With its great multimedia, gaming, and Internet features, the iPod touch is loved by kids and teens the world over--and many ask for it as a present for holidays or birthdays. Parents want to oblige but may also have some concerns about giving their kids unsupervised access to the Internet. If you're in that situation, this article offers 12 steps to take before giving your child an iPod touch or iPhone.
The iPod touch and iPhone require an Apple ID (aka an iTunes account) for set up and to allow the user to download music, movies, apps, or other content from the iTunes Store. The Apple ID is also used for features like iMessage, FaceTime, and Find My iPhone. You'll probably want your child to have their own account to ensure that purchases don't get billed to your account.
If your child has their own computer, you can set the account up there and leave them logged in. If your family shares one computer, you can set it up there, too. Just remember that each person should log out of their Apple ID when they're done.
2. Set Up iPod touch or iPhone
With the iTunes account created, you'll want to set up the device.
If you're setting the device up on a shared family computer, there are a few settings to take note of. In the Info tab, you'll want to make sure to only sync an address book specific to your child (rather than, say, all of your business contacts), a calendar specific to your child, and be sure not to sync your email accounts to the device to prevent them from reading or replying to your email.
If your child has their own email account, you can sync it (or create one for them to sync).
3. Set Passcode
A passcode is a great way to protect an iPod touch or iPhone. It's a security code that you or your child will have to enter every time you want to use the device. You'll want one of these in place in case your kid loses the device--you wouldn't want a stranger to get access to any family information (more on dealing with a lost or stolen device in the next step).
Make sure to use a passcode that both you and your child can remember. It's possible to reset an iPod touch with a lost passcode, but why put yourself in a situation to need to do that?
If your child loses their iPod touch or iPhone, or has it stolen, you're not necessarily going to be forced to buy a new one--not if you've got Find My iPhone, that is. Find My iPhone (which also works for the iPod touch and iPad) is a web-based service from Apple that uses the built-in Location Services features of the devices to help you track the lost device. You can also lock the device remotely or delete all its data over the Internet.
Learn how to use Find My iPhone in this article.
5. Install Apps
There are two kinds of apps you may want to install on your child's iOS device: those for fun and for safety.
The App Store is full of terrific, versatile programs: from great recipes to managing fantasy sports teams, from discovering new music to keeping up with the news. There are tons of great games and what your teen might be most interested in: free texting apps. You don't have to install apps, but there may be educational or useful apps (or games!) you want them to have.
Additionally, there are a number of apps that can monitor your child's use of the Internet and block them from accessing adult and other inappropriate sites. These apps tend to have both upfront and service fees attached to them, but you may find them valuable.
Apple has built tools into the iOS--the operating system used by the iPod touch and iPhone--to let parents control content and apps their children can access. Use the Content Restrictions to protect your kids from inappropriate content and from doing things like having video chats (innocent enough with friends, but certainly not with strangers). Be sure to use a different passcode than the one used in step 3.
If your child has their own computer, you may also want to consider using the Parental Controls built into iTunes also to prevent them from accessing mature material at the iTunes Store. If the family shares one computer, check out this article for tips on how to have multiple Parental Control settings on the same computer.
Want your child to be able to buy music, apps, and movies from iTunes without breaking your budget? Create an iTunes Allowance for them. This lets you give them a pre-defined amount of money (from US$10 to $50) every month to spend at the iTunes Store. This way, they can enjoy new music, apps, and other entertainment, while you can plan for the cost. Create an Apple ID for them to make sure they only spend the amount of the allowance.
8. Get a Case
Kids have a habit of treating things roughly, to say nothing of dropping things. With a device as expensive as an iPod touch or iPhone, you don't want that habit to lead to a broken present. Getting a good protective case won't prevent your child from dropping their iPod touch, but it may protect the touch from damage.
9. Get Screen Protectors
Most cases don't protect the iPod touch's screen. Screen protectors--thin, inexpensive sheets that overlay the screen--can prevent scratches, cracks, and other damage. A package of a couple of screen protectors tends to run $10-$15, well worth it to keep the iPod or iPhone in good condition.
While the standard iPod warranty is decent, with the iPod touch or iPhone in the hands of a child, more damage than normal may be in the offing. One way to deal with that, and save money while doing it, is to purchase an extended warranty from Apple. Called AppleCare, the extended warranty generally costs less than $60 and extends full repair coverage and technical support for three years.
An extended warranty isn't a requirement, but if your child tends to break things, it might be a good idea.
For those with iPhones, insurance can be a good alternative to AppleCare, since many iPhone insurance policies cover things that AppleCare doesn't, like theft. Shop carefully: different providers offer different features in their policies. Take particular note of deductibles, since this is a major area of variation and cost.
You'll want to learn about how use of the iPod touch can damage your child's hearing and discuss this with them. Not all uses are dangerous, of course, so you'll want to pick up some tips and stress the importance of following them to your child, especially since their hearing is probably still developing.
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