There have been several articles circulating lately that warn parents of the most dangerous mobile apps for their children. While it is very important to know what to look out for, it is equally (if not more) important to know how to protect them from this content ever being an issue. In this blog post, I will explain several ways to protect your children from these dangerous apps.
**Note: This blog post is written specifically for iPhone and iOS systems**
1. Use the built-in iOS Restrictions (Parental controls)
(This option is best used for children who have their own device. See #2 if you just want information about letting your child borrow your device to play a game, etc.)
Apple knows that there are apps that may be inappropriate for children and has parental controls built in to their settings. To access these go to Settings -> General -> Restrictions.
To use this feature, you will need to choose “Enable Restrictions”. Once you do this, the device will ask you to enter a 4-digit passcode. This code will be used to modify or turn off Restrictions.
This is really an underrated feature of iPhones, because it can be very useful in this scenario. While it doesn’t allow you to control every single app, there are some specific apps that you can directly deny access to. (Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Siri, AirDrop, & CarPlay). You can also choose to block your child from installing any apps and making in-app purchases.
Another feature of this section is the ability to decide which ratings can determine whether or not your child can download content. For example, you can choose to block Explicit songs in the iTunes store or only allow apps with a content rating for a certain age range.
Most children like to use their phones for games, so the setting at the bottom of the Restrictions page may come in handy. There are 2 settings here for Game Center: Multiplayer Games and Adding Friends. If you turn these features off, your children will not be able to connect with other players and potentially dangerous strangers.
For more info, see this article – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304
2. Use the built-in iOS Guided Access
(This option is best used for children who do not have their own device. This is for parents who just let their children borrow their device to play games, etc.)
This is most practical for parents who want to control their child’s use while borrowing a device. For example, they ask to play a certain game on your phone and you want to make sure that’s all they have access to. To use this feature, you will navigate to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Guided Access. (It’s toward the bottom of the page.)
Once you toggle this setting to On, you will see the different options for this setting. First, you can set a passcode. If your child attempts to leave the app you want them on, they will need to enter that passcode. Next, you can set time limits. So, if you only want them to have access for a certain amount of time, you can set an alarm here.
Now that you have it on and set up how you would like, you use it by pressing the home button 3 times once you have the app opened that you want to give access to. When you do this, you can either go ahead and press “Start” or as it says at the bottom, first circle the part of the app you don’t want to allow access to. An example of this would be letting them browse Instagram, but circling the button that posts a picture so that feature is blocked. Once you press “Start”, you simply enter your passcode and it’s ready to be used. Pretty cool.
3. Be aware of location settings.
If you’re child has an iPhone, it is extremely important that you understand location settings. Especially if they are using Instagram, Facebook, and other social media.
**It is important to mention that these settings can be set up in the Restrictions section (point #1). From there, you can choose the options you want and then choose “Don’t Allow Changes” so that your child can’t change the security settings you set up.**
I’ll first discuss the location settings of apps. To see which apps are using location go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. This will show you a list of apps that have requested access to the phone’s location and whether or not it is allowed. You can change the access for any app here.
Since Instagram is becoming increasingly popular with children, I will use this as an example. The location options for Instagram are “Never” and “While Using the App”. If it is set to “While Using the App”, the location of where your child is when they are posting a picture on Instagram is shared with everyone (if their profile is public) or all of their friends (if their profile is private).
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: If your child has an Instagram, please make sure it is private. There are too many dangerous strangers on that app and simply changing the profile to private can make a huge difference in your child’s online safety. (It’s as easy as pressing the Settings icon and toggling the option “Private Account” to On.)
Now I will switch to discussing a different part of the location settings. The iPhone itself has location settings that you need to be aware of. An iPhone can track where you have been, when you were there, and for exactly how long – down to the minute. And most people have no idea how to change this setting, but I will explain that now. You will need to go to Settings -> Location Services -> System Services (all the way at the bottom) -> Frequent Locations. This may actually scare you a little if you have never seen it before, but just toggle it to “Off” and there will be no need to worry.
4. Check out this downloadable app – OurPact
If those 2 options aren’t enough, you can look into an app called OurPact. This may be helpful if you don’t want to set up each of your children’s phone individually. This app allows you to manage several devices from your own phone. Some features include setting time limits, blocking Internet access, blocking social media, and more! It’s feature-rich and could be used in several different ways. One practical use would be blocking phone access during dinner so the family can focus on each other. You can read about all of the features and download the app on their website – http://ourpact.com/
The easiest way to control your child’s access is to simply purchase them a phone that is not a smartphone. However, if they do have an iPhone, hopefully these tips will help! If you have any questions about this or know of another way to protect your children from dangerous iPhone apps, send us a message via our contact form below and we’ll get in touch ASAP.