The new Apple iPad is loads of fun as a family entertainment device. I purchased one for myself just this weekend and it quickly fell into the hands of my kids. By syncing it to my family’s iTunes account, all the applications we’d put on the children’s iPod Touch appeared on the iPad too. So games like Cupcakes! and Moron Test were suddenly hot again as the larger format and gorgeous screen made them seem new. My kids were so eager to play on the iPad they actually got into a bit of a tug o’ war that made me nervous for my new “baby.”
I haven’t had a lot of time to field test the iPad for the main reason I wanted it. For me, with all the time I spend on airplanes, sometimes with internet access but mostly without, I wanted to have an e-Reader. I’d already tried out the Kindle application as a program on my laptop and it was good. Unfortunately, the size of my open laptop makes it difficult to use as an e-reader on an airplane and a bit risky during the beverage service. I’ve added both the Amazon Kindle e-reader application and the Apple iBook app to the iPad for comparison’s sake. The time I’ve spent just playing around shows me I really like the iBook app better. I prefer the two page layout that looks more like a book and of course, the color screen on the iPad is fantastic. But I’ll use both since I’d already purchased some Kindle books that I hadn’t read yet.
One area I’ve been concerned about, especially now that I see how appealing the device is for children, is parental control of the content. I know that Apple’s management diligently screens the content available in the App Store but there are still loads out there that I wouldn’t want my younger children viewing. When used as a web device or web entertainment portal, the iPad really shines but we all know there's a lot of objectionable material on the Internet. For that reason, I hope you use our free OnlineFamily.Norton safety service on all the family computers. Until we have a solution for the iPad, I've tried to think of some tips and work arounds to keep matters in hand. If you have other tips to suggest, I hope you’ll add your comments for everyone’s benefit:
General Settings: Find the Settings button on the main interface page. Then click on General>Restrictions. Here is the central iPad location for creating some limitations to what your device can access in the interest of restricting inappropriate web material. You can actually block the browser (Safari), YouTube, iTunes, the ability to install Applications, even Location settings can be blocked. You can also restrict the type of content purchased for Applications, Music and Podcasts (I've selected "Clean" versus "Explicit"). Movies, TV shows and Applications can be restricted by ratings. There aren't any user account settings to it's all or nothing once you've decided the family standard. Don't forget to Enable Restrictions once you've made your selections.
This is also the location for setting up the Auto-Lock and Passcodes.
Browsing: Safari is the browser on the iPad by default. You can then select either Google or Yahoo as your default search engine from within the iPad Safari settings. Both allow SafeSearch settings. You’ll need an account on either to set it and lock it. Remember though, any smart kid can also type “Bing.com” or “Ask.com” to access a different search engine, so pay attention, review the history and set SafeSearch on those sites too.
To lock SafeSearch settings in Google: Open the Safari browser, type Google.com in the browser window. You can login to your Google account at the top of the page. Click the drop down marked “Settings” at the top of the page and select “Search Settings”. Set SafeSearch and click Save Preferences.
In Yahoo: click on Search “Options” which appears to the right of the search window on Yahoo.com or the results. Then select “Preferences” from the dropdown. Towards the middle of the page, you’ll see “SafeSearch” where you can filter out adult web, video and image search results. Then apply the lock. Click “Save”.
On Bing.com, click on "Preferences" at the top of the page. Then select “SafeSearch” and choose from either “Strict”; “Moderate” or off.
On Ask.com, go to "Settings", select "Content Filtering" and proceed as usual.
Video: YouTube has its own app button on the main page of the iPad. It’s already a hot destination for most kids so you know your children will use this. Videos on the iPad are gorgeous and the built-in audio speakers are adequate for YouTube. Just know that videos and comments on this site are often inappropriate for children. Normally, on a regular web interface, YouTube offers some controls that you can set on the home page to control what videos your children search on and view. I haven’t found the similar feature on the iPad YouTube app yet. So either you block YouTube from the Restrictions tab (mentioned above) or you allow it.
YouTube’s iPad application has several links at the bottom of the iPad screen, including History. Clicking on History allows the user to clear the history with a click of a red button. Even though I haven’t found the way to filter YouTube on the iPad yet, please remember even on the videos you’d let your children watch, the comments can also include language that’s inappropriate or upsetting. And if your children are watching videos they might be embarassed for you to know about, you're going to find the History area strangely blank.
App Store: some of the content in the app store is not appropriate for young children. In general you shouldn’t let your children add content to the iPad or any computer without your permission. On a regular computer, unknown downloads can lead to security issues and though those issues aren’t present as yet for the iPad, parents should keep a close eye on the iPad’s use and content. Again, you can set limits in the Restrictions area.
Security: The whole iPad itself can be password protected with a 4 digit passcode. I definitely recommend it to prevent children from using it without permission. You’ll find password set up in the Settings area of the iPad. Another tip: sign out of your App Store account when not actively shopping to prevent playful children (or co-workers) from downloading unwanted programming on your nickel.