How to set a screen time limit on your iPad or iPhone

In a previous post, we talked about the process of setting up the parental controls on an iPad or iPhone so that it would be suitable for child use. Today I am going to walk you through how to lock an iOS device to a specific app and apply a screen time limit. This is all done through a setting called Guided Access.

Parent Tool: Screen time limit on an iPad or iPhone

In the Settings app open General.

Open Accessibility.

Scroll to the bottom and open Guided Access.

Touch the button to turn on Guided Access.

The menu will expand. First thing we need to do is set a password that will allow you to turn Guided Access on and off. Touch Password

Enter in the password of your choosing and the confirm it. 

Now open the Time Limits menu. Here you will set what happens when the time limit is reached. You have the options of setting a sound or having the device speak out the amount of time remaining. Set these as you wish. 

Back on Guided Access, touch the button for Accessibility Shortcut to activate it. This allows you to triple tap the home button when in an app or game to activate or deactivate Guided Access. You will need to use your password in order to deactivate Guided Access. 

It is all set up so now we can try it out. Go back to the home screen and open up one of your kiddo's games. When the game is running hit the home button 3 times. This will bring up the in-app Guided Access menu

**Note: In this post I am using an iPad. On an iPhone, All options below are listed under one Options button in the bottom left corner.**

**Note 2: You cannot take screenshots of Guided Access in action so I had to use my phone to grab some photos .... the quality is iffy at best.**

Touch Time Limit in the bottom right corner and set the amount of time the child is allowed to play the game. 

Touch Hardware Buttons in the bottom left corner to disable the use of the sleep button, volume buttons, motion and keyboards. This is a great way to stop the in-game music from getting stuck in your head!

In the bottom middle there is an option for Touch if you turn this off, the touch screen is disabled.

This is great for when kids are watching a movie. If you leave touch enabled, you can use your finger to draw a circle around an area on the screen that you want to disable touch on. This is useful if the game they are playing has links to an online store, you can disable that portion of the screen so that they cannot access it. Set these as needed. 

When everything is set to your liking, touch Start in the top right corner and hand the device to your child. Once the time limit has expired, the device will be locked and you will need to hit the home button three time and enter your password to reactivate it.  

As we say in our house, easy peasy lemon squeezy! If you are like me and hate saying no to your kids when it comes to screen time, you can now use Guided Access to shift the blame from you to the device!


Roblox recommendations for kids by kids

In earlier posts we broke down what Roblox is and the steps parents can take to protect their kids. Now it is time to get into the good stuff, the actual games!

The following is a list of recommended Roblox games, curated by the those who know best, kids! We will be adding to this list as the recommendations come in, so make sure to check back from time to time.


Spy Training OBBY!
Recommended by: Scott, age 9

What do you do in the game?
In this game you train to be a spy. Once your training is complete, you are sent out on missions that you need to complete using everything you learned in training.

Why do you like it?
Spy Training OBBY is fun because you can sneak around in missions and feel like a real spy. When you finish one mission there is always a new, harder one next.


Escape the Krusty Krab Obby
Link to game
Recommended by: Scott, age 9

What do you do in the game?
In Escape the Krusty Krab you help Plankton steal the secret formula for the Krabby Patty.

Why do you like it?
I like this game because you get to run around Bikini Bottom and see the places from the show like Sponge Bob's pineapple and the Krusty Krab.


Work at Pizza Place
Link to game
Recommended by: Amelia, age 7

What do you do in the game?
You work in a pizzeria and get to pick whether you are the chef, the delivery driver or the cashier. Each job has different things to do.

Why do you like it?
I love playing as the delivery driver because you get a car and drive around town delivering as many pizzas as you can. Making pizzas is tricky cause you have the order on the board, need to get the toppings, make the pizza and cook it. 


The Really Easy Obby
Link to game
Recommended by: Amelia, age 7

What do you do in the game?
In The Really Easy Obby you complete levels by doing different jumping puzzles. There are hundreds of levels to complete.

Why do you like it?
I like it because you only need to do two things, run and jump. I like that the puzzles are different sometimes you have to make big jumps, sometimes you make fast jumps and sometimes you jump onto blocks that disappear.


Have a Roblox game that your child recommends? Send us their first name, age, the name of the game and why they like it and we will add it to the list!


How to disable Voice Chat in Fortnite

Earlier we shared a post breaking down what parents should know about Fortnite. As noted in that post, the online interaction can leave your child exposed to some language you may not want your child to hear. Luckily Fortnite has an option in the menu that allows you to disable voice chat all together and keep your child's ears free from the toxic chat that accompanies most online games. 

Parent Tool: Disable voice chat in Fortnite 

Note: for the purposes of this guide I will be using a PS4. If on Xbox or PC, the process is the same but the button commands will be different. 

To open the options menu, hit the Options button and then use the arrows to highlight the Gear and hit X.

Use R1 to tab over to Audio.

Use the down arrow key to highlight to Voice Chat and then push the left arrow key to set it to Off.

Press the Triangle button to save the changes and then press Circle to go back to the game menu.

