Apple Tightens Up Parental Controls on In-App Purchases

Today, Apple took a giant step forward in tightening up their parental controls on the iPod touch.  It used to be that kids could download a free app (for instance a game they wanted to try), which did require someone to input a password in order to download.  As parents, we’d walk away thinking all was well.  Not so fast.  Some of these games would require an upgrade if your child wanted to advance to the next level.  The child was offered this option and as long as it was within 15 minutes of inputting the password the first time, the child could purchase that upgrade without the requirement of inputting the password.  These upgrades ranged from small to very large charges ($99).


The welcomed change that Apple has made is that they took away this 15 minute window.  So now, when your child is offered that upgrade in order to advance to the next level of his/her game, you will be part of the decision.  Read more about this parental control change here.

Apple rocks!


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Should We Abolish ‘D’s” and “F’s” from Report Cards?

When I was in high school, my school embarked on an ambitious plan named “Project Success.” Its goal was to ensure that kids were actually mastering the subject, rather than simply sliding by into the next unit. The approach did away with teachers (in most cases except world languages) and replaced them with “facilitators.” These facilitators watched over students who were working at there own pace “mastering” the content, taking tests and moving along as the student’s learned the content. This created a new culture of cheating as in the same room sat kids who had already mastered the subject, sharing answers with those who had not. Needless to say, it was a complete failure and the school district reverted to traditional methods the following year.

That being said, I think there is some merit to the concept of mastering a subject before moving along. Giving a student a D and sending them on to the next level makes no sense to me, yet that is what is done in the majority of school systems. I believe that a student should show mastery of the subject content with a C or better before moving them along. Some thoughts from my kid’s school can be read at

What are your thoughts?

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Over 77 Percent of Lifehacker Readers Say Google’s Search Results are Less Useful Lately

Watch your back google!

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Michelle Rhee: In Budget Crises, an Opening for School Reform –

I like #Michelle Rhee. She has it right. Please retweet great op-ed to your friends.

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How Good Are You At Outsmarting Internet Scammers? Take this Quiz…

I wrote a post some time ago about how Open DNS is a great (and free) parental control that all parents should install on their network. As time has marched on, however, it has become even more important as a tool for keeping you and your kids safe from phishing sites.  What is a phishing site, you ask?  It is a fake site that looks exactly like a familiar site (your banking site, PayPal, Facebook, or others) and when you go to this site, you think you’re at the real one and you enter your user ID and password as before.  The only difference is that by entering this information, you have given away your information to possibly someone in Eastern Europe, who is operating the phishing site.  This person now has the ability to hack into your bank account.

Take this little quiz that Open DNS has created to see how good you are at identifying whether a site you are going to is the real deal or not.  I took it and I only identified half of them correctly.  And I consider myself to be fairly savvy.  What was your score?

If you didn’t score well, I’d seriously consider installing Open DNS onto your network. It’s a nice way to ensure peace of mind.  See my previous post for easy directions on how to install open DNS.

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Before You Gift That iPod Touch, Familiarize Yourself With Its Parental Controls

Yes it has wifi.  Yes, it’s just like a little computer, with all its power and possibility.  The question is, do you have wifi in your house?  Is there wifi at his school or where he frequents?  If not, you probably have little to worry about in the near term.  There are parental controls on the device under “settings”.  There are two passwords on an iPod touch.  The locking password, which both you and he should know.  This is the password that allows him (and you) to access the iPod after it “goes to sleep.” This is an important safety feature as you don’t want a lost iPod getting into someone else’s hands, giving them complete access to your child’s information.   The important password that only you need know is the parental control password, which is accessed under the “settings” icon and then from within that, you’ll select “general” settings.  And from there you’ll see a choice called “restrictions.”  You should establish the “restrictions” password (not him) so only you can access those settings.

The browser that comes on the iPod is called Safari.  You cannot filter what he can access on the web through Safari.  You can only choose whether to let him access the browser, or not.  Same thing for YouTube, iTunes and whether or not you’d like him to be able to install apps (the small little programs that create the “magic and fun” on the iPod. Many of these Apps are free or available for a couple of bucks).  You can decide whether he has access to the web at all by disabling Safari completely or leaving it on.  If you choose to leave it on, then the world is his oyster.  I personally  think a better strategy is to talk about Internet safety, and to train him in what is appropriate and not, than by banning him completely.  In my experience, a total ban backfires – they just go online somewhere else where you’re not watching.  Now, what you CAN do very effectively on the iPod is manage what content he is able to download (movies, TV shows, apps, music and podcasts).  Here you can select each type of content and indicate whether you will allow “G” rated only or “G” and “PG” content only and so on.  In terms of music and podcasts, you can set it so that it only allows “clean” music.  I have this setting on all my computers and iPods at home.

There is also a setting where you can either choose, or not choose to allow him to play multiplayer video games and whether you’d like him to be able to add friends when he’s playing multiplayer games.

So, the “settings” and then “general” is where all the good stuff resides.  You’ll want to get in there and set all this up BEFORE he receives this. The only thing that you’ll need to share with him is the passcode lock.  Pick something that he would have likely picked anyway.  Any if he wants to change it, no big deal.  Just make sure YOU write it down.  Without that passcode, you cannot get in to the iPod to do anything, including accessing the settings.  I hope this was helpful to you!


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Now, what defines an old person is whether or not they use email.

It seems that the use of email is in steady decline.  More and more young people prefer the social intensity and speed of response they can realize with texting and online chat tools.  It is too time consuming and cumbersome to have to go outside the place they normally hang out (facebook, twitter, etc) to check for messages.  And when they do send an email message, they have to (God forbid) wait for the recipient to receive the email and respond.  The whole system of email, to them, just makes no sense.

To a large degree, young people have always been trend setters.  To spot the next thing, you need just observe how young people are using all these communication tools.  They are primarily mobile, and they are sending primarily short quick text messages or short chat messages.  Even among the young, there can be wide variation.

According to a NY Times article, even someone as young as 23  can sometimes feel as if he is of a different generation than younger siblings.  Adam Horowitz, 23, says that when he texts his younger siblings, ages 12 and 9, “it comes across in broken English. I have no idea what they’re saying, I may not text in full sentences, but at least there’s punctuation to get my point across.”

“I guess I’m old school.”

Knowing this information, as parents, we need to adjust how we communicate with our kids.  Forget sending interesting articles to your  kids via email.  They won’t read them. Don’t bother trying to find out what your teen has planned for the weekend via email from work.  Pick up your cell phone and text them.  Another interesting trend of note is that if you choose to actually CALL your teen on the cell phone, most of the time they won’t pick up the call.  Don’t bother leaving voice mail as they will never check voice mail.  Just be patient.  It’ll drive them nuts when they see the “missed call” and they’ll wonder what you were calling about and will call you back.

Welcome to the new world.

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