Just in case you’re wondering: there’s no app for that (at least on iOS)
Do you have children? Are you exposing them to long-term psychological damage because you let them have a go on your iPad? Are they likely to need therapy? You’re a bad person.
In case you’re in any doubt, The Telegraph revealed the shocking tell-tale symptoms of one four-year-old, relating that “she became increasingly “distressed and inconsolable” when the iPad was taken away from her.
Distressed and inconsolable eh? Mine felt the same way earlier today when I took away her orange juice with a fish finger in it, a pair of scissors, and the opportunity to rummage down her nappy for playthings. Seriously, she was well pissed off.
Still, the piece helpfully provided one answer: a 28-day ‘digital detox’ course, coming in at about £16k. Cue high-fives all round at the PR company of this private hospital, I imagine.
And then perhaps we’re getting all worked up about nothing? The chief chap at our favourite kids’ app company told The Guardian that “the notion of screen time is a flawed concept. All screens aren’t created equal! There’s a difference between watching television…or making something on an iPad.” Apparently.
Still, there’s no denying that an extended spell on the iPad frequently triggers bad moods, short tempers and epic-ants-in-pants for our 5 year-old. And even the 2-year-old gets a bit lippy if she doesn’t get her “Pee Pat” in the morning. (That’s Postman Pat, not some weird, urine-related ritual).
What to do, what to do? For six long months, I’ve chewed this over during the long lie-ins I enjoy while they’re engrossed in their games. Today, I resolved to get Cupertino’s finest on the case, and googled “parental controls for iPad”.
That was my first mistake. I’ll save you the bother: it turns out that Apple don’t see eye to eye with my parenting decisions, and possibly yours too. In descending order of likeability and usefulness, here’s what your iPad has to offer.
It’s SnapChat or nothing: I want to limit usage to one app
You’re in luck! Built for educational purposes, ‘Guided Access’ will lock down your iPad (or iPhone) to a single app, whereby even the home button won’t work until you triple-tap and put in a passcode (not the same one as you lock the device with, since I’d bet that is already ingrained in their muscle memory). Using the same feature you can also disable different bits of the screen, the volume and sleep buttons, and even turn off all touch functionality. To get it, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access (iOS7 only).
This is the holy grail for road trips, where in our experience small thumbs like to sit in that nice thumb-shaped indent, and whoever has the misfortune to be in the passenger seat will spend the entire journey reaching round and starting the app again. But as soon as they’re old enough to criticise your driving – at four years old in our case, when she started yelling ““Uh oh Daddy, big lorry” at busy junctions – this one-app solution is unlikely to wash.
I’d like to lock down certain functions, so that junior can’t post pics of his dinosaur being mounted by a giraffe to my LinkedIn profile
This looks pretty promising! Fire up Settings > General > Restrictions and there are more than 30 different options, all password protected. You can stop in-app purchases and prevent apps being deleted – both invaluable on their own – and also disable the camera, turn off Facebook and many more besides.
But the implementation of this is so half-arsed it’s nearly laughable. Want to restrict access to a bunch of kids’ apps? Forget it. Want to disable web browsing in anything other than Safari? Nope. Not wildly keen on the idea of resetting every option individually each time you turn off the restrictions for your own usage, and then turn them back on again? Suck it up. You should’ve bought a Hudl from Tesco.
I’d like my child to explore the wonders of the internet, but steer clear of the mucky stuff.
Yep, you’re covered. The App Store is chocka with custom browsers that offer filtered internet, from names you’ve heard of such as AVG to countless others. Combine that with guided access above, and you potentially have a homework-friendly solution for an older child. But there’s no way I’ll be using the same browser – how would I get to see the pretty ladies? Theoretically speaking, of course. It doesn’t help limit time spent online, and arguably the joy of an iPad lies in countless native apps, not necessarily through a browser.
It’s 6am. I’d like to thrust my iPad at my child through bleary eyes, safe in the knowledge that after 20 minutes, it will no longer function until I reset it.
Fail. On something so simple, so useful, it’s a miserable, horrible fail. Sure, there are apps that say they’ll do something like that, but we’re not linking to them because they’re awful. They’re all trying to work around the impossible, namely that Apple won’t let one app control the others. So they use tricks like notifications and an alarm that sounds at two-second intervals over the top of another given app, or try to suck kids into a series of rewards and swaps based on time spent. (If we’re wrong, and you’ve actually found a decent one, tell us in the comments). In short, suck it up. You should’ve bought a Hudl from Tesco.
Now if you haven’t already, you might be suggesting that we get off our arses and do some proper parenting. Set some ground rules, demand compliance, then reduce their Haribo allowance if they transgress. And that’s fair enough, except that I honestly think that after a few tears and tantrums, the third option above would be the best: it depersonalises the issue, and we’ve found that ‘systems’ like that are quickly accepted so we can get on with the fun stuff. Of course we’ll never find out. Unless we buy a Hudl from Tesco.
In the meantime, until Apple pulls its finger out – and that’s an odd image, I grant you – we will most likely resort to an egg timer and instructions bawled from under the duvet, destined to be ignored and resented in equal measure. But I know what I want for my birthday.
Android device owners: this feature came with a complimentary ‘feel-good factor’, since it was mostly bad news and none of it applied to you because there are bazillions of great options in the Google Play Store, just search ‘parental controls’. You’re welcome.
If you’ve found a better solution for your iDevice, put us on the straight and narrow in the comments below.