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How to set parental controls on the iPad



Earlier this year, USA Today published an article about the growing number of multi-tablet households. As prices drop and newer versions land in the stores, parents are trading up and passing along their cast-offs to their kids. But as more and more iPads and other tablets end up in the hands of kids, there is some evidence that parents are abandoning or at least overlooking the need for content filters and parental controls. While PCs and laptops are often seen as a gateway to pornography and other inappropriate content, iPads are somehow perceived as less threatening, more of a toy than a powerful electronic device.

However, the truth is very different. Whether the iPad has 3G connectivity or is just Wi-Fi-enabled, it can be as much of a minefield as a large workstation when placed in the untrained hands of a young child. There is completely unfiltered access to the web via the pre-loaded Safari browser, as well as access to YouTube, e-mail, and a host of web-based chat programs. You can record and download video, update social networking accounts, and access over 225,000 apps via the App Store.

For parents who have carefully installed parental controls on home computers, moderated e-mail activity, and locked down search engines, this new-found freedom for their Internet-innocent offspring can come as a bit of a shock. However, all is not lost. There are some highly-effective parental controls or “restrictions” on the iPad. 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 iPad 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 YouTube, iTunes, or the App Store. You can also turn off access to the camera or 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 Allow Changes section allows you to block location services or any changes to Mail, Contacts or Calendars.
  • 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.
  • 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 YouTube and not Safari, your child can simply enter YouTube in the Safari search bar and pull up the video-sharing site without any restrictions. As with kids and any tech device, careful monitoring is still highly recommended!



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