If iPads Were Meant for Kids

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2018/04/12/if-ipads-were-meant-for-kids/

Apple positions the iPad as being a perfect device for kids. Developer Dave DeLong disagrees and lays out 12 reasons why the iPad — or any iOS device — isn’t really designed for use by children.

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Every kid I’ve known in the last 8 years, including my own, vehemently disagree. For a friend of mine, the iPad was the difference between his kid being able to keep up with school and not (the kid is mildly autistic and the iPad was a lifesaver).

I only got to the first point in the article, but since it was entirely spectacularly wrong, I didn’t feel the need to read further. It is trivial to lock down an iPad, and there are countless configuration options to do so ranging from Guided Access to parental controls to Apple Configurator all the way to Jamf.

Then please go back and read the rest before making extreme comments. The very first point says that kids (and as noted, the author is talking about kids who are 6 and 8) don’t need passcodes, push notifications, Wallet, Apple Pay, custom keyboards, custom regions or dates, or the ability to change basically anything in Settings. Having watched my nephews at that age, and hearing @jcenters’s stories about his kid (who’s even younger), that seems entirely reasonable.


In my opinion, you are totally right but for the inverse reasons!
If we take into account the development of the child… it is not that ‘iPads are not for children…’
Really, ‘children are not for iPads.’

Up to the age of around seven years old (when they change the teeth) children learn by imitation of the older people,
From seven to puberty, by accepting the authority of the teacher.
After puberty, it is really when the kid began to think and to be able to choose.

But this is quite far from what we think that must do, like learn to code at age of 7…
We want kids to be little adults and they deserve to be kids. If they are kids when they are kids, when they become adults they will be real adults, not empty adults as last sessions in the Congress show us.

Absolutely to the blog! Of course there are special cases, which is why Apple should give choices. What’s more, as there is so little effective parental guidance possible, technologically, when children are young they naturally slowly create a world which is parent free - every healthy child’s dream when seeking independence. It begins a bit like an Enid Blyton adventure, bad guys and good guys (themselves) and no parent in sight. By the time they are 14 they have found all there is that the adult internet and apps such as Snapchat and later are able to channel to them. The internet’s content of sex, drug, & gender specific addiction, is the norm. Makeup/fashion content spins money for the presenter and the goods shown while masquerading as girlie advice. No doubt the equivalent for boys. Any parental concern is now simply invasive as it hasn’t been the norm since the start and can only be clumsy by the teenage years. Talk about lost childhood!

iPads are like any other technology: they can be good and bad, and are usually a mix of both. The benefits they can offer for autistic children are well-documented, but there could definitely be better parental controls.

Is it possible Apple sees the iPad as a device for kids accompanied and monitored by an adult, rather than devices for kids to use on their own? I seem to recall recently reading an article about how people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates were very restrictive about what kind of devices they would hand over to their own (small) children for use by themselves.

I very much agree with this article, but ipads are only the half of it. I think it would be very useful if TVs were designed for kids - as they used to be. These days just about all TVs are “smart”, meaning built-in access to YouTube. There’s a lot of nasty stuff on YouTube, and I’d rather disable it - but the only way of doing this is usually to ensure that there is no internet connection on the TV. The parental controls on the TV are generally very old fashioned, based in restricting certain channels, not apps.
PVR boxes have the same problem

Every complaint in the first point is something that Apple provides many ways to control, so the claim that there is no way to manage this is just flat out wrong.

Amen … Particularly un, or partially, supervised.

Except there’s not.

  • Sure, you can turn off passcodes on a device, but Apple complains and turns off a bunch of features and you can’t just temporarily turn them off because it’s a whole process to set it back up again.
  • There is no easy way to turn off push notifications. You can turn them off in each individual app, but there’s no easy way to just turn them on and off system-wide.
  • You can’t disable Wallet or Apple Pay.
  • You also can’t limit access to the Settings app (but you can limit access to iTunes Store, Music Profiles & Posts, iBooks, Podcasts, News, and keep them from installing apps)

That is indeed a possibility, though one that I would hope Apple would have realized by now is completely counter to how iPads are used in the real world. For instance, I know that my nephews (10 and 12) get a bit more screen time when family is visiting so the adults get a chance to talk on their own too, but it’s just painful seeing how badly they want to use their iPads for various games and videos. I think it would be extremely difficult to make iPad use an always-supervised activity.

Indeed. As @Simon noted, it’s telling the extent to which tech executives in Silicon Valley often keep the same technology that they’re selling to the masses away from their own kids.

We had an interesting situation with our son Tristan. He’s 19 and at Cornell now, so the iPad wasn’t available until he was 11 (so a bit older than Dave DeLong’s kids) and it wasn’t commonplace or the sort of thing you’d just hand to a kid until he was in high school. And, to be honest, he has never shown any interest in using an iPad (iPhone yes, MacBook Pro yes, and he likes the Apple Watch some, when we had a hand-me-down for him).

