Parental Controls

Buying an iPad for a Child

As a parent of 3 and being the tech geek that I am, the topic of managing technology with children is one I have a bit of experience with. Since I've been through this a time or two with my own children I thought I would share my experieniences. Kids and technology are often a great combination, but there are some very obvious things to consider. I am going to share my thoughts and experiences on a few of the more common decisions you have to make as a parent when managing an iPad with a child:

  1. Purchasing Options
  2. Cases and Screen Protectors
  3. Device Management

Purchasing Options

I am a big proponent of our purchasing Apple prouducts from Apple's own refurbished section of their online store. Most people aren't even aware Apple sells refurbished products. Why buy refurbished? Two main reasons. First, you do get a discount on the product which is always a plus. But the main reason to buy refurbished is the extra quality assurance checks that is done on a refurbished item as opposed to a new product. Brand new products have quality assurance (hardware checks), but only a small sub-set of the products on the assembly line are pulled and tested. In the case of a refurbished item, some or all of the internal components are slightly used and all of the external surfaces (case, screen, etc...) are new. In order to ensure the newly refurbished prouduct is good enough to be sold as an Apple refurbished product on the their website, Apple tests every one of their refurbished products. This is a big plus because it reduces the likelihood that you have a bad component just waiting to die 1 year and 1 day after purchase (just outside of warranty). Also, Apple refurbished products have the same warranty and are eligible for the same extended warranty options that new products are. Yet, despite all of this I still don't recommend buying an iPad for a child directly from Apple.

It's all about warranty and accidental damage protection when it comes to electronics and kids and Apple doesn't have the most cost effective kid friendly warranty...Walmart does. I have purchased (actually my kids paid for their own iPads, I simply made the purchase for them) both of my kids iPad minis from Walmart and purchased the extended protection plan from Walmart. The Walmart protection plan adds another 2 years of protection on to the existing 1-year Apple warranty on the iPad, but it adds the all important accidental damage coverage. If you accidentally damage your device Walmart will repair or replace the device with no additional cost to you. Apple does have a similar coverage plan, Apple Care+, but it is more expensive to purchase and you have to pay a deductible for each repair or replacement and are limited to 2 over the life of the product. So assuming just one replacement or repair ove the lifetime of the product you the Walmart coverage is cheaper than Apple Care+. If I were buying an iPad for myself and wanted to buy extended coverage I would purchase from Apple, but my budget isn't nearly as tight as that of my children (especially when they are the ones saving up for the iPad). $50-$100 makes a big difference in how long it takes them to save up for the iPad, and that amount of savings is worth the extra hassle you have to deal with when getting a damaged device serviced through Walmart. It can take up to 2 weeks to get your device back from Walmart, while with Apple you can generally get a replacement device the same day if you walk into an Apple store. Again, it's a matter of what you are willing to pay for. Best Buy also offers their own protection plans against accidental damage, but theirs is not as cost effective as Walmart's. Earlier this year I got the "privlidge" of getting to use the Walmart warrenty on my daughter's iPad Mini. She had her mini in a case with a screen protector, but that still wasn't enough. Her ipad fell off the bed and the screen hit the edge of a metal step stool and that was the end of the screen. Unless she had some kind of clamshell case and the case was closed there was nothing that was going to protect her iPad from its ultimate demise in this instance. So I called up the Walmat warrenty center and they had me mail in the iPad for repair. It took about 10 days and I got the same iPad back with a brand new screen.

iPad Cases For Kids

This is where the decision becomes a lot more difficult...what case to buy? This is something only you can decide. It is going to depend on the resposibility level of your child and how often the iPad is going to be taken outside the home. I personally like carrying around my iPad Air with just a screen protector and a "carbon fiber like" skin to protect from surface scratching and to give the iPad a little more grip. But for a child you are probably going to want more protection than that. Is your child going to want an external keyboard? If so, there are some excellent cases that have keyboards built-in. Both my wife and I (I used to have but don't anymore) have used the TwelveSouth BookBook case and while they are pretty exepnsive they are very durable, hide the fact that you are carrying an iPad and look better the more they are used. For my 9 year old I went with a very inexpensive rubberized case by i-Blason, the ArmorBox Series 2.

The iBlason ArmorBox Series 2 iPad Mini case

The iBlason ArmorBox Series 2 iPad Mini case

She has owned this case for about 2 years now and just recently the plastic knobs that hold the kickstand in place have broken (not bad considering the amount of use). This is the case she had when the screen was borken, but again given how the device fell there was no protecting it. She had dropped her iPad many, many times and this case has provided excellent drop protection. It is a little bulky, but for younger kids the extra bulk and grip actully makes it easier to hold. Another thing to look for is the "Made for iPad" marking, also known as [MFi][mfi]. This means the manufacturer had tested the product and it meets the minimum standards set forth by Apple. In the case of iPhone cases, this means the case will protect the device from a 1-meter fall on to a hard surface.

