps without me doing it for them, can’t delete any apps I installed, can’t create an email account and can’t purchase anything within the apps. So, does that mean it’s safe to hand it over to my child now?”

Not exactly, because your child can still add content via a computer. So, I would highly recommend setting up the parental controls in iTunes as well. With iTunes open select Edit>Preferences>Parental Controls or on a Mac click iTunes at the top of the screen>Preferences and click the Parental icon. Here you will have options to disable podcast, online radio and shared libraries. This last one is particularly useful, because if you have your own iTunes account in the home, and you likely do, this will prevent them from gaining access to it.You can block access to this iTunes store altogether, but this will prevent any new content being installed without you going in and installing it for them.

While this is how  my 7 year old daughter is set up, and feel is necessary. It is not as likely that you will, or should, use that setup with an older child (10 and up). This is where you allow some content, but instead restrict based on the rating. You will need to make sure you set this up in both places (iPod and iTunes) if they have their own iTunes account. If they are on your iTunes account and do not have access then just set it on the iPod. Just note, when they are browsing for content they will see the restricted titles, they just won’t be able to install them.

If you have an older child you don’t necessarily want to put on full lock down. I would recommend  using some web filtering software like Mobicip. Mobicip gives you an alternative to the safari browser and enables parental controls on your child’s device. It is very easy to setup and works anytime anywhere. Just make sure if you purchase it, that you are purchasing it from the iTunes account that your child’s device is synced with.

The Touch and iTunes parental controls are not fool proof however. iPod’s can bet reset and it is not hard to find the restore option in iTunes, thus removing the restrictions – and passcodes – and returning the device to factory settings. Unfortunately there is now way to block this little loop hole. Don’t underestimate this either, I promise you many kids at school are well aware how the restore option works. Keep in mind, that the child will lose everything and have to load it all back and that’s not fun, however, when kids are determined there is no bounds to there determination for undermining their parents.

There is one more thing you need to be aware of before giving your kid an iPod Touch; particularly if they are pretty tech savvy; and that is “Jailbreaking”. This is where all of the devices restrictions are disabled, and allows any user to install unauthorized software. I promise you that the kids at school, especially older kids are well versed in how this works. HidePod is a prime example of these unauthorized programs. HidePod masks itself as a calculator, but when a specified combination of numbers or equations are put in, it reveals hidden videos, music, pics and so on. Most of the time kids will use this to hide porn from their parents. If you want to check your kids iPod to see if your child has this program, you’ll not see it, because it was designed to hide so it will not advertise it’s presence. The easiest way is to get the iPod’s serial # (Settings>General>About) Enter the Serial # on HidePod’s Site and if it returns a registration number, then your child is hiding something.If you find this one there is some explaining your child needs to do.

Although, by far the best parental control out there though are clear and enforced boundaries set by you; the parent. While I can step you through the various way to block these things, there are numerous ways around them and if there isn’t there will be eventually. There will always be workarounds and the more tech savvy your kid get, the better they will get at it. The most effective way is to set clear rules, let them know you will be checking on it and let them know you will remove it from them. As always if you have any questions or topics you want to know more about, let me know.


One Comment on “What You Need to Know Before Giving Kids an iPod Touch”

  1. rtyecript says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

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