I’m sure it’s partly Tristan being Tristan and another kid would have reacted differently, but because we had technology lying all over the house the entire time he was growing up, he never found it particularly compelling. It was just background noise to him until he got into middle school, although he became much more involved in high school, doing things like installing Ubuntu on his Chromebook.

YouTube has some parental controls built in, but I don’t have a sense of how effective they are.

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TVs/set top boxes seem to have YouTube, not YouTube kids, so the only option is ‘restricted mode’ if it is supported - but this does not block everything.

They’re not. Even the “kid friendly” YouTube Kids app has a lot of weirdly, objectionable stuff on it. And best case scenario, it has those weird toy videos where some parent films their kid playing with toys for hours on end. (I almost never post pictures of my kid online, much less upload hours of video for anyone to see). Most of the cartoons I grew up with in the '80s and '90s were glorified toy ads, but at least they had a semblance of plot!

The really upsetting thing about these videos is how addicting they are. My kid gets sucked into them until the battery dies, with no interest in anything else. It’s for that reason we hide the iPads now.

And as far as parental supervision goes, I’m all for it, but if I have to watch over him while he plays with the iPad, I’d rather be spending our shared time doing something constructive like reading to him or playing t-ball.

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I think at least some of the things you’ve listed can be disabled using Apple Configurator 2 or MDM solutions; doesn’t Jamf have a cloud solution for home use now? Obviously, Apple Configurator 2 is not designed with the average parent in mind but the capability exists.

Aren’t most of the complaints about the iPad also true of a desktop or laptop computer? I don’t have a child to restrict and I’m old enough that home computers were only just becoming a thing (I was a teen when the first Mac came out) so I’m not too familiar with the capabilities of adding restrictions to macOS and Windows.

I agree that buying iPads for 6-8 year-olds was a bad choice. I do not agree that Apple should change the product such that giving them iPads is a good choice. Yes, there are further improvements should be made, the software they’ve created just for schools sounds like it would help and should be available to everyone, but I question getting them down to the point where children that young can use them unsupervised “safely.” Everyone’s definition of what should be allowed and shouldn’t be allowed is going to be different and computers (including iPads) can do so much, the list of settings is going to be very long.

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Yeah, probably, but who the heck is going to do that?

This is spot on. I say this as a parent of 2 kids, 1 with an iPad addiction and 1 who easily complies with limits. Hiding iPads is tiring, especially when only 1 of 2 kids needs it.

From an internet perspective filtering and limiting is easy. The easiest way is to buy a Circle (meetcircle.com). It just works (but limits get tied to devices, not accounts).

Apple is seriously lacking as stated in the article. Microsoft’s parental control structure is so much better by comparison.

I think Apple is the kind of company that tells people how to use their devices (“you’re holding it wrong”) and doesn’t give a hoot about how people want to use their devices if it goes against that.

But I can also argue the other side. If we take Apple’s latest iPad ad (yes, the obnoxious one), that girl is definitely using her iPad for all kinds of stuff and AFAICT she is never supervised. Sure, she’s not 6 but she’s definitely not a high school student either. Apple is clearly portraying the iPad there as something which does not need any parental supervision. The question is really what their premise is. Of course, they may not have a premise at all and simply flip flop to whatever promises the most profit in any given situation. Yeah, that’s probably it. ;)

There’s been news stories saying they’re going to make a YouTube Kids with human-curated videos which should take care of the weird algorithmic stuff but of course that doesn’t mean the content will match every parent’s or child’s sensibilities.

A big thumbs up to you, Sir. :+1:

I think this thread reminds me a bit of the discussions we had in the 80s when it came to parenting and TVs. Some parents realized they could get some quiet time if they dumped their kid in front of the TV. Soon enough people realized all the crap (well, in fairness that was nothing compared to some of what’s being shown now) these kids were then exposed to. And sure enough, the backlash came and those parents were accused of abandoning their kids and their needs, lack of supervision, etc. TV was supposed to become family friendly and we got these silly markers on the screen at the beginning of the program.

Rinse, wash, and repeat. Now it’s the iPad that’s being used as a digital babysitter. While the fundamentalists will argue that if you want kids, you have to supervise them. If you want quiet time, don’t have kids, etc. The other side will argue that kids should be exposed to these devices and the content needs to be controlled. I think the latter should actually be easier nowadays. In the 80s it was about who gets to control the programming everybody got to see. Now it’s about individual settings on a personal iPad.

If we have established that Apple is lacking here, any ideas if it’s any better in the Android world? Usually they have settings for everything (except of course for Google’s data sniffing), but is it actually usable for this purpose? Are there parents who happily control what their kids get to see on their Android tablets?