Parental Controls & Justin Bieber’s Talcum Powder

I’ve glanced back over the IAP controversy over on Eurogamer today, and as with most media coverage, the storm has already blown over and we’re now concentrating on something far more important – whether Justin Bieber’s nanny has sprinkled too much talcum powder on him after his pre-show bath.

But I digress into the goldfish-bowl style news coverage we have in modern X-Factor Britain. Something that has always struck me about tablet devices, and iOS in particular is that we generally accept them as being good for kids, whilst never really insisting that they are made kid-proof.

My daughters both love the iPad. They’re fun, great for developing motor skills, gives them a taste of technology that is accessible and can be highly creative given the correct selection of games and apps that are available. But, the parental controls are dire. Truly dire. Having no concept of multiple-users of differing needs means that you’re left with a mismash configuration that neither suits one person or the other. Out of the box I can’t restrict access apps, properly filter internet access, or remove the ability to do things altogether – like IAP.

Sharon Kitchen in her interview states “I do need to take up some learning processes to stop this happening again”. Hmmm, really? This is the default position of most parents when it comes to technology, be it a console, handheld or SmartPhone. The device is handed over with little knowledge of how to lock it down, or what to lock down.

With these devices so blatantly marketed (and now pushed by a cult of educators) towards children, Apple and Google need to up their game. It could be as simple as offering a dual profile – adult and child – the second easily deleted if you are fortunate enough not to possess offspring (only kidding Amelia and Kitty!). When activated the adult profile on the lock screen always requires an authorisation PIN or gesture, whilst the child access profile (much like always allowing an Emergency Call option) can be engaged freely. It could even have pretty icons to depict both sets of user.

Child setup should be enabled on a first setup and should turn everything off. Most controls work by enabling everything – these should be in reverse. The adult should be made to carefully consider each option first before turning them on.

This should give mum or dad a good sense of security that they can leave their little ones to explore the wonders of the latest Toca Boca apps (brilliant BTW) without the need to constantly hover over them, nervous, and saying “don’t tap that” or “don’t post that score to Facebook” (as I do).


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