Voice Chat is now disabled. If you child plays with friends online and would like to talk with them, they can form a Party Chat via PlayStation or Xbox and invite their friends to that chat. This allows them to still communicate but prevents random people from people able to chat with them.


How to turn off online communication in Roblox

Ten year old me wishes Roblox existed when I was a kid. Growing up as a computer and gaming nerd, I would have died for a game that let me create my own games within it and share them with the world. People have created games where you deliver pizzas, work at McDonald's, play hide and seek or save the world from zombies. The endless possibilities are why my kids love it and why I worry about what and who they are being exposed to along the way.

The Roblox Corporation is actually pretty active in trying to control the content that appears and have strict rules and guidelines that must be followed. With that said some things do sneak through and the open communication can expose a child to vulgar language, cyber bullying, and more. A quick Google search can show you what kind of disturbing things kids have been exposed too through this game.

Thankfully there are some steps you can take to remove that risk. By adding a parent email, setting up a PIN and adjusting a couple settings we can remove the online interaction with others and filter the games available to only those curated by Roblox themselves.

Parent Tool: Restrict communication in Roblox

Note: For the purposes of this tutorial I am using the iPad app. The same process can be applied to the PC, Android and Xbox versions but the layout may vary. 

The first thing that needs to be done is to assign a Parent's Email to your child's Roblox account. This will allow you to activate 2 Step Verification.

From the home screen, click on the More button at the bottom of the screen.

Click on Settings.

Click on Account Info.

Click on the Edit button to the right of Parent's Email address. 

Enter in your email address and the current password for the Roblox account and click on the Add Email button. I already have an email assigned to my account so the button says Change Email in the image below.

You will now have to log into your email to verify the email address. Once done, head back into Settings and click on Security.

Click on the button to activate 2 Step Verification.

Click on the button to enable Account PIN. Turning this on locks the account settings with the PIN in the future.

Enter your new PIN, confirm it and hit Add. You will get a Success message, just click on OK.

Now we are going to enable Account Restrictions. This automatically configures the Privacy settings and only shows the Roblox games that have been curated by Roblox. Click on the button under Account Restrictions to enable it.

To see what Account Restrictions does, click on Privacy  from the left side menu.

You will see that all the Contact Settings are off and locked. This means there is no way for anyone to communicate with your child at all.

Now you children can enjoy the games without worrying about talking to anyone but you.


What parents should know about Roblox

All three of my kids love Roblox and all three of them use it to play completely different games. My oldest likes to play adventure games and mazes, my daughter loves playing a game where you are a parent and have to adopt a child while my youngest likes to try and deliver pizzas but really just rides around on a mo-ped driving in circles. It is cool to know that all these games were designed by others, such a creative outlet for people of all ages. It is a robust platform that can provide your child endless fun but there are a couple things you as a parent should be aware of prior to use.

What is Roblox?
Roblox is a game design platform where users are able to create their own games and publish them to the platform allowing others to play their creations. There are games where players work at a pizzeria and others which require users to defend the world from a zombie outbreak. Games are all multiplayer-based, and feature in-game chat and messaging. It's important to note that there have been reports online of inappropriate, hateful and sexual communication via the chat and messaging systems. Parents have the ability to limit or remove the online communications via the in-game settings.

Check out the short video below to see what the gameplay is like and what your child will be doing. The video comes for the official Xbox Youtube Channel

Violence (1/5)
Some games do have violence via fighting and/or guns. The mindcraft-esque style of graphics prevents anything from being too realistic.

Sexual Content (1/5)
There have been reports that some games have naked or sexually suggestive content but I did not come across any to date. Roblox Corporation actively works on filtering these games out.

Language (0/5)
Roblox does not include any inappropriate or offensive language directly but this can be introduced by the online interaction with other players as outlined below.

Online Interaction (5/5)
This is where the major issues lie. The open chat system and in-game messaging may expose children to inappropriate language, bullying, and sexual content. While this may be few and far between it is possible.  Online interactions can be disabled via in-game settings as outlined in one of our other posts

In-Game Purchases (4/5)
Roblox has an online store where users can spend Robux (the in-game currency of Roblox) on cosmetic items for their avatars. There are ads on the site and in-game advertising these items. Robux can be purchased in the Roblox Store for real money or earned in-game by selling items to other players. There is also a Builder's Club membership (ranging from $5.95 to $19.95 per month) which users can buy to receive a daily sum of Robux, exclusive game extra items, and remove in-game ads. I did not see an option to block in-game transactions directly in the game so you may need to make sure they are disabled on the device your child uses to play Roblox.

That just about covers it. Roblox is a cool, creative platform that I would have loved to play with as a child! I think that by limiting the online communication your child can have a lot of fun with it too. I am just waiting and hoping now for one of my kids to want to design their own game in it.... a geeky father can dream :). 


Require a password on all purchases in the PlayStation Store

It is going to happen, sooner or later your child is going to get caught up in the moment of a game and buy something online with your credit card. It happened to our family last year in the Google Play Store (side note they were super friendly and refunded the purchases without issue) and it recently happened to another family I know two weeks ago with Fortnite through the PlayStation Store.  

