As it turns out, I got the new iPhone 6 and my wife got my iPhone 5s that was less than 6 months old. My oldest son has been absolutely pestering us for an iPod Touch, or an iPad, or an iPhone of his own. He is 8 and even as tech forward as I am, I am not about to give him a phone at that age. The shuffling of phones between my wife and I did however leave us with an unused iPhone 4 that, without the cell service makes a perfect iPod Touch. I began to set the phone up for him and realized he was using my wife’s Apple ID which means he had unlimited access to buy whatever he wanted from the iTunes and App Stores. This is no good, there has to be a better way. Even if I create an Apple ID for him and say he is over 13 I have no real control over the content. Family Sharing, which became available with iOS 8 allows me to create a special Apple ID for my child, one that allows me to control what he can buy.
If you haven’t heard of Family Sharing it allows you to share applications and a single payment method among a group of Apple users you invite as part of your family. If you haven’t discovered this new feature yet on your iPhone, it is under Settings>iCloud. You can turn on Family sharing here and once it is set up you can go back and invite family members and most importantly create a child’s account. The account creation process is easy. The only requirement is that you have your default payment option set to a credit card and not a debit card. They use this as part of the parental consent process. Once the account is created you can change the default payment method back. It is important to use your child’s actual birthdate when setting up the account because it changes certain defaults. For example the ask to buy feature is turned on by default for accounts of children under 13. This means you have to approve a purchase from iTunes or the App Store before they can complete the transaction.
Now that my son has his own Apple ID I can finish locking down his device. I can set up restrictions on the phone like not allowing in app purchases. I can also set rating levels for the content that is allowed on the device. To access restrictions go to Settings>Restrictions and touch Enable Restrictions. Changes made to the device restrictions are protected by a passcode you create and enter at this step. For more information about the kinds of restrictions you can set have a look at this article from Apple support http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4213.
It has taken Apple a long time to figure out how to safely cater to their younger users, but I think with the right combination of Family Sharing and restrictions we can be confident our children’s experience using Apple devices will be safe and fun for them and my credit card.