How to use parental controls on iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide

How to use parental controls on iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide

Parental Controls, also known as Restrictions, allow you to set what your children can and can't access on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. With Parental Controls, you can lock out Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Siri, AirDrop, CarPlay, the iTunes, iBooks, Podcasts, or App Stores (including in-app purchases), as well as content by age rating, and the ability to make changes to accounts and other app settings. In other words, they're a way to block your child's access to anything and everything you deem inappropriate for them based on their age and sensitivity, and your own best judgement. And they're part of what make Apple devices an ideal computing platform for kids!

How to set up parental controls with restrictions for iPhone or iPad

How to enable parental control restrictions on your iPhone or iPad

To use Parental Control restrictions, you need to enable them in Settings. It does involve creating a passcode to prevent anyone else, especially oh-so-clever kids, from just turning everything back on again. However, once you've got everything set up according to your child's age and temperament, and your own personal preferences, you can let them use an iOS device without having to worry so much that they'll see or hear anything inappropriate, change anything they shouldn't be changing, or buy anything they shouldn't be buying — including in-app purchases!

How to restrict Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Siri, and more with parental controls for iPhone and iPad

How to restrict Siri, AirDrop, and CarPlay with parental restrictions for iPhone and iPad

With Parental Control restrictions you can turn off any features you don't want your kids accessing without your supervision. That includes disabling access to Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Siri, AirDrop, CarPlay, and more. With those restrictions in place, you won't have to worry about your kids seeing web pages, taking pictures, making video calls, performing voice commands, sending information, or controlling the car that you'd really rather they didn't.

How to restrict iTunes, iBooks, and App Store with parental controls for iPhone and iPad

How to restrict access to iTunes, App Store, and iBooks with parental controls for iPhone and iPad

Parental Controls, also known as Restrictions, let you manage which features, apps, and content your kids can and can't access on the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. That includes the iTunes Store, which sells music, movies, and TV shows, the iBooks Store, which sells ebooks, and the App Store, which sells apps and games.

Note: iBooks will only appear as an option if you've downloaded the iBooks app from the App Store. (With iOS 8, coming this fall, both iBooks and Podcasts will be pre-installed and options for both will always appear in Restrictions.)

How to restrict app deletion with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to restrict app installations and deletions with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

Sometimes you don't want to prevent your kids from adding apps, but from deleting the ones already there. Whether you've already experienced the unbelievable speed with which a young child can delete almost every app on your device — and sometimes your data along with them! — or you simply want to make sure your pre-teen doesn't remove location tracking apps without your permission, you can make sure that what you have on your iPhone or iPad stays safe, and what they have on their iPhone or iPad stays in place.

How to restrict in-app purchases with parental controls for iPhone and iPad

How to restrict in-app purchases with parental controls on iPhone and iPad

Perhaps one of the best features of parental controls is the ability to restrict access to in-app purchases (IAP) on the App Store. While originally designed to enable extra content like additional levels in games or new issues of magazines, IAP are now routinely used in a casino-like manner — to feed addiction through ego and instant gratification. The classic examples are free games that lets you spend money to pass levels faster or build a better farm than your neighbor. Farmville, Smurf Village, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and others have made millions off this model. It can be hard enough for adults who know better to avoid the trap, never mind kids. Luckily, parental controls let you lock out in-app purchases completely. That way, your kids are free to play but won't be able to pay.

How to set the ratings region with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to set the ratings region for restrictions with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

Some Parental Control restrictions, like for music, movies, TV shows, and apps, can be based on ratings like parental guidance (PG), or 18+. However, ratings vary from place to place. What might be considered acceptable for a certain age in one part of the world might not be considered acceptable in another. That's why Apple lets you change the ratings region on your iPhone or iPad to suit your location and preference, whether it be for the United States, Algeria, Zimbabwe, or anywhere in between!

How to restrict music, movies, TV shows, apps, and more based on age-ratings with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to restrict music, movies, TV, web, and more with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

If you don't want to block entire stores like iTunes or apps like Safari you can still block content based on its age rating. That includes the ability to block iTunes Store music or podcasts based on explicit language, movies above a specific rating like PG or NC-17, and TV shows above PG or MA, App Store apps above specific ages like 9+ to 17+, Siri based on explicit language and web access, and Safari based on adult-content or specific URLs.