It sucks but it happens. While moments like this are a great talking point to our children about money, responsibility and consequences, there are things we can do as parents to prevent them from getting into the situations in the first place. In this post, I am going to walk you through the steps needed to require that your password be entered on all digital purchases on PlayStation. This includes the browser based store and the PlayStation Store on the PS4 itself. 

Parent Tool: Require password for purchases on PlayStation

From a browser, go to the PlayStation Store and log in via the Sign In link in the top right corner. Note, if you set up the 2-Step Verification you may need to have your mobile device with you to log in. 

Once signed in, hover your mouse over your account name in the top right corner to expand the menu and click on Account Settings.

On the Account Management screen, click on Wallet in the left side menu. 

On this page you will see your payment methods along with a couple settings. At the bottom of the page click the Edit button underneath the sub heading Wallet Settings

Change Require Password at Checkout to Yes and click on Save.

If all works as expected you will be taken back to the Wallet page and you will see a notice that Your Wallet settings have been changed

You should now be able to sleep a little easier knowing that there is one more layer between your credit card and Sony.......assuming your password cannot be guessed by a nine year old :). If you want to take all of this a step further, you can set up an account for your child where you can block all purchases.   


How to set up Parental Controls on your child's iPad and iPhone

So, you just got a new iPhone or iPad to replace your current one and decided that instead of just throwing the old device in a drawer, you are going to hand it down to one of your children. You are happy with your new toy and the child is happy with theirs (side note - new tech day is always the best day in my opinion)!

Before handing over that iPad, did you think about setting up some limitations to help keep the kiddos out of trouble? Probably not and neither did we. My wife and I learned a hard lesson about this last year and I don't want you to make the same mistakes that we did. In this post we are going to go through the controls available to you on your iPhone and iPad that will allow your child to have fun and be safe at the same time. 

Parent Tool: iPhone and iPad Restrictions

Launch the Settings app and tap General. Under General, tap Restrictions.

You will need to turn Restrictions on. To do that tap on Enable Restrictions.

When enabled, the Restrictions menu is locked by a four digit PIN. Enter your new PIN. Make sure it is not something easy that a child would know. You will need to confirm it by entering it a second time.

You will now see that the toggles are active for all the options. The first group of options under the ALLOW heading give you the ability to enable (green) or disable (white) various iOS features and built in apps like Safari, Siri, etc. You can set these options as you see fit. As you can see by the image, on our iPad we allow access to Safari, Camera and Siri but we remove access to Installing Apps, Deleting Apps and, the big one, In-App Purchases. This allows us to control what is put on and taken off of the iPad.

The next sub section is ALLOWED CONTENT. This is where you will set the ratings for music, movies, TV shows, etc. Simpy tab the option you want to adjust and then select the proper rating. These ratings are based on the country you reside in so make sure to select that first under Ratings For. We will go through the options of each one below.

First up is Movies. Tap the highest movie rating you would like to allow on the iPad and then tap <Restrictions in the top left corner to go back to the Restrictions menu.

TV Shows is similar to Movies but the ratings are a little more granular. Select the highest rating you would like to allow and then tap <Restrictions in the top left corner to go back to the Restrictions menu. 

Next up is Apps. Each app in the App Store has an age rating associated with it. Similar to the other options, just select the highest age group you would like to allow and then tap <Restrictions in the top left corner to go back to the Restrictions menu. Note, once making the selection, any apps installed that are over the age restriction will disappear from the home screen. They have not been uninstalled and will reappear if / when the restriction is lifted. 

With Siri you can limit Explicit Language and Web Search Content (returning results from Wikipedia, Bing and Social Media). Select what you want and then head back to the Restrictions page.  

Now on to Websites. This is a big one.

You have 2 options here: All Websites, Limit Adult Content and Specific Websites Only. All Websites leaves Safari and other browsers wide open to searching content, while Specific Web Aites Only limits the browser to a list of sites you select. For most families, Limit Adult Content will be the best option. It allows you to protect your child but does not limit access to other sites which they may need for researching school projects, etc. You have the option to add sites to always allow or never allow. You can do this as you see fit. Make your selections and then head back to Restrictions

The last one on the list that we are going to talk about is Password Settings. These settings dictate how often you will need to enter your password in the App Store when making purchases or downloading free software. If you restricted the purchases and downloads earlier, it is still a good idea to set these now in case you remove the other restrictions at a later time.

For our family, I've chosen that the password is always required for purchases and downloads, no matter what. Yes, it does suck to type it in each time and with how frequently I update passwords it can be a hassle to remember as well, but I would rather spend the extra 15 seconds then pay for apps my kids bought. Make your choices and head back to Restrictions

So that's it. There are some other settings around locations, contacts, calendars, etc but I will leave those to you to explore. I hope that by covering some of the basic parental control settings on your iPhone and iPad devices, you kiddos will be safer when making those ridiculous stickbot videos and the like!

Remember, kids will be kids. It's their job to be curious, and our job to keep them safe.