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Securing your iOS device for your children, Part 1: Setting up a kid-friendly iTunes account


There has been a string of high-profile cases where children have racked up thousands of dollars in credit card charges through in-app purchases. In these cases and others like them, the iOS devices used by the children have not been properly locked down by the parents.

In this three-part series, we will show you how to set up a kid-friendly iTunes account, lock down your device to prevent in-app purchases and perform some maintenance that'll prevent your tot from sending emails or tweeting on your behalf. In this first post, we start at the beginning and show you how to set up an iTunes account that you can safely use on your child's iOS device.

Set up an iTunes account without a payment method

Before handing over an iOS device to your child, you should set up an iTunes account for him or her. This account should be separate from your personal iTunes account and should only have access to a limited amount of funds. As noted by Macworld, you can easily create a new Apple ID account that does not have a credit card or any other payment option attached to it. No payment method means there will be no errant charges. Here are the steps to follow when setting up a credit card-free account:

  1. Open iTunes on your desktop and find a free app in the App Store.
  2. Click on the buy button and select "Create Apple ID" in the pop-up dialog box.
  3. Enter in the email address information (the Apple ID), password and security questions required to establish a new Apple ID. Choose a password that your child cannot guess and do not give the password to them.
  4. In the payment screen, make sure "None" is selected and enter in your address information.
  5. Verify the Apple ID by following the verification instructions sent to the email address used to set up the account.

Re-purpose an old iTunes account

If you have an old iTunes account kicking around, you can also re-purpose that account for your child. To make it kid-safe, you'll have to remove any payment information from the account first. To remove a payment option, open iTunes on your desktop and click on "Store" and then "View My Apple ID" in the menu bar at the top. You will see your current payment information in the Apple ID Summary section, along with a link to edit that payment choice. Click this "edit" link and then select "None" for the payment method.

You can also remove payment information on an iOS device by going to Settings > iTunes & App Stores > Apple ID > View Apple ID > Payment Information > None. This latter on-device method does not work with iTunes accounts that use PayPal as a payment source.

Add Money using a Gift Card or Allowance

If your child only wants to download free apps, then you don't have to do anything else with their iTunes account. Most likely, though, your child will encounter a paid app they want to download, and you will need to add a funding source to their iTunes account. Don't add a credit card or a link to your PayPal account. Instead, use a gift card or set up an allowance to add a limited amount of money to their account. Gift cards are available to purchase within iTunes, from Apple's online store or at major retail stores like Best Buy, Target and Walmart. You can also turn in loose change at a Coinstar machine and put that balance on an iTunes gift card. You can redeem a gift card in iTunes or on your child's iOS device using these instructions provided by Apple.

If you don't want to bother with gift cards, Apple has an allowance option that uses the parent's iTunes account to add money (in amounts from $10 to $50) to the child's account each month. You can read how to set up an allowance on Apple's support website.

Once the iTunes account is created and set up with a safe funding source, you are now ready for a deep dive into the settings where you will learn how to set up a passcode, restrict in-app purchases and hide apps from the home screen. We cover these security measures in part two of our three-part series.

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