These days you can do a ton of things with your iPhone and so can your teen, naturally. Teens are work-around experts at figuring out ways to leverage technology to communicate.
One night after a healthy round of arguing and sass talk my teen got herself grounded. At the time she happened to be on the computer using Facebook so my knee jerk reaction was to ground her from the computer and send her to her room. She reluctantly stomped upstairs and closed her door. After some time had passed and I felt I could go talk to her I decided to go upstairs and explain why I grounded her. However, about ten feet from the door I could hear voices coming out of her room. My first thought was that she sneaked the laptop upstairs and was Skyping with her friends. My blood pressure immediately spiked at the thought of such disobedience. After opening the door however I realized she was Skyping all right, but from her phone. Oh the naïve web I spin sometimes.
After this incident I started doing some research on parental controls for the iPhone. Our mobile contract was with AT&T so I checked with them and into their Smart Control features. AT&T’s smart control features allow a parent to limit things like the time when a teen can text, use the phone, upload/download apps and restrict certain types of content on the web. You can read more about AT&T’s Smart Controls here.
This seemed perfect however, I didn’t account for my teen using the iPhone from our wireless network at the house, which was a problem. So basically I could limit the use of the phone as long as she’s not connected to a wireless network.
Apple includes parental controls in iOS 3 and greater
I should have checked the basics first because as it turns out Apple includes basic parental controls in the operating system of the iPhone already. Here’s how to get to the parental controls in your teens iPhone;
· Touch on the “Settings” button.
· Next touch the “General” button.
· Swipe down until you see “Restrictions” and touch it.
· The restrictions service will ask you for a pass code. This allows you to set a password so only you can get back into the restrictions area. Go ahead and set a 4-digit pass code, but don’t forget it.
· Once you have set the pass code for restrictions you’ll see a list of services for the iPhone you can turn on or off.
· Setting the button to “off” will disable not only that service, but any service that uses it. For example, to video call you need a camera right? You get the idea.
Using iPhone parental controls is different from mobile spying on your teen. You can read more about mobile spying here. Mobile spying is meant to catch someone in the act of doing something they shouldn’t while the iPhone parental controls are more for restricting access to certain features of the phone.
When I first glanced at the options available on the iPhone I thought it was a little weak, however after playing with it I realized just how useful it was. I had mistaken simple for weak, but I was wrong. I disabled the camera first which then disabled face time. I fired up Skype from my iPhone and called my daughters iPhone for a video call to test it out. I was pleased to see that she wasn’t able to broadcast video as I expected after changing the restrictions. I could disable every feature that essentially made an iPhone an iPhone. I could combine this with the AT&T Smart Controls to only allow calls to and from limited phone numbers. Oh the digital power I now posses. (An evil laugh echoes in the distance.)
Why would I put restrictions on my teen’s iPhone?
· Allow you to control the more sensitive types of data that can be exchanged like “location” or other services that give our teen’s opportunities to get themselves in trouble like video calling.
· If you share an iTunes account with your teen to control purchases you can restrict downloads.
· You can limit installing and deleting apps.
· You can limit access to certain apps using a rating system. Apple’s app’s use a rating system of (4+, 9+, 12+, 17+ or Allow All Apps)
I like my teen having an iPhone honestly and it gives me comfort to know I can call her to check in her wherever she is or likewise she can contact us. However, having a phone period is a privilege along with any apps or services included on the phone. It’s comforting to know that I can limit some things while allowing others.