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How to set parental controls on the iPod Touch

By now, thousands of kids around the country are enjoying the power and versatility of a brand new iPod Touch. Starting at $299 for the 32GB version, the iPod Touch was by all accounts one of the most sought-after holiday gifts in the increasingly tech-savvy tween and early teen markets.

The popularity of the Touch is not surprising. As well as being a great portable music player, the Touch plays video and movies on its easy-to-view 4-inch multi-touch display, is an incredibly versatile gaming device, and more importantly, opens the door to Apple’s App Store, with its selection of over 700,000 apps, including games, puzzles, pranks and special effects.

But there are other features that come with the iPod Touch and some of these might not be so welcome – at least not as far as parents are concerned. The Touch has built-in Wi-Fi, which means that once kids are connected to a network – at home or elsewhere – they have immediate unfiltered access to the web via the pre-loaded Safari browser, as well as FaceTime video chat, iCloud, and a host of other web-based services.

As Apple likes to say in its promotional material, owning an iPod Touch is just like having a computer in your pocket: you can freely surf the web; download, watch and record video; send and receive e-mail with attachments, including photos and documents; and even update social networking accounts via apps such as Facebook and Twitter, which are available for free via the App Store.

For parents who have carefully installed parental controls on home computers, moderated e-mail and locked down search engines, this new-found freedom for their Internet-innocent offspring can come as a bit of a shock. And that’s if they are even aware of the iPod Touch’s capabilities. By all accounts, many parents buy the Touch as a music and movie player, blissfully unaware that that they are handing over a mobile computer.

However, for those parents that are nervous about giving their kids complete freedom to roam the Internet and the App Store, there are some parental controls or “restrictions” as they are referred to on the device itself. While most of them are of an all-or-nothing nature – i.e. they allow access to certain functions or they don’t – they can provide some comfort that the Touch is going to be used in an appropriate manner.

Here’s how they work:

  • Select the Settings icon off the Home screen and then select General.
  • From the General menu choose Restrictions. The first time you use Restrictions, you will be prompted for a 4-digit Passcode, which will prevent your child from disabling or changing the settings at a later date.
  • Once you enter the Passcode, you will be presented with a series of Restrictions that can be set to ON or OFF. Here, if you wish, you can turn off the Safari browser or restrict access to the camera, the iTunes store, Siri and more. You can also turn off access to the FaceTime video calling app. If you choose any of these options, the feature is disabled and the relevant icon is removed from the Home screen. (Apple has unnecessarily confused the Restrictions page by using the header Disable Restrictions. Better to focus on the Allow header, where ON means the feature is allowed and OFF means it isn’t.)
  • The Allowed Content section gives you options to restrict the type of content that can be accessed and downloaded from the iTunes store. For example, you can restrict access to songs with explicit lyrics, or filter movies, TV shows and apps according to their age ratings. This section also allows you to turn off the ability to make in-app purchases, and require a password every time your child tries to make an iTunes purchase.
  • You can also use Restrictions to prevent changes to various Privacy settings, including settings for location services, reminders, photo-sharing, Bluetooth, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Finally, the Game Center allows you to restrict access to multiplayer games and the ability to add friends to existing games.

Parents should be aware that some of these restrictions are easy for even moderately tech-savvy kids to circumvent. For example, if you block access to iTunes and not Safari, your child can simply enter iTunes in the Safari search bar and access content without any restrictions. As with kids and any tech device, careful monitoring is still highly recommended!

Comment by Darci, posted 12/6/2013, 12:47 AM:

Even if I set Parental Controls, can't my child still set up a Passcode, on an iPod touch, so I can't even access the home screen?
Comment by cameron heathcock, posted 11/6/2013, 3:01 PM:

can you block social media accounts totally? i do not want my daughter to be able to access facebook, twitter, etc.
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