Okay, you’ve decided you want to give an iPad to your kids, but you want to keep them (and your credit card) safe. There are some steps you should take, and the first one should probably be Restrictions.
Click on the Settings app on your iPad, and click General, then Restrictions. You’ll be asked to ender a 4-digit password. This does not have to be the same as your Passcode lock. I know its a bit consuming, so here’s the deal: You can set a passcode lock in the General settings that will be required anytime you wake up your iPad. WIthout the passcode lock, you can’t do ANYthing on your iPad, it’s locked down. The Passcode Lock can be 4 numbers or a long alphanumeric password. I don’t recommend setting a passcode lock, because its annoying, its confusing for kids, and they hopefully don’t have any private data to worry about.
But the Restrictions passcode is a separate passcode, just for turning restrictions on and off. This one can only be 4 numbers, and it is required to turn Restrictions on. Otherwise, restrictions wouldn’t be very useful if your kids could just shut them off, right? The Restrictions passcode could be the same as the Passcode lock, but it shouldn’t be, because if you sent a Passcode lock at all, you’ll want your kids to know it so they can turn on their iPad, but you WONT want them to know your Restrictions passcode. Got it?
Okay, so click Settings > General > Restrictions, and choose a Restrictions passcode that you won’t forget. Now you can turn some restrictions on.
The first section is basic settings. you can block all web surfing with Safari, videos with Youtube, the camera, etc. Turning off the camera also turns off FaceTime, but you can turn off just FaceTime without turning off the camera. You can also block the entire iTunes Store, Ping, and installing and deleting apps.
Side note here: When you click a youtube link on a web site or in an email, it will automatically load it in the YouTube app. A lot of people complain that the YouTube app is too slow to cache and the web page goes faster. If you disable the YouTube app, YouTube videos will play with in the browser. You won’t be able to load YouTube and search/browse for stuff, though.
The next section will allow changes to Location, Accounts and Find My Friends (If you have it installed).
Location will allow you to select which apps, if any, can track the location of the iPad. You can be really specific here and change every app individually. I love that I can just tap Fandango and it will show me movie theaters nearby, but I don’t necessarily want it tracking my son. You can also turn all location services off completely.
Accounts will allow or prohibit setting up new email accounts. It will still allow email if you have set it up previously, you just can’t set up new accounts.
And Find My Friends will allow you to make changes to that app, or lock it. Find My Friends is cool app that deserves its own post. If you just can’t wait, learn more about it here.
The next section is for music and video content. This is kind of cool, you can block music and podcasts marked as “explicit” in the iTunes store, only allow movies and TV shows of a certain MPAA rating, and apps of a certain age rating. This will restrict any content already on the device, and downloding new content. It won’t show a restricted badge or anything like that- the apps or media will simply not show up at all.
There is one glitch right now in iOS 5: if you hide an app by restricting it, and then un-restrict it, it will reappear on the main menu, not where it used to be. So if you have your Apps carefully organized or tucked away in folders, this will make a mess when they come back.
There’s one more setting here thats very, very important: restricting in-app purchases. More and more apps and games, especially kids’ games, are adopting a so-called “fermium” model, where the game is free but the company makes money by selling in-game bonuses or add-ons. If you’ve ever played Farmville, you are already well acquainted with this. Restrict this, our you’re going to end up with a very big credit card bill. Don’t believe me? read this: Parents Sue Apple For In-Game Purchases Made By Kids
You also may want to make sure they’re not logged into an AppleID with credit card info saved; I’ll talk about how to do this in a later post.
update: since writing this post (which has become very popular, according to my Google stats), Apple upgraded iOS to version 6, and added a great new feature called Guided Access. Learn all about it here: