I recently bought a new iPad and I'm worried about letting my children use it in case they run up enormous bills; I've been reading horror stories in the news about kids who cost their parents huge amounts by downloading apps and spending real money in games.
Can I somehow install parental controls to prevent my youngest from making transactions? Also, my eldest son wants an iPhone for his 15th birthday - is there any way of limiting how much he can spend in the App Store and on iTunes downloads?
Thanks for your help!
Clare Evans, via email on 20 April, 2012
If your kids start spending money on the App Store and iTunes, you won't necessarily be aware until you get the iTunes receipt or check you bank balance.
Like lots of parents, you're understandably concerned about letting your children loose with the iPad. However, there's really no need to worry - as long as you have parental controls in place you shouldn't run into trouble.
Whether you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the means of enabling restrictions are exactly the same across all Apple devices.
In just a few simple steps, you can prevent your kids from purchasing, installing or even having access to the games, apps and music available from the App Store and iTunes. The settings can be password protected and are easily customised to suit your children's ages.
For older kids and teenagers, who perhaps have an iPhone or iPad of their own, you can set a download allowance, giving them a monthly limit to spend on Apple downloads.
Keep reading for the full Mobilechoices.co.uk guide to setting parental restrictions on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
If your Apple iPhone or iPad regularly finds its way into your children's hands, there are steps you can take to prevent them from making purchases with your Apple ID, the user account linked to your credit or debit card in both the iTunes Store and App Store.
Here we explain the process for setting parental controls on an iPad, iPhone or iPod.
Go to Settings > General > Restrictions from your main screen, then tap the Enable Restrictions bar at the top of the list to begin with your set-up. You'll be asked to create a four-digit passcode.
It's sensible to choose something your children wouldn't be able to guess, so avoid dates of birth and obvious combinations like "1234" and "0000". It is also a good idea to choose something different from the code you use to unlock your device.
Remember, if you use the same digits for both, they'll be able to get around the parental controls as soon as you let slip your unlock code.
Block the iTunes/App Store
After you've enabled restrictions, there are lots of parental control options to choose from if you're worried about your kids having access to paid downloads from iTunes and the App Store.
To prevent them from downloading software, switch the Installing Apps option to the "off" position. If you want to stop them buying movies, games and music, just do the same with the iTunes option.
For younger children you might want to block the services altogether, while adopting a more liberal stance with older kids, giving them an allowance. We'll explain how you can do this later on.
Disable in-app purchases
Even with the App Store disabled, your children will still be able to access the apps and games already installed on your iPad or iPhone.
It's a good idea, therefore, in the Allowed Content section, to also disable the In-App Purchases function, which allows whoever is using your device to pay for additional features, items and settings to improve their experience of the software they've downloaded. Elsewhere in the Allowed Content section you can block music, TV shows and movies with explicit content, meaning only family-friendly media will show up on iTunes.
If your children have their own Apple device, whether it's an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you may want to restrict the amount of money they can spend on software, music and movies in the iTunes Store and App Store.
Rather than block the services altogether, you could set up an Apple allowance. This will allow them to make purchases without the use of a credit card, up to a monthly limit specified by you.
You can choose any size of allowance between £5 and £100 a month, and you can cancel allowances at any time by visiting your Apple account information page.
How to set-up an iTunes allowance
You first need to have your own Apple ID, with either a credit or debit card associated with it. This is where the allowance will be taken from each month, just like a direct debit. Remember, allowances can be cancelled at any time.
To set-up the allowance, log into iTunes with your Apple ID and open the iTunes Store. Locate on the frontpage the Quick Links navigation box, then click Buy iTunes Gifts. Scroll down until you see Allowances, then click the "Set up an allowance now" option.
Next you will need to complete the set-up form, entering your child's name and the amount you'd like to give them as an allowance to spend in the App Store and iTunes Store.
This amount, which could be anything from £5 to £100, will be charged to your card on a monthly basis. Any funds left over at the end of a month will roll over to the next, so if your children are disciplined with money they can save up for bigger purchases.
Top tip - With the iAllowance app you can very easily keep track of how much each of your children has in iTunes allowance and instantly add or take away rewards. You can also use it to manage chores and monitor behaviour.