The trap with Apple Family Sharing in iOS 8 and the limits to Restrictions

1 11 2014

I wanted to do the right thing and have my 9 year old set-up an Apple account on his iPod touch with the appropriate controls. iOS 8 appeared to make it possible for under 13 year olds to have accounts set-up under their own name and be part of a family group. This seemed like what I wanted. However, what I ended up finding out is that Family Sharing is a bit of a trap which ends up with either a very tedious system of approvals or a situation where you take on a risk by giving your children access to make purchases in the Apple ecosystem using your credit card. In the end I found the system totally unworkable and something of a trap for locking in your credit card details. To some extent Apple make no secret of this. However, the information I read online (from various sites) about this feature all made family sharing sound really useful.  I read a number of articles prior to setting up family sharing but found it difficult to find any clear explanations of how you might best setup a valid Apple account for your under 13 year old child to achieve the types of aims I was after.  In simple terms I wanted to allow my 9 year a reasonable level of independence to install a range of apps which were age appropriate and have him blocked or have him have to come and see me about anything else. In the end I couldn’t achieve this unless I was either willing to take a risk with my credit card or venture into a very annoying system of approvals.In the end I was frustrated and amazed that Apple had delivered this service in such a way. I would have thought that there will be so many families where family sharing doesn’t help them that I’m surprised in the way in operates but perhaps more than that – that I simply couldn’t find articles which talked about this feature in manner which were either critical or objective.  However, I recognise that I’m a bit different from others who might test this feature – I don’t live in the Apple ecosystem, but I am interested what my kids do with technology and interested in the technology itself – and the number of users in that category might be quite small.
Here’s the issue explained. To setup a legitimate Apple account for an under 13 year you must do this utilising family sharing and as such the under 13 year old must be part of your family. To enable family sharing you must enter a valid credit card, and so long as you have family sharing running you cannot remove your credit card (i.e. there are some changes you can make but you can’t put in a pre-paid credit nor will an iTunes pre-paid card cut it). Once you set-up family sharing you can add family members. The family members can now all make purchases on your credit card. There are two potential ways to limit this arrangement, but these solutions are either (in my opinion) unworkable and/or  limited. The first is you can set-up “Ask To Buy” for family members. The “Ask To Buy” is very frustrating and tedious and applies to every app (etc.) which your child might want to install – regardless of whether it is free or not. It works like this – 1) your child selects an app and enters their password to install – they then receive a message indicating that they will have to wait for approval, 2) the adult receives a message on their iOS 8 device (and too bad if they don’t have such a device – as they’ll never receive the message) to approve the installation of the app their child has selected, 3) the adult needs to approve the new app and type their own Apple account password in on their own device, 4) the child having had the app approved needs to now type in their own Apple password again to install the app. Hence if the aim was to control apps your children might be accessing (which was my main aim) this system requires multiple steps to install each application.  This is way more complicated than letting your child use their Apple device with your Apple ID and requiring them to bring it to you each time they want an App installed.  There is the advantage with this set-up that the child isn’t using your calendar and other Apple services which you might be using – but for me this wasn’t the case I just wanted to assist in making my child’s use of technology a bit safer in a time efficient manner.
Anyway there was another way potentially to control apps you child might install and that was to set restrictions on the actual device the child uses. Restrictions can be set-up on a device with or without using a Family Sharing account.  This can be setup by enabling restrictions on the device and setting a 4 digit passcode to protect these settings on the device. This also creates a tedious solution in that now your child potentially can’t even attempt to install any apps without you removing the restriction.
In the end I wanted to turn family sharing off, limit any access to my credit card and have my child create a fake account under their own name with an adjusted birthdate. Unfortunately turning off family sharing is not that easy as it’s not possible to delete your children (or even close their account for that matter) and turn off family sharing. You can transfer your children but that requires another adult Apple ID to transfer the child account to – if you don’t have such an account – you are out of luck and you are stuck with family sharing – which as mentioned must have a valid credit card associated with it. It’s a pity Apple couldn’t setup “Ask To Buy” to have granular settings to apply only to apps etc. that actually cost money. It’s a pity Apple couldn’t work out a better approval process for people who people who are not in the Apple ecosystem (with multiple Apple iOS 8 devices) – why couldn’t Apple allow approval from a website or via an email link. It really does appear that Apple have set-up this up with the prime aim to make money and with any aim of setting things up in way which assisted in creating a safe way to use technology as a lesser aim.  Anyway in the end for my family – family sharing is just not workable – being either too tedious or involving too much risk to my credit card.

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2 responses

23 08 2015
Stephen

I understand what you are saying however, I look at it like this. Even though they have free apps, that doesn’t mean that they are great for children. By asking you if you want to allow your child to download this app even though it is free, my guess is it is apple covering all there bases. Lets use a free sex app for example. Some parents finding such app on their child’s phone would call apple in a huge fuss saying, “well, I never got notified that my child was trying to download said app.” In turn, it would leave apple open to a potential lawsuit by rightfully frustrated parents. Lets use facebook as another example: some parents won’t let there kids use facebook until they have reached a certain age..and rightfully as their is allot of bad people on social media..again, it is apple trying to protect you as a parent, the child and them as a very large company. So as anoying as it may be, I’m sure you can understand why. As for the credit card, while it is true that you have to have a card put on the account, as long as lets say you purchased a $20 itunes card and put it on your account, apple would only take the money off the itunes card before touching the credit card. There is another option you can use and that would be a capital 1 prepaid credit card..some banks have them as well. I know for my itunes account I use this thing called a visa debit..and what it does is it lets your bank card also act as a credit card witch I am able to use on my family sharing account. Seeing how this feature is still pretty knew I’m sure they will make some adjustments along the way :). I hope this helped somewhat.

1 01 2016
Alli

Family sharing does not allow prepaid credit cards nor does it allow debit cards even if they have the credit feature such as visa/MasterCard. To enable family sharing with a child now, you must have an actual credit card. To those whom are not able to get a credit card or whom have very bad credit- (those needing to watch their spending the most and teach it to the next generation)-sorry no family sharing available. Verified with Apple.

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