The second part of the iOS tools we have is their version of parental controls, which they refer to as “restrictions.” I fully planned on doing a deep dive into how to set restrictions. However, the amazing journalists at iMore.com did this for us less than a year ago. I will hit the high spots and things that were issues for my use, and for the rest, I will simply defer to them at [https://www.imore.com/restrictions].
First and most importantly regarding Restrictions is how to find them, which is easy, just open ‘Settings,’ touch the ‘General’ tab and touch ‘Restrictions’ which is part way down, in the fifth group. Now, here are some tips I can give. To set to access restrictions settings, you will be required to enter a PIN. Choose one that you don’t use anywhere else, including your lock screen. This is a place where your kids will really want access to, so they will try to watch you enter a pin, to unlock the device for them, and they will secretly memorize your unlock code. If you use the same code to set their restrictions, you are wasting your time as that will be the first code they guess. Also, don’t use a pin that you can’t afford to give up later. Your kids will be working overtime to figure it out, and you don’t want them learning the code to your Netflix, or your ATM pin or anything else that is critical to you. You don’t want to have to change any of these, so in this case, pick a unique restrictions PIN, and don’t use it anywhere else. The last point I will make regarding your pin code. Don’t use a date or a pattern; they will guess all the patterns, the four corners, the four digits down the center, heck, they will even guess dates, your house address, and your license plate number, so pick something completely random. Don’t make a note to it anywhere they can find it, like in your NOTES app. Instead, make a note under your child’s name in your contacts. So far, I have never had one look there. Another way to secure these from your children is to open a OneNote file, and password lock it. Anyways, good luck having a restrictions lock code that you can remember, yet still burn if needed, and that your kids can’t figure out.
The next thing about restrictions that were a downfall in our household is this. There may be apps that you don’t want your kids to use that are in an age and restrictions group that you do want to approve. Short of not approving these for anyone on the family share, there will be no good way using apples baked in restrictions to limit all the apps you don’t want while allowing the ones you do. In conjunction to this, if you are not implementing these restrictions for the very first time on a brand new device that will not be loaded from an iCloud backup, then you will most likely already have apps on this device. If you do, I guarantee that some of them will be within your restrictions and some will not, effectively causing the new use of restriction to remove or block apps from the device. This will make your kids freak out. When they do, you have a choice to make. You can give in, release some or all of the limits to get their “favorite” apps back.(whatever app goes away will instantly become their favorite, that increases their chance of making you cave in) If you don’t cave in, you can stand firm, not allow that app anymore, reiterate that while you do care deeply about their future and their online safety, you truly could not care less about their ability to play the super-monkey-rainbow-death-ball app. This will cause maximum noise, maximum freak out and rebellion, but frankly, is probably the best for your parenting in the long run.
One last point I would like to make about restrictions is, Apple gives you the ability to filter explicit language, explicit lyrics, and also block specific websites. Use This! It is the single simplest thing you can to do to keep your 12-year-old from using his iPhone to look up certain content with (or for) his friends in school. One other very creative use I have had for this feature is as a side load block when it is too late to not allow a certain app. Most apps are web-connected, many are just fancy containers for web site content. It is often possible to internet search for the driving site behind an app, get its HTTP or HTTPS address and add it to the blocked website list. As more apps add payments or other secure services, this becomes less possible, but it can be worth a try.
If you find that restrictions in iOS are not secure enough for you, consider using a service like JAMF, which is a mobile device admin panel. It lets you set rules, control apps, manage passwords, track and reset iOS mobile devices. The standard account allows you to manage up to 3 devices for free and then has a small fee for more devices. They are not a sponsor (but they could be if they wanted too.. Here’s looking at you JAMF 😉). They are a very high-quality solution that can make a parents life easier, they are simple to use and can help keep a kid safe, and that is the only reason I mention them by name.
My final thought on Parental controls, Restrictions by age or rating, and remote admin panels like JAMF is this. If you feel you need them, use them. Do your thing, your way, and follow your compass and your intuition first. The safety of your family could be at stake. However, do not get complacent once you do use them. Locks, passwords, restrictions, and controls are not seen by your children as a safety net; they are seen as a challenge to be conquered. Use the tools you have and then stay highly vigilant. Still, practice safe procedures, continue to teach your kids to be responsible digital citizens, and never let your guard down. Teach them with your actions, with love and kindness, because they are watching you live and they will learn from you.
In part three, we will look at the parental controls baked into Windows 10 and Xbox, how to make a Microsoft account and why you and your kids will need one.