Device Management

When my kids were younger I locked down their i-devices. The Safari web browser was not available, they could only email people that were in their contact lists and the App Store app was not on their device. However, now that they are older I have relaxed most of the restrictions on their devices. They are now able to surf the web because I am using Open DNS. Katie Floyd from the Mac Power Users Podcast has an excellent screencast on how to setup this very powerful and free service that will protect all internet users in your house from porn and other dangerous sites.

Since it has been a while since I have setup and used much of the iOS parental controls I am going to point you to another site to use as a guide. iMore has a great article that walks you through all the various options within parental controls and how to set them up. I will say that I have been quite disappointed with Apple's parental controls on iOS. Parental controls on the Mac are much more useful. What is missing on iOS is the ability to setup time limits. My son has an iMac and I am able to configure the iMac so he only has the ability to play games for a certain amount of time on weekdays and a different amount of time on weekends. I can also restrict the time of day he can access the machine. I then setup a seperate account on his iMac that allows him to play internet radio (he likes to listen to music just before he goes to bed), but he can do nothing else on that account. I then setup a 3rd accound on his iMac that gives him unlimted time (within the time of day restictions I have set) to do things like read and access educational content on the internet). I do not have options like this for iOS devices, but Amazon allows these kind of restrictions on their Kindle devices. I woud really like to see Apple step it up and give us parents more options for managing these devices for our children. In the mean time I guess we will have to do it the old-fashioned being parents and paying close attention to what our kids are doing with these devices.

iOS devices are great devices for kids, but they must be protected (both the kids and the devices) and use of the devices must be managed by an adult. Just like anything in this world too much of a good thing can be bad. There is no single piece of advice I can give you because every child and situation is a little bit different, but hopefully this article gave you a few things to think about. Good luck and have fun with your kids using these great devices!

Giving an Old iPhone to a Child

A friend recently asked me about using one of their old iPhones as a gaming device for their child. This has become a rather popular thing to do...get the most out of that old device you paid an arm and a leg for! However, this may not always be the best option.

Re-Purpose or Re-Sell

You really have two options when considering what to do with an old iPhone that you have just replaced with a newer phone. Most people assume it is more cost efficient to just hand down the old phone as a gaming device to their child rather than deal with the hassle and fees associated with selling the device. However, there are a few things you should ask yourself:

  • How old is your iPhone? Is it out of warranty?
  • Will the device ever be used as a phone or to make emergency phone calls?
  • How likely is the device to be dropped and damaged?
  • Will the device be used often in public (target for theft)?

In most cases you are actually going to be ahead to sell your old iPhone and buy a new or Apple refurbished iPod Touch if your intention is to just re-purpose your old iPhone as a gaming device. Most likely your iPhone is out of warranty and if you buy a new or refurbished iPod touch you get another full year of coverage plus the option to buy an extended warranty and/or Apple Care+. The nice thing about Apple Care+ is that you get accidental damage protection, so for a small fee ($29 charge for each accidental damage repair or replacement) you can get the device repaired or replaced even when the damage is your fault (i.e. my child wanted to take the iPod touch in the bath tub with him or wanted to see what happened when she put it in the microwave)...that last one actually happened to us! it is always good to have a warranty. Deciding whether to purchase an extended warranty is something only you can decide. With my kids they ended up saving up their money and buying iPad Minis and since this was before Apple came out with Apple Care+ I opted to buy the devices from Walmart and get their warranty which covered accidental damage. Now that Apple has Apple Care+ I would opt to buy from the Apple Refurbished Store online and buy Apple Care+. Ultimately you must decide what makes the most sense for you. If having a $100-$200 repair crop up from out of the blue isn't a big deal then you are probably better off taking your chances without a warranty. In my case, I wanted my kids to take some responsibility for their devices and made them purchase the extended warranty so that damage to device was their responsibility and not mine.

In addition to the benefit of having a newer device with a warranty the iPod Touch has the additional advantage of being less of a target for theft. The iPhone is a larger target for thieves because there is a bigger demand for smart phones as compared to iPod Touches. The iPod Touch is also a lighter device with less components internally than the iPhone (less things to break).

Bottom line...I really think that unless you intend to use the functionality of the phone either right away or some time in the future, you are better off selling your old iPhone and using the money to buy an iPod Touch.

