Posts Tagged Restrictions

iOS Is Falling Behind For Family Users

With the announcement of iOS 7 came plenty of expectations and hopes. While some were realized (hello better multitasking and improved notification center), I think one very important area has been overlooked: the family market.

I don’t have kids of my own but I’ve heard the woes of many friends of mine that do. Apple just isn’t cutting it for them. This is an area where Android is currently ahead and it’s something that I was really hoping that iOS 7 would catch up on.

ios7Take a look at the latest Android update, Jelly Bean. In one deft move known as restricted profiles, it’s covered a lot of ground for the family user. Owners of Android tablets can now set up profiles for everyone in the household. Want to keep the kids away from using specific apps or viewing mature content? Just want to split up everyone’s high scores? It’s possible through setting up their own profile, without leaving everyone else using the tablet to suffer from such restrictions. It’s not perfect, given that developers have to allow their users to be able to restrict such things, but it is a major step forward.

iOS does have one significant advantage here in that users have total control over app-related permissions, but its restrictions tab is really pretty, well, restricted. Without the option for multiple profiles, users can hand over their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad but they need to turn restrictions on or off each time. Multiple profiles are just so much simpler and require less maintenance, plus there’s the advantage that everyone has their own workspace to deal with rather than the clutter that comes from using one device across an entire family. I know a few families that struggle with the finer details of things like restrictions. If it was just a matter of setting up profiles, I could easily do it for them and they’d be set up for the future. Even better, such profiles would ensure that each member of the family felt like they had some kind of ownership over the device. Something in particular that kids get a real kick out of from technology.

While we prefer to not cover rumors at 148apps, there is an significant one that could relate to this issue: the prospect of a fingerprint sensor built into the iPhone 5S. There’s no guaranteed proof as of yet, and we’ll have to see what’s fully announced in September, but this could pave the way to multiple profiles.

For now though, parents are stuck with the option of using separate apps such as Disconnect Kids rather than a simpler, more comprehensive, built-in solution. However, the potential is great if the fingerprint reader comes to fruition. And if it doesn’t? Well, families may find themselves even more tempted towards an Android tablet purchase, and who can blame them.


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In-app purchases, especially in regard to kids making them (often accidentally), remains a hot topic. Apple is poised to launch new restrictions on some apps that offer them, but for parents, it is important to know how to keep accounts secure by restricting in-app purchases.

Restrictions

Apple’s built-in parental controls, available in the Settings app under General then Restrictions, contain options for restricting in-app purchases.

HowToIAP-Restrictions

The first of the two settings that you will want to consider is the In-App Purchases toggle, which will allow you to disable them entirely. Apps will either report that IAP is disabled or that the app is not connected to the internet.

HowToIAP-Disconnected

As well, you can require Require Password immediately, which will make any new purchase from the App Store, in-app or otherwise, require the user’s password to be immediately re-entered. This way, you can make a one-time purchase without future ones being automatically approved.

Now, there’s not necessarily an easy way to disable these restrictions temporarily without going back in to the Restrictions menu and temporarily re-enabling them. As well, disabling Restrictions entirely will reset all settings. So, for someone loaning their device to their kids, it’s not the best solution.

Separate iTunes account with gift cards only

One other solution is to create a separate iTunes account that’s funded only by gift cards. Normally iTunes accounts must be tied to a credit card, but there is a way to create one that isn’t tied to a form of payment.

The trick is similar to creating an account in a different country. Go to the iTunes Store on your computer and log out of your current account. Go to download a free app. Choose to register an account and complete the process. When you put in your billing information, None should be the selected option, only available by trying to download a free app.  You now have an account that doesn’t have a credit card tied to it. You can redeem gift cards on to this account to provide credit for IAP and buying apps without needing to be connected to an alternate form of payment. This is perfect for kids’ accounts.

HowToIAP-NoPaymentMethod

To switch between accounts on the device itself, just scroll to the bottom of the App Store, tap on your account, and choose to Sign Out. Then the next user can sign in either through that same prompt or when going to download an app and/or make a payment. I recommend disabling automatic downloads – sometimes Apple will force an Apple ID to remain logged in to a device with them enabled.

Hopefully these tips make controlling in-app purchases much easier. Apple could still do a lot to make them less of a hassle for users who share devices, but in the absence of such mechanisms (or apps that target kids with expensive purchases), it’s up to parents to be educated about the features of the advanced technology they want their kids to enjoy and benefit from.

A little-known feature of iOS is parental controls, known as Restrictions. With this feature, it’s possible to set an iOS device to block off certain functions, secured by 4-digit passcode.

Why use Restrictions? This is not just because of the potential for minors to view content that is not appropriate for their age. This is also because of the rise of free-to-play games. Many of these games have expensive in-app purchases, and children who may have access to a credit card connected to an iTunes account may wind up buying thousands of dollars of in-game items, not knowing they are spending real-world items.

So, let’s get started with enabling Restrictions on iOS. Screenshots below are from the iPad, but the steps are identical on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Open up Settings. Tap on General. Tap on Restrictions.

Tap on Enable Restrictions to pull up a password prompt. Enter a custom 4-digit code that will be used to access the Restrictions in the future. The device will prompt to re-enter this password when setting it.

The first section is for disabling certain system apps and features, including disabling installation and deletion of apps. Sadly, Stocks can’t be disabled on the iPhone/iPod touch using Restrictions.

Next is the Location Settings controls. This makes it possible to enable and disable location access on a per-app basis. As well, way at the bottom of this list is the System Services section. This makes it possible to disable some system functions that have access to location, and to be notified when a system service tries to access location.

Next are the content settings. This makes it possible to disable the playback of explicit music, to disallow movies of a certain MPAA rating, and to disallow TV shows with a certain rating. Note that only an upper limit can be set, despite it looking like certain ratings can be disabled – no way to make only TV-MA shows appear on iTunes!

Most importantly for those worried about in-app purchases, these can be disabled entirely. As well, it’s possible to make any iTunes purchases require that the password be put in immediately, instead of having the usual 15-minute period where it doesn’t need to be re-entered. As well, it’s possible to set restrictions on Game Center games, disabling multiplayer and the ability to add friends.

To disable restrictions, just tap the Disable Restrictions button at the top and enter the passcode set earlier.

Note that as of iOS 5.1, all Restrictions settings reset when they are disabled. As such, this is not a good a way to let little Billy or Billie play with mommy or daddy’s iPhone, but to set up a device that they can safely use without being able to view explicit content, spend money, or mess up important settings.

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