It is possible to tighten up parental controls on mobile devices such as iPods, iPads, and phones. Many parents are unaware of the simple features built into the devices themselves. In addition to the built-in software, an array of apps exists that can help you keep your children safer while they are using the internet.

iPad Parental Control Features

Parents can enable restrictions on their child’s iPad (and other Apple devices). To do this, go to settings/general/restrictions and set a parent’s passcode. From the list of applications, you choose which functions to limit or disable, such as Safari, FaceTime, Camera, YouTube, and more. You can set limits on app purchases here as well.

If, for example, you found that a particular function was problematic for your child–using FaceTime too much–you could disable it on weekdays and “release” it on the weekends. If you’re concerned about your student accessing unwholesome content, Safari has safe search settings which can reduce the risk of loading inappropriate material.

Some games in the Game Center allow players to contact one another, which means potentially any player in the world could contact your child. Don’t believe it? Here’s a quote from the Game Center’s website: “Social gaming comes to the iPad. With the Game Center app, you can play against friends and unknown foes anywhere in the world.” If you’d like to restrict that possibility, turn off the “add friends” option.

Disabling Safari seems extreme, since access to the internet is desirable for research and homework. There are some safer options explored below.

Apps to Provide Safe Surfing

Mobicip is an inexpensive alternative to Safari. It provides intelligent, real time filtering so that the possibility of exposure to unwholesome content is limited. The app has three preconfigured filtering levels: primary school, middle school, and high school. A great feature is data encryption for privacy and security. If your student is likely to use his or her device in public wi-fi hotspots, Mobicip “hides” details from any nearby cybercriminals.

Using Mobicip requires the disabling of Safari, YouTube, and the AppStore, all of which can easily be turned on again by the parent when needed. At $5.49, this app provides parents with peace of mind. An additional $5 for the premium app gives parent more choices, such as the ability to create white lists and black lists to block specific sites, such as Facebook, or categories, such as social media.

SurfBalance provides similar safety features plus gives parents a weekly or daily breakdown of internet usage. The report shows what categories of websites were visited and how long was spent there. Parents can even set daily and weekly time limits (see image below). I am in favour of the tools this app includes to help children learn to moderate their internet time.

SurfBalance seems to have more features for the standard price of $5.49, but its ratings in the AppStore are lower (2.5 stars) than those of Mobicip (4 stars). Check out the links to the websites of both apps to see which one is more suited to your family’s needs.