iOS6 Parental Control Feature

by admin on June 15, 2012


Best feature for parents in Apple iOS6 update

Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC 2012) was recently held in San Francisco. During this conference, which is only open to Apple OS App Developers, Apple announced over 200 new features in the update to its current iOS5.x operating system that runs on iOS devices (such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). One of the features in iOS6 will specially be useful to parents.

As a father of a four-year old boy I have been amazed to see his affinity to electronic devices. Although my wife says that he takes after his Dad :), I believe kids have a natural curiosity to technology and are able to master the basics without needing the owner’s manual. As an educator and a Digital Immigrant, I have allowed my Digital Native son to use my iPad and have been amazed to see him engrossed in using different type of apps ranging from Angry Birds to Little Reader. In fact, one day when I was using my laptop he climbed on my lap and started to swipe the laptop screen and there was a puzzled look on his face when the new page did not appear.

Apple has done a remarkable job with promoting Educational Apps in their App Store. Since educational apps are interactive, I would much rather have my son play on the iPad than sit in front of a television. Of course, we limit his time with technology so he can also spend his time exploring nature and playing with friends. As all parents are aware, providing a balance in your child’s life is so important. CDC reports that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

As an educator, my focus has been to help my son use Educational Apps to develop communication, reading, thinking, problem solving skills. This has not been easy to do because game apps are only a click away. We have had limited success with designating blocks of time while using the iPad as “Game Time” and “Learning Time”. The best apps are the ones that help kids learn in a game-based environment, i.e. ones that make learning fun. The attention span of a four-year old is only about 5-10 minutes which is about the time he starts getting restless and wants to move to other apps. It has been challenging to keep him focused on a reading app or a pre-school math app when his favorite Tank game is only one click away.

Now Apple does provide a way to restrict use of certain Apps in iOS devices. The most common way to do this (on an iPad) is to go under General -> Restrictions, and disable certain apps. The control however is not granular and use of individual apps cannot be restricted. Of course if you have a jailbroken device there are tweaks available which will allow you to hide specific apps, but this functionality is not available out-of-the-box in Apple’s Operating System.

Apple recently announced 200+ new features in the next version of its operating systems (iOS6). Some of these features are 3-D maps, better voice interaction, passbook, improved phone functions, better integration with Facebook and Twitter. One of the best features for us parents, which unfortunately has not been widely reported, is the improved parental control features in the iOS6 operating system.

One specific feature is called GUIDED ACCESS, in which specific functions of the user interface can be disabled so the user is not able to accidental or intentionally change these while using the apps. So a parent should be able to turn on the feature (currently called “Single App Mode”), open an educational app and be confident that the child will stay focused only on that app because other features (such as the Home button) is disabled.

At the time of writing this blog post, the iOS6 is in Beta and hopefully the final version will allow us to further explore this useful parental feature. As a parent (or educator) are you excited about this new feature? Do you think it will help your child stay focused? Look forward to your comments.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

marc November 1, 2012 at 3:34 am

The anecdote of your son swiping the laptop screen reminds me of my own four year old, who has his “own” iPad. Once, when the iPad was not available, he was allowed to use the laptop to watch Netflix. He could not figure out for the life of him why taping the screen did not select Blue’s Clues. I still chuckle every time I think about it. Just shows the need for touch screen functionality to be brought to laptops.



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