Monday, August 29, 2016

Children, Devices, and Privacy

I'm writing this post as a PSA for parents of young children. My children enjoy using their hand-me-down iPads from Mommy and Daddy. These days, I suspect that my kids are not in the minority. As technology changes and more things become available, I find myself constantly trying to stay a step or two ahead in terms of monitoring what my kids can access. I've set up parental accounts for Netflix, streaming applications are restricted to G-rated content or PBS Kids, and my husband and I are the only ones with access to the Apple ID on the kids' devices. Despite limiting what the kids could stream, I've been uncomfortable with the fact that Safari (and the Internet) seem to be relatively unfettered. For small children, it's not enough to simply ban explicit content; parents need to be able to control access to content that is simply too mature for young children, though it might not fall into the category of "explicit".

Apple has provided for stricter parental controls via the "Restrictions" tab which can be found under the "General Settings" for your Apple devices. Specifically, I was able to restrict internet sites to a few tried and true sites (PBS Kids, Discovery Kids, etc). Apple has drilled down privacy and content settings so that you can allow movies and TV programs of specific ratings. Another bonus, the kids can no longer accidentally delete apps! It gets really frustrating flying at ten thousand feet and your child just deleted his favorite movie or app, and you have no way of downloading it again (no. I'm not shelling out $20 for thirty minutes of internet access ... for a child).

Perhaps many of you were already aware of these settings, but when I set up the kids' hand-me-down devices two years ago, the closest to restricting content to age-appropriate levels was to assign an Apple ID without sharing the password with the kids (obviously), trying to put all the potentially problematic apps such as Safari with its unfettered web access) into a folder hidden away on the fifteenth screen, and creating a kiddo channel for Netflix. Thankfully, Apple has come far in this department!


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