How to Use Apple’s Parental Controls to Keep Your Children Safe

Learn how to customize and control your Apple devices to keep your children safe online.

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Last Updated: Apr 23, 2024
Graphic showing a parent teaching a child how to use a device safely
Apple’s Parental Controls can help you guide your child on the internet and encourage responsible device usage.
  • Apple’s Family settings provide parents with oversight and device management when they’re unable to monitor their child’s screen time and actions directly.
  • Within each child’s account, parents can select specific requirements, criteria, and parameters that can only be modified or canceled by a parent or guardian.
  • While Apple’s Parental Control settings are extensive, it’s important to discuss with your child the reasons for the rules and what can happen on the internet without caution.

In a departure from past generations, the internet and technology have completely transformed the way that our children develop, learn, and express themselves. From online courses and educational content to gaming and connecting with friends, the internet is an essential part of our lives from an early age to adulthood. While technology will never replace our jobs as parents, it has created a new responsibility: keeping our children safe online. The internet can be an incredibly unsafe environment without adult regulations and parental controls, so we’re here to guide you through Apple’s Parental Controls to keep your children safe online and help you stay on top of their internet and device activities.

What Parental Controls Does Apple Offer?

Apple offers a variety of specialized Parental Controls that allow you to control activities such as screen time limits, purchasing behavior, web search functionality, content limits, and location tracking. You can mix and combine these activity controls to customize your child’s internet experience and level of access. We describe each category in depth below before diving into how to use each functionality specifically.

  • Enable Screen Time: Screen Time provides parents with options to customize downtime, set app limits, create communication limits and safety regulations, block or restrict content, and allow or restrict websites to track activity and capture data.
  • Set Content & Privacy Restrictions: Within Screen Time settings, parents can adjust Content and Privacy Restrictions, including App Store purchases, allowed apps, location services, and various account changes and preferences. Content restrictions can be set for almost every iPhone feature and content area, including Music, Podcasts, News, Movies, TV, Apps, Web Content, Siri, and Game Center. These settings are also adjustable based on the child’s age and your personal preferences.
  • Set Up Ask to Buy: Parents can enable or disable the Require Purchase Approval function for any downloads or purchases from Apple platforms. You can also adjust which applications your child can download or access by age range and allow them to delete apps on their own or only with parental consent. Alternatively, you can provide them with Apple Cash (a great tool for budgeting and monetary lessons).
  • Set Up Guided Access: You can enable Guided Access, which restricts children from accessing certain, predetermined areas of the screen on specific applications so they don’t make unwanted purchases or access other areas of apps. Apple’s Guided Access keeps the iPhone in a single app and allows you to control which features are available.
  • Turn Off App Tracking: The Tracking feature allows you to enable or disable apps’ ability to track your child’s activity. Turning off this feature means companies cannot use your child’s data for advertising purposes or behavioral analysis.
  • Enable Focus Mode: Focus allows you to control what types of notifications your child’s device receives. This setting allows customization for various situations, including Do Not Disturb, Personal, Sleep, and Work. You can also enable notifications from certain Contacts or Apps while disabling others with this feature.
  • Monitor Contacts: Parents can directly manage their child’s contacts through Parental Controls, including setting allowed communication times during certain Screen Time or Downtime periods. You can also request the ability to edit Contacts directly from your device. Emergency Contacts and Recovery Contacts are also an optimal way to ensure your child has a safety feature within their own mobile device.
  • Set Up Location Sharing: Apple’s Find My Friend feature is also extremely useful as a parent. Within Parental Controls, you can set up Share Your Location with family members to help them know where you are and vice versa.

How to Add a Child to Your Family and Set Up Parental Controls

Screenshots of adding a child to your iCloud Family
Before you can set Parental Controls, you must first create an account for your child on the device.

