The App Store makes it quick and easy to buy and download new software for your iOS device. But as we noted in the June 2011 issue of Macworld, some parents of iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch-toting kids found that the process might be a little bit too easy. It’s true that Apple instituted new rules in iOS 4.3 that aim to stop children from racking up outrageous charges on their parents’ credit card bill. But some of the burden still falls on the parents to secure an iOS device before handing it to their child.
If your children have iOS devices of their own, there are two options for exerting more control: one that prevents your child from purchasing anything from the App Store or iTunes Store and another that controls purchases through a monthly allowance.
Option 1: Disable purchases altogether
Here’s how to entirely disable purchases, including in-app purchases, from the App Store and iTunes Store.
In Settings, you can disable in-app purchases (as well as restrict purchases of other iTunes content)
1. Enable restrictions Navigate to Settings > General > Restrictions. On this screen, tap Enable Restrictions at the top. You’ll be prompted to enter and verify a four-digit code. Remember to pick something that your child isn’t likely to guess: ‘1234’ might be a fine combination for your luggage, but you probably want something that’s a little harder to figure out for your iOS device.
2. Disable the App Store and the iTunes Store Once you’ve enabled restrictions, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. If you’re worried about your child installing apps, simply slide the Installing Apps switch to Off, and the App Store will be removed entirely from the device. (Previously purchased apps will continue to work fine.) If you also want to restrict your child’s ability to buy media from the iTunes Store, you can also slide the iTunes switch to Off, and that ability will likewise vanish.
3. Disable in-app purchases Even if the App Store is disabled, your child may still be able to access in-app purchases from apps that you’ve already installed. Just scroll down to the Allowed Content section, and tap the switch next to In-App Purchases so it reads Off.
Option 2: Set up an iTunes allowance
With an iTunes allowance, you can specify how much money you want to give your child each month
If your children are of an age where you’re comfortable giving them the ability to purchase some apps on their own, an iTunes allowance is an excellent way to control their spending. You can set up a separate iTunes account for them, complete with a monthly limit of how much they can spend – and you can even restrict it to age-appropriate apps.
To set up an allowance, you’ll need your own Apple ID, and it will need to be linked to a credit card. If you have your own iOS device or buy media from the iTunes Store, you already have an account. Keep in mind that since the iTunes Store and App Store use the same account, the allowance will apply to purchases from both, unless you disable one or the other of the stores as per the instructions mentioned in step 2.
1. Buy an iTunes gift When you’re in the iTunes Store on your Mac, click on the Buy iTunes Gifts link in the Quick Links box along the right edge. On the subsequent page, scroll down until you see Allowances and click the Set Up A Monthly Gift Now link.
2. Set up the allowance Fill out the form on the subsequent screen by entering your name and the name of your child, and by selecting the amount of the allowance – options range from £5 to £30. Remember that this amount will be charged to your own credit card each month. (You have the option of waiting to start until the first day of the next month or starting the allowance right away with an immediate charge.)
One piece of good news: if there are any unused funds left over at the end of a month, they will roll over to the next month.
If your child already has an Apple ID, enter it here. If not, you can create a new account. Remember that when asked for a payment method for the new Apple ID, you can choose None. If you enter a credit card number, you will be charged for any purchase that goes beyond the allowance that you set up.
When you’re done, click Continue. Confirm the details and then purchase the allowance. Recipients will get an email message letting them know that you’ve purchased an allowance for them, as well as how much it’s for.
3. Manage allowances You can review your allowances by going to your account settings in the iTunes Store and clicking Manage Allowances. You’ll see a list of all your current allowances, along with the ability to suspend, remove, or change the amount for any of them. You can also create additional allowances from here if you so choose.
4. Select any restrictions Even if you’re giving your children the ability to buy their own apps, you may want to have a say in the kinds of programs they’re buying. Once again, you’ll visit Settings > General > Restrictions on their iOS devices. If you haven’t already, tap Enable Restrictions, and choose a four-digit passcode.
Under the Allowed Content header, you can choose the appropriate rating levels for music and podcasts, movies, TV shows, and apps. In each case – except for music and podcasts – you can pick which ratings are allowed or choose to completely disable all of the media of that type. For music and podcasts, you can simply choose whether or not material labelled Explicit is allowed.