How to Setup Parental Controls on an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone

A young child using an iPad.
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Just about every kid on the planet seems to have an iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone. If they don't have one, chances are that they are borrowing yours and getting their greasy little paw prints all over its screen.

As parents, we usually consider these devices nothing more than game systems or music players. We grew up in an era when a CD player was just a CD player. We don't often contemplate the fact that these little glossy iGadgets are basically the digital equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. They have a full-fledged internet browser, video player, Wi-Fi connection, camera, and an app for almost anything you could imagine. Oh yeah, and they play music too (like MTV used to).

What's a parent to do? How do we prevent little Johnny from purchasing every app in the app store on our credit card, visiting raunchy websites, and renting bad/scary/tasteless movies?

Luckily, Apple had the foresight to add a fairly robust set of parental controls to the iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone.

Here's the quick and dirty on how to set up parental controls on your child's iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Kids are pretty smart and may figure out a way around many of these settings, but at least you did your best to try and thwart the little schemers.

Enable Restrictions

All of the parental controls rely on you to enable restrictions and enter a PIN number that you keep secret.

To enable restrictions, touch the settings icon on your iOS device, choose "General", and then touch "Restrictions".

On the "Restrictions" page, choose "Enable Restrictions". You will now be prompted to set a PIN number that you will need to remember and keep from your kids. This PIN number will be used for any future changes you want to make to the restrictions that you have set.

Consider Disabling Safari and Other Apps

Under the "Allow" section of the restrictions page, you can choose whether you want your child to be able to access certain apps such as Safari (web browser), Youtube, FaceTime (video chat), and several other of Apple's built-in apps. If you don't want your child to have access to these apps, set the switches to the "OFF" positions. You can also disable the location reporting feature to prevent your child from publishing their current location in apps like Facebook.

Set Content Limits

Much like the V-Chip feature in most modern TVs, Apple allows you to set limits on what type of content you want your child to have access to. You can set the permitted viewable movie ratings by placing a check next to the highest rating level you want them to see (i.e. G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17). You can also set levels for TV content (TV-Y, TV-PG, TV-14, etc) and the same goes for apps and music.

To change the permitted content levels, select "Music & Podcasts", "Movies", "TV Shows", or "Apps" in the "Allowed Content" section and choose the levels you wish to allow.

Disable "Installing Apps"

While some of us love fart machine apps, they are not for everyone. No one wants to be sitting in an important meeting and have the "scheduled fart" go off that Little Johnny setup when he installed the Super Ultra Fart Machine app on their iPhone the night before. You can prevent this by setting the "Installing Apps" feature to the "OFF" position. You can still install apps, you'll just need to enter your PIN number before doing so.

Disable In-app Purchases

Many apps allow in-app purchases where virtual goods can be bought with real-world money. Little Johnny may or may not realize that he's actually causing your bank account to be charged for the "Mighty Eagle" he just bought while in the Angry Birds App. If you disable in-app purchasing you can at least breathe a sigh of relief that your child won't go on a bird buying shopping spree on your dime.

Kids are very tech savvy and will probably find a way to get around these restrictions. The fact that the restriction PIN is only 4 digits long doesn't help either. It's only a matter of time before they guess the right one, but at least you've done your best to try and keep them safe. Maybe they'll thank you one day when they have kids of their own.