Blocking websites and adding restrictions to my kids iPads

Last Christmas, we bought both kids iPad minis. My husband set the up with backgrounds, apps, music and movies each kid would like before we wrapped them.

The kids were thrilled with their gift and quickly learned how to use them, including downloading new apps and watching YouTube.

Now when my husband said that he set them up, I assumed he had put safeguards and restrictions on them. Imagine my dismay when my mom reported to me that the video my 7-year-old mentioned the f-word.

A brief search online told me how to check/set-up restriction on their iPads (which I learned my husband hadn’t done.)

iPad-allow-changes_thumbYou basically got Settings -> Restrictions. It has you enter a four-number password, and then you can select the settings you want applied such as Movie ratings and age limit recommendation for the apps.

Now many of the sites talk about restricting access to many things – Safari (web browser), Facetime, iTunes, disable app downloading and even turning off Wifi. While I don’t think all these things need to be done for my kids (ages 7 and 10), I can see parents who might want to add these restrictions.

I however, want my kids to be able to use the Internet as Jase has used his iPad to do homework before. And both kids watch Netflix, so I wouldn’t want to turn off the Internet.

The setting changes I made that first day were quickly noticed by the kids as it deleted the YouTube app as that was now out of their age range. We installed the Kids YouTube app instead which is supposed to help restrict what material they can see.

In my search for adding restrictions/parental controls to their iPads, I also came across what sounded like a great app from McGruff that would filter and block specific types of websites in their Internet searches but sadly, it was no longer available.

iPhone_Portrait_mobicip_squaredThat is when we found Mobicip Safe Browser. With this, you disable the standard Safari browser that comes with iPads (and iPhones) and installs their browser. Now if the kids typed in a word to search such as sex, it tells them those websites are restricted. The same works on YouTube run through this browser. You do have the option with the premium version to decide which website to allow so you can allow them to do their research on sex education while being blocked from the porn sites.

We just installed this browser, so I don’t have a lot of feedback on it from the kids yet. With the premium version, you are supposed to also get reports on which sites they have viewed. We have not tried the premium version yet, but it is only $40 a year so might be worth at least trying the seven-day  free trial version.

I am feeling better about the safety controls we have added to their iPads and wish we had done them sooner. I know my kids are good but especially with YouTube had been worried that inappropriate videos might come up during a search. Now hopefully that won’t happen.

Regulating the kids’ use of their iPad minis

My kids often borrowed my husband’s iPad to play games – even sometimes arguing over who got to use it. Their love for playing on the iPad is why I have very few games on my iPad. I don’t want them to borrow it.

IMG_2831So for Christmas we decide to get both kids iPad minis. Both kids were thrilled. (And didn’t even comment that they got minis instead of full-size iPads.)

Now I know a Kindle fire or some other tablet may have been cheaper than the Apple iPad minis, but we are really an “Apple” family. The kids have iPod touches (hand-me downs from my husband and myself) and both my husband and I both have iPads and iPhones. It is much easier to not have to repurchase apps by sticking with tablets that use Apple’s iTunes.

It wasn’t just their use of my husband’s iPad that made us decide they could use their own. Schools are requiring more use of technology. Every week Jase has homework with a QR code on it. They may not be taking their own devices to school yet, but it won’t be long before they are.

With the future in mind, we made sure to buy them iPad minis with a decent processor. The first mini was out at Christmas time for an incredibly cheap price – probably because in October 2014, Apple released the iPad mini 3. But the processor is several generations older, and we worried it wouldn’t be able to keep up with the newer apps. We ended up going with the iPad mini 2.

The first thing we did was buy covers for them. There is no use investing all this money and not keeping it safe. These covers were only $20 on Amazon and had excellent ratings. We liked that the cover also becomes a stand.

IMG_2830And as anyone with a six-year-old knows, you have to make sure they don’t lose them. We set up rules such as when not in use the iPads need to be in their room charging on their nightstands. But just in case they do get misplaced, we put a tracking device on each of them. Glued to each cover is a Tile that can be tracked by an app on my husband’s iPhone. (We also have one on the bedroom TV remote as it often goes missing.)

So now that they have their own iPad minis, we have the fun of regulating their use. We don’t’ want them to become so absorbed with playing on them that they do nothing else. Now we have never had a strict screen-time rule. Heck, who am I kidding? We don’t have any TV/Computer/Electronic device rules.

There have been a few days where I have had to tell the kids to put down their iPads and go do something else. They did insist on taking them to my parents’ house. After about 30 minutes, I made them put them away – with very little grumbling. There is no use visiting people and never looking up at them.

Overall, the kids are pretty good at balancing physical activities with “screen” time. When it isn’t too cold, they are often out back playing. When it is cold, they have board games and Lego bricks to keep them busy. And if necessary, I can always bring out the fake snowballs or let them make their own snow – those two activities are guaranteed to keep them busy for hours.