We've tried to have an open dialogue with Tyler about why we're (or rather, I) am so strict on what kinds of things he's allowed to do with his iPod. I've told him it's not so much that I don't trust him, it's that I don't trust everyone else on the internet. I've explained and shown him examples of the ways people are using apps like Instagram and Snapchat in way that the app creators didn't intend and in ways children don't need to see.
We're alright with being thought of as the uncool parents if it means we're limiting his exposure to inappropriate (and sometimes flat out indecent) material. We decided the best we can do it set as many parental controls as we could, explain our rules and the consequences for not following them and monitor how he uses his iPod.
The Settings and Restrictions tabs are your best friends. Get to know these areas. Most of the steps we've taken started here.
1. Set a passcode lock
We keep it simple so we'll remember it. If he loses the iPod, at least we have a small measure of security in that hopefully no one else will be able to use it.
2. Link the iPod to your iTunes account
Having the iPod on my account means I can see everything on it. It also helps me keep it backed up and the software up to date.
3. Provide contact info
The lock screen reads "If found please call" with my Google Voice phone number.
4. Install Find My iPhone
I have this app on my iPad and my iPhone. If he does lose it the location based service, combined with the contact info hopefully would get it returned to us quickly.
5. Turn off in app purchases
My son uses his iPod almost exclusively for gaming. Many of the games he likes are free to play, but ask for real money to buy boosts and extras. He once spent $25 on gas cans for Battle Bears! Since his iPod is linked to my iTunes account, this is a way to ensure I don't get any surprises on my bank account. In app purchases can add up fast. I can monitor how much of his iTunes gift cards he's used and let him know when he runs out of funds.
6. Change settings for explicit content
Go to Settings --> General --> Restrictions and look for the content ratings. I believe the default settings are set to 'all,' which means if your child is searching iTunes or You Tube they may stumble across something with strong language or worse.
7. Set a Restrictions passcode
In addition to a main passcode, I set one specifically for the Restrictions are. This way, the settings for explicit content aren't changed. The passcode is one that only I know.
8. Turn off the ability to delete apps
I chose this option so he can't install and then delete an app before I can see it. I also want to make sure he didn't accidentally delete the Find My iPhone app.
9. Delete some apps and settings altogether
I deleted YouTube, the ability to play multi-player games, the ability to add friends, Ping and iTunes. This was something I struggled with. I wanted him to have some freedom, but I also don't want him to have unlimited access to YouTube, and some of the games in the iTunes store seem like they are for kids but aren't. My hope is to prevent him from things like accidentally downloading the explicit version of a song rather than the radio version.
10. Install a safer browser option
This is a new one for us. Since he was 9 when he got the iPod, I really didn't want Tyler to have any access to the web. Now, he needs to go online for both homework and sports so I'm going to install a new browser after doing more research on the options below.
Mobicip Safe Browser
McGruff SafeGuard Browser
K9 Web Protection Browser
Since iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch are very similar in function, I think many of these settings will work across the devices as you'll find them in the same areas.
I know I seem mean and paranoid, but I'm not. We're really trying to balance Tyler's growing independence and desire for freedom and privacy with responsible use of the internet. Tyler and I have had many conversations about what a digital footprint is and how the things he posts online will live forever. He already knows what college he wants to go to and we looked up their social media guidelines.
Phil and I are doing our best to impress upon him the importance of using the web the 'right' way. Plus, I think being a kid today is hard enough without the added distractions and pressures of the web and social media. I feel like giving our younger kids unlimited and unmonitored access to the web is forcing them to participate in conversations they're not yet mature enough to have.
What about you? What precautions have you taken with your child's digital device? Are there any steps I missed?
*Child photo from freedigitalphotos.net