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Those of you who have an iPad as well as a passel of kids already know this. For those of you who don't, let me tell you, the iPad is a kid magnet; they love the thing. But it's the unwise parent who lets them lay hands on the iPad without first doing a little work to ensure the safety of your child's sensibilities, as well as your wallet. Here are some tips for childproofing your iPad. Launch Settings, tap General, and then tap Restrictions.
Tap Enable Restrictions and then enter and verify a passcode that's far more difficult to guess than this one, and the Restrictions options become available to you. Anytime you or someone else attempts to modify Restriction settings, they'll be prompted for this Passcode. In the app area near the top of the screen, you can switch on or off Safari, YouTube, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes, and iTunes's Ping social networking service. You can also disallow installing and deleting apps. To disallow any of these options, you just flick the Toggle switches to off.
And we'll flick them back on for now. For example, if you don't want your kid accessing the Internet, switch off Safari and YouTube. You might also want to turn off FaceTime so that they can't communicate with each other. If you don't have an Apple ID, you don't have to worry about disabling app installation, but you might want to keep your moody teenager from deleting apps, particularly if you have had them performing some onerous chores lately. Now let's look at Locations. You can also disallow any apps from using Location services or just the apps you choose.
Tap Location and you see a list of all the apps on your iPad that use Location. I am wary about any app that broadcasts to the world where a child might be, so I lock down the Camera app. I also lock down any social networking apps, such as Twitter and Facebook. If you don't want to be choosy, you can flick the Location services switch to OFF, and then the iPad can't use Location until you later turn it back ON. Move back to Restrictions and tap Accounts. If I've turned my iPad over to a child, I also disallow the ability to make changes to my Mail, Contacts, and Calendars accounts.
I'd rather not have my email account vaporized, or a new one added, and you'd do this by tapping Accounts, and then Don't Allow Changes. The Allowed Content area exists so that you can control your iPad's media. For example, you can disallow In-app Purchases, which can be a good thing, as many of these things are tempting and they can add up. You can then filter what your child can see by choosing Ratings. For instance, tap Music & Podcasts and you can keep kids from listening to content that's marked EXPLICIT.
Likewise, you can allow your kid to watch G- and PG-rated movies, but not PG-13, R, and NC-17 films. So all I have to do is tap PG and the other ratings are disabled. Or you can go whole hog and tap Don't Allow Movies. This Don't Allow at all setting is particularly helpful if the TV shows and movies you have on your iPad weren't obtained from the iTunes Store. Movies you've obtained elsewhere don't have a rating code embedded in them, and so the iPad can't tell whether they're rated G or NC-17.
If you turn off the ability to watch any movies and TV shows, you needn't be concerned about this. You can do the same kind of thing with TV Shows. So, for example, I only want things rated TV-G and below. I simply tap that rating and the higher- rated shows are now disabled. Apps are rated as well. by age rather than rating. Apple's ratings air on the side of safety, so you can trust that when you choose 4+, your child will be able to use only the most tame apps.
And finally, there are Game Center Restrictions. In this regard, you only need to know that it's Apple's social networking service that allows registered players to compare scores and mark game achievements. If you prefer that your child not participate in multiplayer games which sometimes allow players to chat with each other, turn off the Multiplayer Games option. You can also switch off the option to Add Friends to Game Center, which is a good idea if it's your iPad and you don't want a bunch of 12-year-olds telling you what a lame Angry Birds player you are. Now these are the restrictions built into the iPad, but there are some other things that you can do to help protect your child.
If you don't want your kid to switch on an R-rated movie when she's using the iPad on a long car trip, don't put that movie on the iPad. Likewise, in that long-car-trip scenario, sync the iPad only with age-appropriate apps. Secondly, do not give a child the password for your Apple ID. If you want an app, look at it first, and then you buy it without your child looking on, as you type your password. Check games that include social networking options where a stranger could chat with your younger child. Some very innocent-looking games have such options, and it takes only one creep to ruin your and your child's day.
If such options exist, look for a way to switch them off and talk to your child about why you need to do this. Unlike with your computer, there are no ways to fine-tune where your child can go on the Internet. If you're not ready to have your child exposed to the big bad Internet, be sure to browse with them. Or as we've done here, switch off Safari using Restrictions. And finally, talk to your child about what is and isn't appropriate to do with your iPad. This includes not only the kinds of apps and content they're allowed to view, but also the amount of time that they spend on it.
The iPad may be one of the coolest toys on earth, but it's no replacement for being with real, live people and spending time engaged in healthy pursuits.
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