The first step before configuring all the specific parental control settings is to create an account for your child and add this account to your Apple Family in the iCloud Settings. From there, you’ll be able to set up Parental Controls and modify the account based on your preferences and your child’s age. You can set all your Parental Controls up at once during this process, or you can create the account and learn step by step in the following sections explaining how each parental control works. Here are the steps to get started and create your child’s account:

  1. Navigate to your Apple ID Settings.
  2. Tap Family Sharing.
  3. Tap the Add Member button at the top right of the screen.
  4. Tap Create Child Account to start the addition process.
  5. Enter your child’s name and birthday to add the new account.
  6. Go through the Parental Controls settings and modify them according to your preferences. You can also come back to this section later and follow our guidance below.
  7. Add an email address for the child, use the provided address, or go with your child’s Game Center nickname to finalize the account.

How to Enable Screen Time

Screenshots of setting up Apple Screen Time restrictions
Apple enables parents to limit their children’s screen time, with options to focus on specific apps and communications.
  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Turn On Screen Time.
  4. Choose This is My Child’s [Device] (the device name will be listed here).
  5. If you didn’t establish a passcode during the initial Family setup process, you’ll need to choose a passcode now and verify your Apple ID login.
  6. Within the menu, you can review each Screen Time feature, including Downtime, App Limits, Communication Limits, Communication Safety, Always Allowed, Content & Privacy Restrictions, and Website Data.
    • Downtime: You can decide which apps are allowed during Downtime, as well as whether phone calls will be available from select Contacts.
    • App Limits: You can customize App Limits in minute or hour increments for each App Category. This setting will also work for Apps downloaded in the future that fall within each specific category. You can also decide if the App will be blocked at the end of the limit or if it will only alert you.
    • Communication Limits: Limit calls, FaceTimes, Messages, and certain iCloud contacts within this feature aside from any specific Emergency Contacts in your child’s device. You can customize the Limits during Screen Time, During Downtime, Manage your child’s Contacts, and enable Contact Editing.
    • Communication Safety: Toggle this feature on or off to enable automatic detection of nude photos before they’re sent or viewed on your child’s device.
    • Always Allowed: Establish which Contacts are always allowed within your child’s device, including who they can contact during Downtime. You can also allow certain Apps during Downtime.
    • Content & Privacy Restrictions: This tool has a wide variety of setting options, including Content Restrictions, allowed device changes, App Purchases, and more. View the next section for more in-depth options within this feature.
    • Website Data: Toggle this feature on or off to monitor website data in addition to other trackable activity you’ve already enabled.

How to Set Content & Privacy Restrictions

Screenshots of setting Apple Content and Privacy Restrictions
You can restrict your children’s access to specific apps, types of content, and other functionalities on the devices they use each day.
  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Screen Time.
  3. Tap Turn On Screen Time.
  4. Choose This is My Child’s [Device] (the device name will be listed here).
  5. Tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  6. Enter your passcode established during the initial Parental Control setup process.
  7. Adjust settings across all apps, privacy, and device changes, including:
    • iTunes & App Store Purchases: Decide if your child can install apps, delete apps, or make in-app purchases. You can also decide if you want to always require a password for additional purchases from the iTunes, Book, or App Store.
    • Allowed Apps: Toggle each App on or off to decide if your child will have access to them.
    • Content Restrictions: Review allowed store content, web content, Siri, and Game Center options for everything from Music and Podcasts to Web Content to Multiplayer Games.
    • Share My Location: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • Passcode Changes: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • Account Changes: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • Cellular Data Changes: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • Driving Focus: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • TV Provider: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.
    • Background App Activities: Select Allow or Don’t Allow Changes within this menu.

How to Set Up Ask to Buy

Screenshots of setting up Apple Ask to Buy access
With so many microtransactions and paid apps available online, setting up Ask to Buy for your child will prevent any unexpected credit card charges.
  1. Navigate to Settings.
  2. Tap your name.
  3. Tap Family Sharing.
  4. Tap your child’s account name.
  5. Tap Ask to Buy.
  6. Toggle Require Purchase Approval on or off.

