I have a daughter that’s 14 and a son that’s 11. They both have iPhones. My son used to have an iPod and we were fine with that. Eventually though the battery was almost useless, it was third gen so couldn’t get the iOS 7 update, and the new iPods are like 3 years old. We gave him an old 4S since we wanted him to have a phone anyway since he walks to and from school. Regardless, these issues are the same on any iOS device.
Why are there no meaningful parental controls on these devices? Here’s a base list of functionality that would be a Godsend to every single parent I’ve spoken with.
- Give parents the ability to limit the amount of time spent playing games and/or using a specific app. Let me specify that you can spend 2 hours a day playing games but after that, you’re done for the day. You can text, take pictures, make calls, but no more games. (Let me whitelist an app that might be a game but may also be educational. I don’t care how many hours he spends playing a game that teaches math skills.)
- Give parents the ability to limit the amount of time spent in social media apps. (I may not want my daughter spending 4 hours a day on Instagram.)
- Give parents the ability to monitor usage. Texts, email, internet history, social media usage, contacts, pictures, etc. We need to know what sort of conversations my kids are having since it’s easy for them to delete them.
- Give parents the ability to monitor how much time they’re spending in all of their apps. Truthfully I would probably like to know that for my own phone. You can show me battery life for the apps, but not time? Lame.
- Give parents the ability to specify time limits. (At 10pm M-F, you can’t use your phone since you should be sleeping.) Allowing me to remotely institute a lockdown procedure would be pretty nice as well. Letting the kids send a request for an exemption like they can do with a request to buy an app would be great as well.
- Give parents the ability to specify a list of contacts that can be contacted while the phone is in emergency mode. Simply letting them call 911 is not sufficient. As a parent I may want to change the passcode on your phone but I still want you to have it with you and I want you to be able to contact us if needed.
- Give parents the ability to set a parental passcode in the phone so we can unlock it. A kid can change their pass code and simply not give you the new one. There’s no technological fix for this other than wiping the phone. We should always be able to get into the phone using a secondary passcode. Perhaps easiest yet, give parents the option to prevent pass code changes!
- Give parents the ability to blacklist apps from their phones that I may have purchased or installed under my account. With family sharing, they can now download apps that I might not want them to have. (Snapchat, Yik-Yak, etc.)
Seriously, does nobody at Apple have kids? Are my wife and I awful parents that are just not handling these issues well? Or are the people at Apple just clueless that this is an issue which they could address? Maybe none of the people that are responsible for iOS have kids that use their devices yet? Craig Federighi ? Jonathan Ive? Tim Cook? Or maybe the kids use Android?
Obviously we could simply take away their phones or switch them back to dumb phones. (That might happen to one of the kids.) We’re not the type of parents that let their kids play video games or watch TV for hours and hours on end. My son only got an Xbox 360 for Christmas this past year and he’s 11. (Apparently he was the last 11 year old boy on earth without one so I’m glad I got that fixed for Microsoft.) My son can’t have his phone is his room since it’s upstairs and we don’t know trust that he’s not playing games when he shouldn’t be. That’s a decent solution for when we’re here. Unfortunately yesterday my wife and I went out for the afternoon and left the kids at home. Despite having had a discussion about his phone usage yesterday morning wherein we discussed that we are considering removing all of his games from his phone, he spent several hours playing the new Minecraft release that came out this week. I didn’t know whether to sigh or scream.
Phones are multi-purpose devices. Phone calls, texting, email, pictures, reading, research, gaming, etc. From the perspective of the parents, it’s nice for the kids to have them. We like being able to get ahold of them and vice versa. I like giving them access to tools that can make their life more enjoyable. It would just be nice if the company that makes these awesome devices provided parents with some options to help us manage their usage.
As it is, I’m going to start looking at the Android parental control options and apps. I may be making the kids switch when they get new devices.