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3 Reasons to Turn off (Disable) the App Store

Disable App Store

3 Reasons to Turn off (Disable) the App Store

In this blog post about the App Store, I want to share the #1 step parents can take to protect their kids who have a smartphone. It’s so simple (yet, too many parents don’t do this).

The App Store Revolutionized the Smartphone

Both Apple and Android devices have their own “store” where users can download applications (apps) that have a specific, typically narrow, function.

Some interesting history: The Apple App Store launched in July 2008, a year after the first iPhone was released. It had 500 apps and, to many, was a revelation. 10 million apps were downloaded in the first weekend.

For Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), the store is called the iTunes App Store. For Google, it’s called the Google Play Store. As of March 2017, Apple’s store contained around 2.2 million apps, while Google contained around 2.8 million. This means there are over 5 million selections, acting almost like a mini-search engine for words I might hear about and want to search for.

App Store Icons

The #1 Way to Make a Smartphone Safer

This is going to seem obvious. Mom and dad, please do this for me.

TURN OFF THE APP STORE!

Easy, right? Still not convinced you need to do this? Here are three reasons why this is a good idea.

3 Reasons to Turn off the App Store

Your kids can circumvent your parental controls – if you download a filtered browser like Mobicip or Covenant Eyes for your child’s smartphone, then he/she can simply download another browser (Chrome, Google, Opera, Dolphin, etc.) in order to circumvent the monitored browser. Another popular circumvention technique is to download what’s called a Virtual Private Network app (VPN), which allows your child to punch through any network controls you have in your home (i.e., on the router) and surf the internet unfiltered.

Your kids will see things you don’t want them to – although we’ve not found outright pornography in the app store, there are very sexually charged apps that young kids should not see. These include apps showing sexual positions, “gay hook-up” apps, one-night stand apps, “how to make her orgasm,” Kamasutra, and others. The app descriptions just contain a lot of inappropriate words and phrases that I don’t need my child learning before he/she is ready. Here are screenshots of some of the apps we discovered.

App Store

Your kids might spend a lot of your money – in-app purchases can cause a lot of trouble. I frequently receive messages from moms who are receiving monthly charges on their credit cards for apps their kids have downloaded and now they want to stop the charges. There are multiple issues with this situation that are very easy to prevent. First, this means that the child has access to the app store and “in-app purchases” are turned on [read about how to turn off in-app purchases here or see the image below].

Disable In-app purchasesBonus Reason: Kids are Curious Creatures

Mom and dad, you know this. When your child is riding the bus and see five other kids huddled around a phone playing the latest game or reading the latest juicy story on Episode, curiosity might take over. The next time they’re in their bedroom (no Internet access in the bedroom either!) they might begin just cruising the app store.

Related post: iPhone Restrictions and Family Sharing

Here’s How to Disable the App Store

Disable the App Store on Apple Devices (easy)

If your son or daughter has an Apple device, including an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, then the steps to disable the App Store are the same on all three devices and it’s easy.

Simply enable the device’s Restrictions with a 4-digit passcode and the toggle off the App Store. We give detailed instructions in this blog post, or simply follow the images below.

Disable In-app purchases

Disable Google Play on Android Devices (a bit more work)

Unlike Apple devices, Android devices don’t come with factory settings to disable the Google Play Store (bummer).

But, you have a couple of great options for not a lot of money.

  • Mobicip provides an Android parental control dashboard that allows you to block app downloads on Google Play, in addition to monitoring what apps are being used. You can protect up to five devices for only $39.99/year.
  • Covenant Eyes also has an App Block feature to go along with its internet filter and phenomenal accountability reporting which prevents access to Google Play. It has time of day controls for the overall device, but does not have individual app control. A family account (with unlimited users and devices) is $14.99/month.
  • OurPact has some of the best individual app control we’ve seen, along with some pretty innovative ways to help teach kids how to use apps well (“app allowance”). OurPact does not have an internet filter, unlike both Mobicip and Covenant Eyes, but it far exceeds the other platforms in the level of control it gives parents over apps. This is a situation where sometimes a combination of solutions provides the best overall device control (Mobicip + OurPact). The premium version of OurPact is only $4.99/month.

Like most protection steps, parents might need to set aside a few hours to make sure they find the right solution for their family. We hope these summaries will help get you started!

What’s Our Home’s App Store Rule?

In our home, no one will have unmonitored access to the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store until age 16.  I’ve already told our daughter, “Once you get your driver’s license, then you can have access to browse the app store without mom or dad being closely involved.” [BTW – we now have the same rule for most social media, including Snapchat and Instagram – guess what? Kids just aren’t ready for the pressures, porn, and problems that are present in these popular apps – have you heard of Instaporn? What about the explicit content in Snapchat’s Discover section?].

Parents, please take this easy step! It’s especially straight forward for Apple devices. Every child under 16 with an iPhone should have Restrictions enabled!  We hope these instructions will help more families protect their kids.

Living life to the full! That's why He died and how I try to live. I have an eclectic list of professional experience...CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, now educational resource manager for Covenant Eyes. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I want to show parents how to protect their kids from online dangers, which led to the creation of Protect Young Eyes. How can I help you protect the young eyes in your home?

5 Comments
  • Michael Troy Mattingly
    Posted at 13:17h, 02 September

    Thank you. I will attempt to complete the recommendations that you have suggested by using Mobicip. I have a 14 yr old son. We had a subscription to Net Nanny but everything about the experience was terrible; customer service, website usability, etc. My subscription expires in Oct 2017 and i have no intention of re-upping my script. Again, thank you for this information. i know my son, who is extremely tech savvy, can probably navigate around my efforts to protect him but i have to try.

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 01:28h, 03 September

    Hi, Michael – my experience testing NetNanny is the same, and it’s a horrible solution for mobile (very easy to beat). I’m glad our information is helpful. Whatever else we can do for your situation, please let us know!

    Chris

  • Stephanie
    Posted at 14:59h, 22 October

    I have the App Store turned off on my kids’ phones, iPads, etc. and the newest software release just added the App Store for stickers to their iMessages app. I just spent an hour on the phone with apple support and it can not be turned off!!! I am very upset that this essentially goes around my parental restriction of turning off the App Store. I left a complaint with Apple but am at a loss of what to do.

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 21:30h, 22 October

    Hi, Stephanie, you’re absolutely correct. We have not updated our blog post yet, but you can access sticker apps through the iMessage feature even with the app store turned off. You’re best option is to also have Family Sharing enabled on your kids’ phones so that they have to receive permission from the “Organizer” (you) in order to download apps. Instructions for setting up family sharing are in this post here about Apple.

    If there’s anything else I can help with, please let me know.
    Best, Chris

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 21:46h, 22 October

    Also, I recommend reading this article by Covenant Eyes, which allows you to turn off the #images and YouTube features in iMessage, if that’s of interest.

    http://www.covenanteyes.com/support-articles/disable-image-searching-messaging-app-ios-10/

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