Child-proofing your iPad/iPad mini/iPhone

Child-proofing your iPad/iPad mini/iPhone

Summary: We tech types put elaborate systems in place to prevent hackers from infiltrating out digital kingdoms, but we give little thought — or preparation — to what an innocent-looking toddler can do to our iPads, and the software and data they hold.

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TOPICS: iPad, Apple, iOS, iPhone
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I've lost count of the number of horror stories that I've come across resulting from someone handing their iPad to a child. It seems that while children love iPads, they can also cause untold damage, including dropping the tablet onto a hard surface or down a toilet, deleting your apps and data, spending thousands of dollars on in-app purchases on "gold coins" and "smurfberries", and even using your precious tablet as a makeshift toboggan (yes, it has happened).

While we tech and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) types put elaborate systems in place to prevent hackers from infiltrating our digital kingdoms, it seems that we give little thought — or preparation — to what an innocent-looking toddler can do to your hardware, software, and data.

But what can you do to protect your digital empire against a child? Well, quite a lot, to be honest. Here's a rundown of what you can do to lock down your iPad, and prevent sticky fingers from causing you headaches.

Note that this advice applies to iPads and iPhones running iOS 6, and the iPad mini.

Get a robust case

Never hand an iPad to a child unless it is in a robust case (or you don't mind footing the bill for a new one). While most cases only protect a little more than half of the device — most leave the screen totally vulnerable — it is still a lot better than nothing.

I recommend something chunky and robust, such as the G-Form Xtreme. The case for the iPad is pricey, at $79, but it does offer excellent protection for the device.

(Image: G-Form)

Back up your data

Make sure your iPad is backed up, either synced with iTunes on a PC or Mac, or to iCloud.

Take no chances with your data.

iOS lockdown

Apple has included a lot of cool features to help you lock down iOS from snoopers and prying eyes, and many of these settings will also help protect your iPad from a child.

These tools are hidden away in Settings > General > Restrictions. The first thing you need to do on enabling restrictions is to set a passcode, which can be different from the PIN code you use to access your iPad.

(Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet)

As a minimum, I recommend switching off Safari, and the ability to install and delete apps (deleting apps can also delete any associated data). I also suggest you switch off in-app purchasing, and set Require Password to "Immediately".

(Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet)

You can also set age restrictions on things such as movies and music if you want.

(Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet)

Topics: iPad, Apple, iOS, iPhone

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12 comments
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  • A user account system would be a much better solution

    I guess this guide is better than nothing, but it is a clumsy design for an obvious issue. Most people are not going to deal with digging through settings anytime a child wants to play with their ipad or worse leave those settings on all the time.

    I just don't understand why there isn't a bigger focus in iOS or Android to support multiple user accounts. One of the best features I've encountered in Windows8 is the ability to create accounts for children with the restrictions and monitoring it offers. Something similar for mobile devices is overdue.
    Emacho
    • Good point

      Even the new Blackberry has separate modes for business and personal.
      happyharry_z
      • Blackberry has one thing going for it

        No kid would touch one.
        ssaha
    • Agree that it is better than nothing... kinda

      Most "robust" cases are too pricey to make to make it worth while. Pay $80 bucks to protect a $25 glass digitizer? I'll find a $10 case on eBay and teach my kids that they can't walk all over the house with it thank you.
      In terms of protection on the software level, Android has had launcher replacements for at least a couple years (IE: Kid Launcher). When you hand the device to your kid just switch to that launcher and they only get access to you pre-configured child approved apps.
      budderduck@...
    • Android 4.1 has separate accounts

      ...at least my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7" does.
      radleym
  • Hey! I have a novel suggestion.

    How about just not letting the little nippers play with your devices? Hmmm?

    Try being a RESPONSIBLE parent first.
    IT_Fella
  • There's one problem with your suggestions, Adrian

    None of them would prevent your child from using your iPad as a toboggan.

    However, I have a simple solution: don't put it into their hands when you're not around to catch it. I've had a 3rd gen iPad for more than 8 months now, and my two-year-old has gotten expert at using it, for watching videos, looking at pictures, playing games, doing FaceTime with his grandparents, even taking the occasional set of photographs. He has even thrown it onto the (carpeted) floor. But I have always given it to him in situations where he could not do much physical damage to it if he dropped it, and I've always been logged out of any apps that might contain information that I didn't want damaged.
    But the most trouble I've had happened only recently, when I purchased a case with a flip cover. My kid spends more time playing with the flip cover than the tablet, and I've had to take it out to feel safe about it.

    The ultimate solution? Smart parenting.
    ssaha
    • That works for an 8 month old

      but what happens when they are age 2, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15....


      At some point they are going to need to learn about independence and want to do things on their own. This is were ADK suggestions might come in handy, even if they are lacking or cumbersome to enact.
      Emacho
      • Ummm...

        The iPad is 8 months old. His child is 2.

        A friend of mine has a 3 year old and a 1 year old - they use guides access all the time with the 3 year old and the first time she misbehaves that's it, no iPad for the rest of the day/weekend. She learned very quickly to accept what she was allowed and not to complain about what she wasn't.
        Ben_E
  • What you can do

    You omitted easiest solution, trade it in for a Windows 8 tablet and you dont have to worry about what your child can do with your data or over spending your credit card .
    Also by trading it in, it gives you the chance to do more with your tablet and if you are worried about your apps, then get an Iphone that you can synch with your Windows 8 tablet.

    The combination (in termers of Apps) is awesome, Iphone + Windows 8 tablet.
    Philip Taylor
  • iPad-enabled Kids

    My son has had an iPad since he was 1 (my old 1st gen.) He has always had a hard protective case from fisher-price (about $25) and he loves it. (I've even written an app or two that he uses!) He's 2.5 now and it is still helping him grow and explore intellectually.

    For those who think he's spoiled because of this -- well, it's an edge I can give him because of my tech life and career. I can't give him an edge in high finance or wielding societal influence, because those are fields I don't know about. I know tech -- and it's my job as a parent to give him any edge I can. (My 6 month old daughter is already eyeing his iPad, and I can't wait to watch her conquer technology.)

    Nothing replaces good parenting. Access to technology is just another tool to be used wisely, such as books, toys, education, etc.
    vineel@...
  • iPad has one thing going for it.

    It will survive a toddler better than any other computer/tablet that has been/is around. my 5yo boy with Down Syndrome has benefited greatly from playing with his iPad, yes his, i bought it for him. it took him months to understand that the iPad is not meant to be thrown around - down flights of stairs, across the rooms etc, or have water spilled over it. the iPad has survived. Barely, but survived and he is still using it. I'm convinced nothing else would have survived. Too bad I can't post photos of it here...
    lskong