Are Apple iOS Parental Controls Enough?
Apple makes amazing products. They are elegant, easy to use, and the functions that we have grown to love and take for granted are rarely duplicated. Going back from the first Macs to the latest generation of iPads and iPhones – Apple has always been a design king. Part of what makes Apple products so great is their operating system(s). Whether it is their desktop and laptop OS – OSX or their mobile device operating system – iOS, the software makes using an Apple device wonderful!
So why the disappointment with their parental controls? To be fair, it has nothing to do with Apple, but the ever-changing landscape and the ebb and flow of global societies’ morals and values when it comes to parenting and technology. You see, when you make an operating system for a billion+ users, you will never make everybody happy!
One can imagine a parent of a child in China or Dubai may have wildly different views of what is and is not appropriate than a parent in Atlanta, or Rio. Neither is right nor wrong, just different. Apple needs to appeal to the masses, and so it does a good job to make its iPhone and iPad parental controls easy to use for everyone.
When it comes to parental controls for iOS, and we will describe the 7.x features, (8 is coming out shortly and will have some more bells and whistles), Apple does ok, but still forces either too much or not enough options to the parent.
What does work – Restrictions
Restrictions are iOS specific options located under the Settings | General menus. Using these restrictions, parents may manually adjust various settings on each device and restrict their use. Parents can disable the Safari browser; disable the camera; enable or disable the ability of the child to install apps through the iTunes Store; disable Siri, and change some overall ratings for content.
When you have physical access to the device, many of these restriction toggles are great. For younger kids, you can get somewhat restrictive with the presented choices. You can add a few apps and then disable future purchases and downloads. You can disable the iOS camera, Facetime, and Safari, effectively killing off Internet interaction unless it’s allowed via the approved apps you have installed.
Additionally, by linking the device to your iCloud account, you can further manage it by displaying the mobile device’s GPS location and getting iMessages from the child’s iPhone or iPad, for instance.
Sounds good to me! So what’s the beef?
While all of these restriction options seem great, they have limited practical use unless you happen to have 24/7 access to the device and want to spend a lot of time managing each child <> device interaction. More so, many features that parents request are just not available to them as they are not built into iOS.
The main question to ask is, how involved can you practically be with having physical access for each child/device? If you are always home, and your child is with you most of the time, and you have their device readily available, then by all means, the built-in Apple parental controls will be a great and free solution for most issues.
Younger children, typically under 10, spend much of their time with parents and rarely travel outside the confines of the home. They are also less likely to have a 3G/LTE enabled iPhone or iPad, and so their home internet access via Wi-Fi is easier to manage.
However, you may have school-aged children often away from home, or you are a busy parent who can rarely be tied to your child’s device. If this is the case, Apple’s built-in parental controls are less likely to solve your needs. Don’t rely on a safe browser though!
Consider for a moment the following family scenario as many of our parent-users often do:
- You have 2 to 4 kids, between 9 and 16 years old
- They go to 2 or 3 different schools
- They either have or share 3 to 4 Apple iOS mobile devices, such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
- They are frequently away from home with school and sports functions, or over friends homes, relatives, at the movies, etc.
- They are of different ages and thus potentially have different bedtimes and allowed internet use policies
Now try to imagine a parent managing their access and internet time! Which apps do they have and use? What categories of websites should they be allowed to see? What social messengers apps and websites do they have access to and are they being cyber-bullied? Are they using the iPhone or iPad in bed? Until when? Do they use their iPhone while they are driving or learning to drive?
If you want them to have access to certain apps they love, you want them to be able to iMessage with friends (learn about how to see iMessage history here) BUT you don’t want them to abuse or over-use them, what do you do? If you trust your child with particular internet content but don’t want them staying up until 3 am in bed, how do you solve that? What about social apps that you know are completely inappropriate and how do you manage that on a daily basis and stay sane? Even simple things like quiet internet periods for after school homework can be challenging unless you chase your kids around and try to grab and hide their electronic security blanket!
If you are a typical parent, these scenarios will likely introduce anxiety, as well as an infinite number of management issues across multiple users and devices that are not practical for the built-in Apple parental controls. Yes, you can disable everything on each device, and lock it down to a be a paperweight, but then why even give them an iPhone or iPad in the first place – the whole point is to empower them with technology but has some control on what and when. Being able to disable and block certain apps like blocking a specific social media app
By using some features already embedded in Apple’s iOS parental controls and using a cloud service like Netsanity, for instance, allow for a good blend of both physical and remote management of the child’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch mobile devices. If you have younger children at home, you should have a relatively easy time of managing content without going crazy.
However, if your needs are more dynamic and you need some control while you are not glued to your kid, then Netsanity has a better solution.
Netsanity allows you to leave the umbilical cord behind and do many simple functions right from a web portal to manage your kids’ devices. You can disable Internet access with a single click, schedule time when the phone will be allowed to access the internet, and block popular internet apps remotely. So if you child is away from home and you want to make sure that they have access to appropriate internet content, the parent simply toggles dozens of categories that will work across any browser and most apps. For example, blocking dating categories will not only block popular dating websites via the browser but many dating apps as well. Some popular apps parents like to block are:
- Kik – messaging app (what is Kik?)
- MeetMe – messaging and dating app (what is MeetMe?)
- Snapchat – messaging and photo/video sharing (what is Snapchat?)
There are dozens of parental control companies and hundreds, if not thousands, of articles telling parents on how to manage content on their devices. Currently, little exists that is a perfect, single solution satisfying everyone – since kids are kids and parents are, well – parents are parents! You made an investment in technology and the tools that our kids have access to today are incredible! Use our service to enhance the parental controls on the iPhone on the iPad or iPod Touch of your child.
The days of Encyclopedia Britannica are slowly fading away, so do a little homework and make sure that you can balance the responsibility of giving that much power to a young and impressionable mind while at the same time knowing that you bear responsibility as a parent to protect and guide kids to appropriate resources.
Not an iOS user? No worries! We provide service for Android devices too!
Also published on Medium.