When I finally read the fine print before dropping off my son, my goddaughter, and my son’s best friend this morning at the Apple store in Los Gatos, I found out that I couldn’t actually drop them off. Apple required me to stay in the store during the 90-minute camp. My hopes of getting in a couple of hours of work at the coffee shop next door were dashed. Walking into the store this morning, I was not the happy camper. And then, Apple did something that I wasn’t expecting at all. Phil, one of the camp’s instructors and an Apple Genius, held a parent workshop to talk about parental controls in Apple products and in general.
Apple has built in easy to use (but not easy to hack) parental controls directly into their last three operating systems. This means that you don’t need third party software to provide some peace of mind when your child is using the internet or accessing the Apple Store online. It also means that there isn’t anything for your smarter-than-you-in-tech to uninstall or hack. All you have to to do as a parent is turn on the controls and customize it to each of one of your children – a very awesome feature considering your children’s different ages, maturity, or level of responsibility may change what controls are needed for that particular child.
Under System Preferences, you first need to create an account for each child. Your child will use this account whenever they use on the family computer or even their own laptop. This child account is what will be updated based on your parental controls. This leave the parent as the administrator of the computer; giving you full access to make changes to the profiles and the controls at any given time.
Within each user profile, you can customize your child’s or teen’s access:
- Limit applications, set age restrictions for the app store, allow or disallow apps by app type
- Customize what they can or cannot see on the internet; add sites that are OK, block ones that aren’t.
- Limit the people who can chat and email with your child. Set permissions to get notified if someone tries to contact them and approve it first.
- Set time limits on usage for both weekdays and weekends. Once the time is over, the computer will automatically log them out.
- Set bedtimes where they won’t be able to use the computer after a certain time. No worrying about your teen not getting any sleep. If bedtime is 10, the computer won’t work after 10.
- Hide profanity in the dictionary.
- Limit printing, CD and DVD burning.
At the end of the 30 minute demo, I was ready to buy an Apple computer for our family computer. I was so impressed with the thought and the insight that Apple has put into parental controls.
For those of you like me who don’t yet own an Apple computer but do own an iPhone or iPad, get ready for your sad panda face. Apple has not built most of the features into their mobile devices. You can only set age limitations in the App Store and restrict games and apps for iPhones and iPads. I hope that Apple adds their fantastic line-up of all their control features to their mobile devices in future releases. We live in an increasing mobile world and Apple, as well as parents, needs to keep up.