Kids Get New Tablets Over the Holidays? Here’s How to Lock ’Em Down.
I’m a cool aunt. Or so I tell myself. It is this hubris that led to a $50 charge on my iTunes account, after I so willingly handed over my iPad mini to my young niece the other night.
Parental controls! Don’t you know about parental controls? Well, I didn’t.
(FYI, I called iTunes support the next morning and was able to get the money back through what Apple deems a one-time exception for an “accidental purchase.” Next time, the charge is on me. I still have no idea what could possibly cost $49.99 in the Angry Birds Go game.)
Still, a bunch of parents out there who have more practice in this area are probably shaking their heads right now in painful agreement. For example, my AllThingsD boss Kara Swisher among them, whose son — who typically spent $20 a week on game purchases — once racked up $3,000 of charges in 15 minutes after one mobile game changed the mechanics of its in-app charges and he mistook the new method for part of the game.
Maybe you don’t know about parental controls either, and maybe your kids received new tablets over the holidays. Here’s how you lock down iOS and Android tablets, so that you don’t end up with the same charges we did.
First you’ll want to go into Settings —> General —> Restrictions. Tap “Enable Restrictions.” Then you’ll be prompted to enter a four-digit security code. Pick a good one, one that your kids won’t guess, but one that you’ll also remember (otherwise, you’ll have to restore your phone if you forget it). Tap “In-App Purchases” in the list of options under the Restrictions tab. Your child will no longer be able to make in-app purchases without your first entering that four-digit PIN.
The Apple Care rep I spoke with, a nice woman named Maigan, also suggested that I go into Settings —> General —> Passcode, and set the Passcode to “Immediately.” This means that every time someone goes to purchase or update an app on my device, they’ll be prompted to enter the passcode. Annoying for us app-happy grown-ups, sure, but perhaps another protective layer from the angel-faced, grubby-fingered iDemons we’re raising.
Tablets running Android 4.3 now have “restricted profiles,” which include parental, retail, and point-of-sale controls. To establish these, go to your phone’s Settings —> Users —> Add user or profile. Tap “New Profile” to create a profile for your child and, below that, select the features you’d like to cut off access to.
Android 4.2, the previous OS, offers a more basic version of this — users can, for example, have multiple profiles on one device, but the same parental controls aren’t there. (It should also be noted that all of this applies only to Android tablets, whereas the iOS parental controls are the same across iPhone and iPad.)
But those with even older Android tablets have some protection, too, at the level of the Google Play app store. Go into Google Play, then go to Settings —> User Controls, and then add and confirm a PIN number for purchases.
Update: Some of you have asked for tips on setting parental controls on Windows 8 devices. I apologize for the oversight. PCWorld has a pretty good explainer here, which involves, in short, adding a new user on your device, checking off a safety box that establishes the new user as a child and from there setting limits on the websites, games and apps your kid can use.
Feature photo courtesy of Sprout/Flickr Creative Commons.