Q: I saw your video on how to turn off in-app purchases (http://youtu.be/9P4wFB6d7gM), but what if I want to allow my son to buy age appropriate items on his iPod touch but limit how much he can spend? — Daniel
A: The parental controls built into the Apple (iOS) mobile devices and iTunes are actually pretty full featured and will allow you to set up just about any level of control to meet your specific needs.
Our recent video was to help parents turn off a loophole that some unscrupulous app developers have been exploiting to get young users to inadvertently make purchases while playing what the parents thought was a free game.
This exploit generally targets younger audiences that might not understand or care about words like “buy” or “purchase.”
If your kids are older or you want to allow them to be responsible for themselves but with parameters, you’ll like the flexibility that Apple has developed for parents.
All of the controls on the mobile devices are located in the same area and the process starts with turning on “Restrictions” (Settings -> General -> Restrictions).
When you tap the “Enable Restrictions” button , you will be asked to set a 4 digit passcode that acts as the gatekeeper to these restrictions, so make sure to use a different code than the one that you use to lock the device down.
The top section allows you to turn off Internet access (Safari), the Camera app, Facetime, iTunes, installing apps, deleting apps, Siri and explicit language.
This simple ON/OFF is what most parents use when their child is grounded and not allowed access to specific features or a great way to make sure young children don’t end up on the Internet without supervision.
The next section allows you to control the level of content that you will allow your child to access. If you don’t want them having access to music or podcasts with explicit language or movies, TV shows and apps that are adult oriented, this is where you control those options (and turn off in-app purchases).
There are a plethora of other options you can control while you are there that are fairly straight forward and may or may not be important to you.
To control how much your child can spend, you could simply buy gift cards via the iTunes program or from just about any retail store that sells gift cards, but this only works if they have a separate iTunes account that isn’t attached to your credit card.
If you want to setup a monthly allowance for your child so you don’t have to constantly buy gift cards, you can do so via iTunes (make sure you have the latest version).
Log into your iTunes account and go to the iTunes Store link or button and make sure you are on the Home page.
Look for the “Quick Links” section on the right hand side of the page and click on the “Send iTunes Gifts.” When the page opens, look for the “Learn More About Gifting” link in the bottom left hand corner and click it then scroll down to the “Allowances” section to “Set Up an Allowance.”
This link should also work as a web shortcut if you are on the computer that has your iTunes account: http://goo.gl/bIjCU
You can set up amounts from $10 to $50 per month that rolls over if your son wants to save up for a larger purchase and you can adjust or cancel it at any time by going into your Account Information page.
It’s very important that you use the Apple ID associated with your child’s iTunes account and device in order for this to work. If they don’t have their own account yet, you can set one up for them, but make sure you update their device and iTunes with the new Apple ID.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.