Selling Your Old iPhone

There are two main options when it comes to selling your old iPhone:

  1. Sell it yourself to an individual
  2. Sell it to a 3rd party reseller

There is no doubt that if you want to make the most money, selling it directly to an individual is the way to go. However, you need to keep in mind the time and effort it takes to do this and the fees involved. In many cases you aren't all that much ahead when you sell it yourself. My advice would be this. If you have sold things online before and are comfortable doing it then sell it online (eBay or Amazon). Otherwise, use a 3rd party reseller like Gazelle. The beauty in using a service like Gazelle is that it only takes 2 or 3 minutes to fill out the information online and you are done. In most cases they will even send you a box to ship out your device in. Services like Gazelle really take all of the stress and hassle out of selling your old device. I have used all 3 of the options I just listed above to sell iOS devices (eBay, Amazon and Gazelle). I have been selling items online for a very long time, but even with my comfort level with selling online I have found that sometimes it is worth the convenience to just let a service like Gazelle take care of it for you (especially if your device is in less than perfect condition and you don't want to have to worry about dealing with an unhappy buyer) I keep using Gazelle as an example, but there are several other services like Gazelle out there. I just don't want to mention a service I haven't used and since I have used Gazelle several times with great success I can fully recommend using the service. in case you don't know how a service like Gazelle works, these are the steps involved:

  1. Create an account on their website
  2. Select the device you want to sell to them
  3. Select the condition of the device you are selling (Is it fully functional? Any scratches or dings?)
  4. Select all the accessories that you still have and are selling with the device
  5. Select whether you have your own box or would like them to send you one to use to mail the device to them
  6. They then make you an offer for your device that you can either accept or decline
  7. If you accept, you can either print out a pre-paid shipping label or they send you a box that has a pre-paid shipping label
  8. You anxiously wait for them to receive your device and confirm the condition is what you claimed it was. Sometimes they will determine the device is in better condition than what you claimed and will give you more money and sometimes it is the other way around. In either case you have the option to back out and have the device sent back to you.

One more note on selling your old iPhone. If it is running iOS 7 then it has most likely has Activation Lock enabled. Read my blog post about how to remove Activation Lock before selling your device. If you are using a service like Gazelle they will also walk you through how to remove Activation Lock from your device.

Buying an iPod Touch

One of the biggest secrets in the Apple community is the Apple Refurbished Store within Apple's online store. I'm not sure why more people don't know about this and take advantage of the lower prices. Maybe it's because people are apprehensive about buying something that is "used". Let me explain what "Apple Refurbished" means. When you buy an Apple Refurbished device you are buying a device that has lightly used internal components with a brand new external case. So you get the the same brand new looking device on the outside,but what about the used portions on the inside? This is where people think that buying refurbished is a disadvantage. It really isn't. You see, when you buy a brand new device the odds are that the device you just bought has never been thoroughly tested (probably just turned on to ensure that it functions). Only a very small percentage of new devices are pulled from the assembly line and put through a full series of testing. That isn't the case with Apple Refurbished devices. Every Apple Refurbished device is fully tested to ensure that the used components are functioning properly. If you opt to not get an extended warranty with your devices this is a really big deal. By testing out a device before shipping Apple is able to weed out any devices with any signs of issues, making it much less likely for your device to have problems both while it is under warranty and after the warranty expires. Also, when you buy Apple Refurbished you have the option to buy Apple Care and Apple Care+ just like you do with a brand new device. In my opinion there really is no down side to buying Apple Refurbished.

Tips For Your New Device

Now that you have taken my advice and purchased a new or refurbished iPod Touch with the proceeds from your old iPhone there are a few things I recommend you do with that device when setting it up:

  1. Register your device with Apple when prompted during the setup
  2. When prompted during the setup, opt to turn on "Find My iPhone". When you turn on "Find my iPhone" on a device running iOS 7 you are also enabling [Activation Lock][Lock]. Activation Lock essentially makes it a useless device for a would-be thief. If you don't already have an Apple ID then sign up for one if only for the Activation Lock and Find My iPhone features.
  3. Install the free Apple iOS App "Find my Friends" on your other iOS device, or if you don't have one bookmark website so you can quickly logon and find your new iPod Touch should it or your child become lost.
  4. Enable parental controls on the device, especially the option within parental controls to disable In-App purchases.
  5. Consider using Open DNS on your home internet network. It is a free service that blocks all internet traffic in your house from accessing certain types of websites and content. This is a great service if you have older kids that need to be able to browse the web but you don't want them accidentally or intentionally viewing something they shouldn't be viewing. If you have a younger child that doesn't need access to a web browser just simply deactivate Safari within the Parental Controls.
  6. Turn on the option to backup the device to iCloud. You get 5 Gb of free storage with your free iCloud account so use it.
  7. In addition to backing up to iCloud, setup a regular reminder (once a month or so) to physically connect the device to your computer and back it up through iTunes. If something goes wrong with your iCloud backup or it suddenly stops backing up to iCloud then having a local backup on your computer can be a real life saver!

And I thought this was going to be a really short post...

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