How to Set Up Guided Access

Screenshots of setting up Guided Access for an Apple account
You can limit your child’s access to a single app using Apple’s Guided Access function.
  1. Navigate to Settings on your child’s device.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Tap Guided Access.
  4. Toggle the Guided Access button to enable this feature.
  5. Tap Passcode Settings.
  6. Tap Set Guided Access Passcode, and establish a passcode for ending a Guided Access session in the future.
  7. In Guided Access, you can also set Time Limits, the Auto-Lock functionality, and establish accessibility shortcuts.

How to Turn Off App Tracking

Screenshots of setting up Apple Tracking
Apps want to track your children as much as they do you, so preventing that is important for their online safety.
  1. Navigate to Settings on your child’s device.
  2. Tap Privacy & Security.
  3. Tap Tracking.
  4. Toggle this feature off to disallow apps to track your child’s activity.

How to Enable Focus Mode

Screenshots of setting up Apple’s Focus mode
Focus mode is a great way to ensure your child isn’t distracted while working on something important.
  1. Navigate to Settings on your child’s phone.
  2. Tap Focus.
  3. Within Focus Mode, you can set up parameters for Do Not Disturb and messages during calls, as well as Sleep, Personal, and Work environments.

How to Monitor Contacts

Screenshots of setting up contact monitoring
Monitoring contacts will allow you to restrict your child’s contact with particular people during certain circumstances.
  1. Navigate to Settings.
  2. Tap Family.
  3. Tap Family Checklist.
  4. Tap Ask to Manage Contacts under Review [Child’s] Contacts. Here, you’ll find settings for various Communication Limits.
    • During Screen Time: Allow Communication During Screen Time for Everyone, Contacts Only, or Contacts & Groups with at Least One Contact.
    • During Downtime: Allow Communication during Downtime for Specific Contacts or for Everyone. If you choose Specific Contacts, you’ll be prompted to choose the Contacts or to add new Contacts immediately.
    • Manage [Child’s] Contacts: Toggle on or off to manage their Contacts remotely.
    • Allow Contact Editing: Toggle this feature on or off.

How to Set Up Location Sharing

Screenshots of setting up Apple location sharing
Setting up Location Sharing can help you ensure your child is in a safe place.
  1. Navigate to Settings.
  2. Tap Family.
  3. Tap Family Checklist.
  4. Tap Set Up Location Sharing.
  5. Toggle your child’s name on or off to share your location.
  6. Toggle on or off Automatic Location Sharing.
  7. Tap Open Find My to see any Contact or Device’s location within this app.

Keeping Your Child Safe Online Requires Supervision

Apple has created a wide variety of monitoring and tracking options for parents to use in order to keep their children safe online. However, while technology and settings can help, they do not replace the necessity for parental supervision and monitoring. Communicating the reasoning behind these settings, explaining the harm the internet can cause, and having open and transparent dialogue are essential parts of guiding your child through online safety. That’s true with or without these specific Apple features enabled.

Frequently Asked Questions About Apple Parental Controls

Do I have to pay for Parental Controls on an iPhone or iPad?

No, these features are all available within your Apple device.

Can more than one parent monitor a child’s settings and Parental Controls?

Yes, Apple has a Family option where you can add additional family members to your Family account.

Once I set up Parental Controls for my child, can I edit the settings later?

Yes, all of the settings you select during the initial setup process can be changed at a later time in your Settings. You can also adjust these settings periodically as your child reaches new maturity levels or ages.

What if I forget which features I should be using within Apple’s Parental Control settings?

Apple has a Family Checklist that reminds you to Review your child’s contacts, establish Parental Controls, add Emergency Contacts, Share your Location with your Family, Share your iCloud+ (if applicable) with your Family, and Add a Recovery Contact for your Family.

Can I change my child’s Apple ID?

Unfortunately, Apple only allows you to change your child’s Apple ID password. If you need to create a new email address or Apple ID, you’ll need to create an entirely new account for your child and set up your Parental Control settings for the new account.

How many accounts can I have on my Family account?

Apple currently supports six accounts within Family Sharing, including your account. You can add up to five other accounts to your Family.