Parenting with Technology

Successfully navigating parenting paradoxes in the technological landscape that is modern life.

Using the tools we have. Part One, Introduction to Parental Controls and Apple Family Share

As parents, we are tasked with doing everything we can to protect and prepare our kids. The same is true of their online digital life, and while education is paramount to helping them become responsible digital citizens, there are a few other steps we can take along the way to help them get there. The first, and most effective are using the already existing tools in their devices to help limit use or teach responsibility in screen time. These tools are User Accounts, Parental Controls, and Environmental controls.
The simplest of these and the least expensive are User Accounts. A user account is simply the account that you use to log into a device. For example, my iPhone requires my thumbprint or a passcode to open, that is a user account. Once I have entered that identifying data, the device is open for use. Parents can use that account login to restrict access by children by not telling the kids the passcode, or not entering the kid’s biometric data (fingerprint, etc.). This is simple, easy, effective, and also quite inconvenient as every time the kids want to use the device, they have to come ask, which is almost always right in the middle of “something important” and you have to enter the info for them secretly. This also requires your attention every time they set the device down, and it times out. Lastly, this is less than perfect as the kids will inevitably learn your passcode (trust me, they will figure it out) so you will have to stay vigilant in making sure they are not using it without your knowledge, and you should change the passcode often just in case.
The next of these tools are the most prevalent, but also more involved. These are parental controls on the device. In my case, for ease and money savings, we have a family share account thru iTunes. The majority of our devices are Apple, so this is very convenient. Thru the family share, each child has their unique iTunes and iCloud account, and inside their machine, I can set parental controls to limit the age rating of apps and media they can consume, I can set passwords for them that are different from my own so they can keep their siblings out of their stuff. You understand that this is important if you have ever heard a child say “Daaaaaadddd, Billy just ruined my character on super-monster-dance-thing-app.” Some brands also allow you set use times, quiet times, and other features to limit or restrict access to media or games. I do not use the use the time restrictions on any brand except Microsoft as limit access thru our network instead, but I will explain that as soon as we are done with parental controls.
Next, I would like to take a moment in discussing the parental controls of each basic platform so that you at least have a working knowledge of what they are and how to access them if you decide to use them yourselves, the platforms we will be referring to are Apple, Microsoft, and Android. Let’s start with Apple.
Before we discuss parental controls in iOS, I first want to talk about Apples ‘family share’ settings and why those may be valuable to you.
Thru Apples Family Share, you can share purchases between accounts. This is often a very frugal choice. Things like iCloud storage, which can be pricey for extra storage for each user, can now be shared between family members. Therefore, like in my case, my wife and three oldest children each need a little upgrade, so before family share, I was spending between $0.99 and $9.99 on each for them to get the needed amount of extra storage. My account also requires more storage, and I have been paying for 2Tb, at $9.99 a month too. Since I use about 300G of that, and each family member uses between 10Gb and 300Gb depending on the person, I can drop all their small personal upgrades and share mine with them, a net savings for me of about $16 a month. Also, things like Apple Music, which we use, have a family share plan that allows all 6 of us to use it for only about an extra $5 a month. Lastly, many app developers support family sharing making apps that only need to be purchased once per family. This makes me much more likely to purchase that new Zombie Monkey Death Race game for $4.99. I buy it once, and all my kids have use of it (as do I, they play a lot of really great games!) Lastly, having the family share set up in iCloud also allows you to force children to ask your permission before downloading an app. The way it does this is very elegant, and easy to use, both for the kids and for the parents, but I will remind you that while it is handy and convenient to simply touch a button, from anywhere on the planet basically to let you kids install that new “Rocket Bounce Bubble Candy” game, you still need to take the time to check the app, investigate its content, read reviews, and test it yourself.
Now we know what the benefits of family share are, what are the downfalls? First, once you buy an app, all your kids can get it from the store, and don’t even have to ask for it, (this burned me for a while, it made every app I tested available to the whole family). The only way to limit this even a little is to set each child’s device restrictions and then restrict apps based on age and content. This is handy, and better than nothing, but far from perfect. We will discuss how to do this a bit later. Also, family share is a quick way to save a bunch of money, and by doing so can make you a bit complacent on monitoring your sending. It also makes it easy for you to say yes to many things like songs, apps, and movies, which may not be the best things for your kids or your wallet, so be careful.
Coming up in Part Two: iOS Parental Controls and Restrictions, we will deep dive into how to turn these feature on, what to expect and some of the problems I have had using them.

Categories: Kids and Tech

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