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iBooks for the MAC: What Parents Need To Know!

Apple’s release of MAVERICKS,  it’s new operating system for MAC computers, brought a lot of  new features and enhancements.  It also brought some APPS that had previously only been published for iOS devices such as Ipod Touch, iPads, and iPhones.

Among these new apps was iBooks, Apple’s e-reader that is connected to the Apple iTunes store.  iBooks lets folks download all types of books, both fiction and non-fiction.  And, both text and graphics/photos can be included in these books.

The problems is, there is access to a lot of adult material as well, both text and pictures, fiction and non-fiction, alike.   So, how do parents deal with this great tool with a big vulnerability?

Let’s take a look, because you can’t use tools you don’t know you have!

The good news is that there are parental controls in the iBooks app.  While rudimentary and effective, these controls are, I believe, only the beginning. I expect these controls to mature even more over time.

So, what will the parental controls in V1.0 of iBooks allow you to do?  Just two things:

  • You can completely block access to the iTunes Store (via iBooks), and
  • You can prevent the download of books with explicit content.

For these controls to be effective parents will need to manage both computer and iTunes accounts in order to support parental controls in general, and on iBooks.  Otherwise, Mom and Dad are going to get tired of dealing with them and stop using them. So, what are the guidelines for both computer account and iTunes accounts:


Computer Accounts:

First off, everyone should have their own LOGIN account on the computer.  Mom and/or Dad should have ADMINISTRATOR accounts and children/teens should have STANDARD accounts.  In general, having separate accounts throughout the family has a number of benefits:

  • Everyone can have their own icons, screen savers, etc.
  • When kids have their own accounts they are less likely to accidentally mess up someone else’s files, etc.
  • You can configure different parental controls for different children based on their age and maturity.
  • You can even configure different accounts to have access to different features, programs, time allowances, etc.
  • You can ground one child by changing their password without impacting others.
Remember, children should not be permitted to change their passwords, and Mom and Dad must have access to all accounts/passwords.


iTunes/iBooks Accounts:
Many folks like to have a “group” account for the family that is shared.  That’s OK…if you don’t mind everybody’s music/movies/etc. all in one jumble.  Many parents opt for using a separate account for each child with Mom and Dad having full access through holding on the the passwords.  This brings advantages as well:
  • While your iTunes accounts may be connected to a credit card you can restrict  your children’s purchases to gift cards.  That helps them learn to control their spending as they manage their balance, and can motivate them to earn money!
  • Apple doesn’t (at this time) allow ownership of songs/movies/books/etc. to be moved from one account to the other.  iTunes libraries cannot be “split up”.  Our children WILL move out, someday, and they need to be able to take “their stuff” with them.  Having their own account also lets parents give more benefits/capabilities as children mature.
  • You can set up each account to send purchase receipts to YOUR e-mail account, giving you an easy way to track and review purchases, knowing who bought each item.
  • Lastly, if everyone has their own, password-protected account, then it is easier to identify the culprit if inappropriate material is obtained!!!
So, how does this impact iBooks? Well, iBooks uses your AppleID, which is probably also your iTunes ID, for purchases and to manage your iBooks library.
Basically, all you have to do to set the parental controls is:
  • Start iBooks.
  • Go to the menu at the top of the screen and go to iBooks >>> Preferences.
  • Unlock the parental controls with your computer username and password.
  • Select the controls you wish to put into place, and
  • Save the settings.NOTE:
Need a step-by-step guide? Visit the Knights’ Quest Ministries Download Page
Remember that iBooks requires a system administrator LOGIN and PASSWORD to set the parental controls.
So, here is what happens when you turn on the two options:
  1. Restrict access to the iTunes Store:  The STORE icon is removed. Without it, you can’t go to the Store via iBooks.
  2. Restrict access to explicit content:  Two things happen here: 1) The cover art of books in the store that will be restricted are blocked out (see image), and 2) You can’t download explicit content from the store.
As I always say, there are no 100% solutions, so here are some things to keep in mind:
  • In my testing this week not all adult books appeared to have been tagged with the EXPLICIT tag, letting them slip by the parental controls.  These were mostly non-fiction works along the lines of JOY OF SEX, etc., but a couple of erotic fiction works slipped by, too.
  • The option to filter explicit content applies only to the STORE.   If there are explicit titles in your library or in your cloud then they are fully visible and your kids can see what you are reading.  (Another reason to have separate accounts for the kids!!!)
  • Even if your kid is broke, there are free erotic books available for download.  Don’t assume that if their balance is $0.00 that they can’t download. So, here’s why you need to have all iTunes and iBooks receipts go to your e-mail address.
TIP:  The iBooks store has a large number of great free books, too.  These include: The Tarzan series, the OZ series, Peter Pan, The Count of Monte Christo, A Tale of Two Cities, and many, many more!
Apple has done a great thing in bringing iBooks to its desktop and laptop computers.  Now, users can work on a paper and have the reference right there, with easy highlighting.  The parental controls are a good start, and I look forward to seeing what improvements are coming!
What tips and tricks can you share about iBooks for the Mac?

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