Must-Dos Before Giving Kids an iPod Touch or iPhone

Take these steps to keep your kids—and your wallet—safe

With its great multimedia, gaming, and Internet features, the iPhone and iPod touch are loved by kids and teens the world over—and many ask for one as a present for holidays or birthdays. Parents want to oblige but may also have some concerns about giving their kids unsupervised access to the Internet. If you're in that situation, this article offers 14 steps to take before giving your child an iPod touch or iPhone.

Create an Apple ID for Your Kids

Kid playing with iPhone
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The iPod touch and iPhone require an Apple ID (aka an iTunes account) for set up and to allow the user to download music, movies, apps, or other content from the iTunes Store. The Apple ID is also used for features like iMessage, FaceTime, and Find My iPhone. You'll probably want your child to have their own account to ensure that purchases don't get billed to your account.

If your child has their own computer, you can set the account up there and leave them logged in. If your family shares one computer, you can set it up there, too. Just remember that each person should log out of their Apple ID when they're done.

Set Up Your iPod touch or iPhone

With the iTunes account created, you'll want to set up the device.

If you're setting the device up on a shared family computer, there are a few settings to take note of. In the Info tab, you'll want to make sure to only sync an address book specific to your child (rather than, say, all of your business contacts), a calendar specific to your child, and be sure not to sync your email accounts to the device to prevent them from reading or replying to your email.

If your child has their own email account, you can sync it (or create one for them to sync).

Set a Passcode to Protect the Device

iPhone passcode

A passcode is a great way to protect an iPod touch or iPhone. It's a security code that you or your child will have to enter every time you want to use the device. You'll want one of these in place in case your kid loses the device—you wouldn't want a stranger to get access to any family information (more on dealing with a lost or stolen device in the next step).

Make sure to use a passcode that both you and your child can remember. It's possible to reset an iPod touch with a lost passcode, but why put yourself in a situation to need to do that?

If you're giving an iPhone, you can use Touch ID for an added layer of security.

Configure Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone app
The Find My iPhone app in action.

If your child loses their iPod touch or iPhone, or has it stolen, you're not necessarily going to be forced to buy a new one—not if you've got Find My iPhone, that is. Find My iPhone (which also works for the iPod touch and iPad) is a web-based service from Apple that uses the built-in Location Services features of the devices to help you track the lost device. You can also lock the device remotely or delete all its data over the Internet.

Learn how to use Find My iPhone in this article.

Set Up Family Sharing

family using devices
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Family Sharing is a way for everyone in a family to be able to access each other's iTunes and App Store purchases without having to pay a second time. For example, let's say you buy an ebook on your iPhone and your kids want to read it. With Family Sharing enabled, your kids simply go into the Purchases section of iBooks and can download the book for free. This is a great way to save money and make sure everyone has the same content and apps. You can also hide more mature purchases so they're not available to your kids.

Install New Apps

how to delete iphone apps
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There are two kinds of apps you may want to install on your child's iOS device: those for fun and for safety.

The App Store is full of terrific, versatile programs: from great recipes to managing fantasy sports teams, from discovering new music to keeping up with the news. There are tons of great games and what your teen might be most interested in: free texting apps. You don't have to install apps, but there may be educational or useful apps (or games!) you want them to have.

Additionally, there are a number of apps that can monitor your child's use of the Internet and block them from accessing adult and other inappropriate sites. These apps tend to have both upfront and service fees attached to them, but you may find them valuable.

Set Restrictions on Mature Content

ad blocking
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Apple has built tools into the iOS—the operating system used by the iPod touch and iPhone—to let parents control content and apps their children can access. Use the Content Restrictions to protect your kids from inappropriate content and from doing things like having video chats (innocent enough with friends, but certainly not with strangers). Be sure to use a different passcode than the one used in step 3.

If your child has their own computer, you may also want to consider using the Parental Controls built into iTunes also to prevent them from accessing mature material at the iTunes Store.

Consider a Family Subscription to Apple Music

sign up for apple music, step 1

Your entire can family can enjoy unlimited music for just US$15/month if you sign up for Apple Music. With it, you can stream virtually any of the 30 million songs in the iTunes Store and even save them to your device. This makes for a great way to provide a ton of music to your kids without spending a ton. And, since up to 6 people can share a family subscription, you're getting a great deal.

Set Up an iTunes Allowance

set up itunes allowance

Want your child to be able to buy music, apps, TV, books, and movies from iTunes without breaking your budget? Create an iTunes Allowance for them. This lets you give them a pre-defined amount of money (from US$10 to $50) every month to spend at the iTunes Store. This way, they can enjoy new music, apps, and other entertainment, while you can plan for the cost. Create an Apple ID for them to make sure they only spend the amount of the allowance.

Get a Protective Case

Ultra Silke R Series iPhone 4 case
image copyright SGP Corp

Kids have a habit of treating things roughly, to say nothing of dropping things. With a device as expensive as an iPod touch or iPhone, you don't want that habit to lead to a broken present. Buying a good protective case won't prevent your child from dropping their iPod touch, but it may protect the touch from damage.

Get a Screen Protector

BodyGuardz Screen Protector
image credit Bodyguardz

Most cases don't protect the iPod touch's screen. Buying a screen protector can prevent scratches, cracks, and other damage. A package of a couple of screen protectors tends to run $10-$15, well worth it to keep the iPod or iPhone in good condition.

Consider an Extended Warranty

AppleCare +
AppleCare +. image credit: Apple

While the standard iPod warranty is decent, with the iPod touch or iPhone in the hands of a child, more damage than normal may be in the offing. One way to deal with that, and save money while doing it, is to purchase an extended warranty from Apple. Called AppleCare, the extended warranty generally costs less than $100 and extends full repair coverage and technical support for two years.

An extended warranty isn't a requirement, but if your child tends to break things, it might be a good idea.

Learn About Hearing Damage

woman listening to ipod with headphones
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You'll want to learn about how use of the iPod touch and iPhone can damage your child's hearing and discuss this with them. Not all uses are dangerous, of course, so you'll want to pick up some tips and stress the importance of following them to your child, especially since their hearing is probably still developing.

Don't Buy Insurance

Broken iPhone
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If you're already thinking about buying an extended warranty, getting phone insurance instead might seem like a good idea (especially since phone companies push the idea and just add the cost to your monthly bill). Don't buy phone insurance.

The deductibles for some insurance plans are as much as a new phone, and many insurance companies replace your new phone with a used one without telling you. Readers of this site have also reported dozens and dozens of instances of poor customer service from their companies.

Phone insurance may seem tempting, but it's a wasted expense that will only frustrate you in the long run.

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