How to Use Parental Controls Effectively to Keep Your Kids Safe

iPad owners these days seem to be getting younger and younger. I see kids with iPads everywhere – at the doctor’s office, in cars, and in restaurants. If you can afford it, an iPad can be an amazing entertainment and learning tool for children, but there’s a ton of content out there, so how do you keep your kids safe?

The first step when giving an iPad to a child is turning on Apple’s parental controls, which are both robust and easy to use.

You will find the iPad’s parental controls in the “General” tab of the settings menu. If you want to restrict when and where your kids can use the iPad, this is where you enter a passcode, which is a four digit number needed to unlock the screen.

After you’ve set a passcode, you can turn on all kinds of controls in the “Restrictions” section of the general settings menu.

You can restrict specific Apple-installed apps, such as Safari, YouTube, FaceTime, iTunes, or the Camera. You can also prevent kids from installing or deleting apps, which might be a good idea for younger children.

You can disallow explicit language in music and podcasts, and even restrict the type of movies, TV shows, and apps that are accessible on the iPad, based on what you are comfortable with your children using.

Apps with explicit content in the App Store are given a rating of 17+, so you can easily exclude this kind of content. You will definitely want to turn off automatic in-app purchases.

There are so many freemium games out there and often children don’t understand that they are spending hundreds of dollars on virtual currency until their parents are hit with the bill. I even disable in-app purchasing on my own iPad so I don’t accidentally tap something I don’t want to buy.

You can prevent the iPad to from making changes to location, and monitor which apps are using location information. Generally, social networking apps like Facebook use location information, as do all photography apps that access the camera.

There’s also the ability to disallow account changes, meaning users won’t be able to add, remove, or modify accounts in Mail, Contacts, or Calendars. You can also turn off multiplayer Game Center games and prevent children from adding friends in the app.

With all of these settings, it’s simple to lock down the iPad to allow only safe content. If you share an iPad with your kids, turning off downloads, app deletions, and preventing account changes will keep all of your own data safe, and rating selections will make sure kids are only accessing acceptable content.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what you’re kids are using their iPads for. Turning off YouTube and Safari will go a long way towards keeping unsavory content out of their hands, but your best bet is to monitor the apps they use, or select their apps yourself.

It’s hard to tell what apps are acceptable for various age levels, but App Store ratings and app reviews can help you out. Apps are also given a rating based on appropriateness. Ratings include 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+, and reading other customer’s reviews will let you know if there’s any content you might deem unacceptable.

When dealing with apps for children, it’s best to stick with those that have established ratings. Skip the ones with only a few ratings, and make sure to check out our guide on how to spot fake app store reviews.

Your kids don’t have to miss out on awesome content, though. There are also apps that filter sites like YouTube, providing only kid safe videos. Gube is one of these, and there are plenty of other great video apps available for kids.

And of course, we focus on a lot of children’s apps here at PadGadget. Reading reviews and app lists on respected sites is one way to make sure you’re getting the best content for your kids.

With restrictions in place, and careful monitoring of apps, your kids can have plenty of safe, worry-free fun with their iPads.

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About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli