The great thing about iOS 5 is that you no longer need to use a computer as a base station, so it makes a perfect personal computer for a kid. I made sure to upgrade my old phone to iOS 5 before activating our new ones, so the operating system was ready to go and did not need to be attached to a computer at any point. Below are the steps that I followed to get it ready.
Wipe the Phone
The first step to follow is to erase all of the data on your phone. This will put it back in its factory settings mode, ready to be set up as a new device.
Go to Settings -> General -> Reset, and choose “Erase All Content and Settings”
After warning you that it will wipe all the information, the phone will proceed to reset itself and then reboot. I read on the web that this could take a couple of hours, but it completed in a few minutes on our 16 GB iPhone 3GSs. Possibly they have found a way to speed up the process in iOS 5.
When the phone comes back up, it will be back at its factory settings. When it does, choose “Set Up as new iPhone”, even though you won’t be using phone service:
You’ll next be prompted to use an existing iTunes account or create a new one. While multiple family members can share apps by sharing the same account, I have opted for creating a separate account for each user. That way, they can manage their own app purchases and allowances. It also keeps their applications and settings completely separate, and as they grow up, they won’t have to re-purchase any apps or lose any settings as a result of eventually wanting their own account.
Activate Parental Restrictions
iOS has a sophisticated set of parental restrictions. You set up a code (known only to the parents), and then you can deactivate specific features based on what you want your child to be able to do.
After conferring with our nieces’ parents, we made the following adjustments:
- Disable Safari
- Disable YouTube
- Disable In-App purchases
- Require password every time (as opposed to every 15 minutes)
We allowed app purchases, but only the parents know the passwords for the iTunes accounts. That way, they can explicitly approve any applications that the kids want to install.
iTunes Gift Cards
Rather than setting up a credit card on the accounts, we bought each child an iTunes gift card for $15. This gave each child a limited budget to spend on whatever apps they chose (with parental approval of course, since only the parents knew the password). They activate the card at the store, but you need to associate it with the iTunes account to unlock the credit.
While it is not obvious how, it is possible to activate an iTunes gift card directly from the iPhone. To do this, open the iTunes application, and scroll down to the very bottom (it’s a long page). When you get there, you will find a button that is marked “Redeem”:
Once you tap this, you will be prompted to enter the iTunes gift card code. I discovered that it is very fussy about the format. The code on the card was 16 digits long, divided into four groups (e.g. “ABCD 1234 EFGH 5678”). I helpfully entered it exactly as shown, spaces and all, and it told me that my code was invalid. Once I entered it without the spaces, it registered and accepted the credit.
You will now be able to purchase apps using this credit, without having to associate a credit card to the account.