Recently Daddy Troy has posted a number of Apple product reviews on his show: Garageband, iPhoto, and the iPod touch. The latter inspired this post because, like Daddy Troy, I’ve been seeing more and more kids with these gadgets. On a recent multi-family outing, I saw kids as young as 3 playing simple games for the iPod Touch. In all honesty, the Touch may be the best game system for kids on the market because of the combination of music, video and gaming possibilities. We have both a Nintendo DSi and a 16G iPod Touch in our house, and the kids have used them about equally at this point. (I’ll do a head to head comparison soon.)
I have no problem with younger kids playing iPod Touch games, in moderation. Isn’t the fine motor skill involved better for a three year old than watching Teletubbies? What concerns me more, actually, are parents giving a Touch to an older kid. Bubba’s age — 10 years old and up. I worry that some parents may think of it as an iPod and not realize that the little gizmo is actually a powerful little computer, capable of surfing the web, shopping on the iTunes store, and sending and receiving emails.
Thankfully, Apple has been extremely thoughtful in designing the parental controls for this device.
Tap the Settings icon, then the General tab, then the Restrictions tab to get to the main parental control panel. Once there you’ll be prompted to set a four digit security code. The panel allows you to disable explicit downloads, the Safari browser, YouTube access, iTunes and the App store can be turned off as well. I have all of these in the off position. If the kid wants to shop for music or a new app, I will enable them temporarily and supervise. Turning the app store and iTunes off is a bit redundant, because the account on the Touch is mine and they don’t know that password. Truly tech savvy kids might be able to create their own accounts, but that’s for another post.
As with all iPods, you can also limit the maximum volume. This is REALLY important to do, especially if you are going to let younger kids use in-ear headphones (probably not a good idea to begin with, the speakers are adequate for the simple games).
Again from the home menu, tap the Settings button, then the music tab, then the Volume Limit tab. Again it prompts you to password protect this setting. I adjust the maximum down 25-35%. I’ve never had a kid complain that they can’t hear it.
I did enable email, and set up Bubba’s gmail account on the iPod Touch. I do wish that the iPod touch Mail had the same parental controls that the desktop does. On the computer, I have to approve all the email addresses he is allowed to communicate with. So I have to check the emails on the touch every so often if I want to supervise these communications.
Soon I’m going to do a post of creating iTunes accounts for kids — when and how — because I’m seeing DRM problems on the horizon as my son begins building his own music collection.
Do you have any thoughts on the iPod Touch for kids and the use of the parental controls?