How to make sure iTunes and the App Store always ask for a password with parental controls for iPhone and iPad

How to change your iTunes password interval with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

That includes changing the default 15-minute window for password requests on the App Store and iTunes Store. Originally intended as a convenience for adults who wanted to buy several apps, games, songs, movies, or TV shows at once, the window also let kids buy extra apps and in-app purchases after their parents entered the password. So, Apple now lets you change the password interval to immediate, so each and every in-store and in-app purchase requires it before it'll start the download.

How to restrict privacy settings with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to restrict private data access with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

The iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad let you control which apps have access to your private information. Parental Control restrictions, however, take it to another level, includes not only blocking apps from accessing you location, contacts, calendars, reminders, photos, bluetooth sharing, microphone, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and advertising settings, but also preventing your child from accidentally or intentionally changing those privacy settings. Not only can that keep your data safe, but keep your kids safer as well.

How to restrict email account, cellular data, app refresh, and volume changes with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to restrict account changes with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

With parental control restrictions, you can prevent any changes from being made to email, contacts, and calendar accounts. Whether you're worries your young child might accidentally delete your accounts, or your pre-teen might try to add a new account you know nothing about, might rack up huge data bills or blow out their ears, you can quickly and easily lock it all down — or them out! — in Settings.

How to restrict Game Center with parental controls for iPhone or iPad

How to restrict Game Center with parental controls on your iPhone or iPad

Parental Control restrictions let you prevent your child from engaging in multiplayer games or adding friends on Apple's social gaming network, Game Center. Like any social network, Game Center can be a great way to add some friendly cooperating or competition. However, not everyone your kids run into on Game Center will be friendly. There may be bullies or people with ulterior motives. That's why Apple makes it easy to make sure your children are only playing with people you know about and approve of.

How to get more help with Parental Controls and iOS

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How to use parental controls on iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide


Internet Content Filtering
I use OpenDNS Family Shield on my sons device to block adult content, which works great! Just change the DNS servers, but for each WiFi network.

Cellular Data is another story, I can not figure out to change the DNS servers on the cellular adapter. I have heard people talk about using APN Setting and changing the Carrier Profile. This is getting a little beyond me, have not found a step by step guide on this. Hoping for a little more control in iOS8!

OpenDNS Family Shield
IP Adresses:

That is a very long list of how to configure just so that our kids while using our device, can not get into areas we want to constrain.
Why not adopt something as simple as wp's kids corner
If the kids have their own devices, Apple can make it simple again by adopting something similar to wp's parental control. The parent see all the kids phones remotely and lock it appropriately. If tablet use something similar to family safety. Put simply, you can micro manage the living daylight out of their tablets with family safety.

I agree. If I directed any new iphone parent to this, their eyes would quickly glaze over. I know iMore means well, but when you got a couple of kids, micromanaging devices is the last thing you want to do. Or reading an unorganized article that's way too long with too many pics and links.

Keep it short and sweet. Step by step, what should you do and then be done.

Sorry if my word "micro manage" is mis understood, it means I can we curfew times, apps, programs etc, block sites, you get weekly report on your kids activities, all remotely, you can approve request from your kid remotely, you can approve more time temp or permanent using the web based family safety feature. All the parent have to know is how to check and uncheck boxes

Is there an option for "prevent passcode change"?.

Why this happened is discussion for another day and we have taken steps to prevent this from happening in future, hopefully.

Here is what happened just one day before this article. My son changed the passcode on our iPad and did not know what he changed it to. It took a while, but we able to get the iPad restored. However, it would have been so much nicer if "prevent passcode change" was an option.

Hopefully, maybe, in iOS8.

We are using Care4teen ( to control our son's digital activity. It has good firewall, cause parents take part in building it. So we control online gaming and internet surfing with it. Btw, before that I've tried OpenDNS, but I prefer Care4teen.

The parental control features are complicated to set up and lacking in some important features. We have found it best to supplement the pre installed parental controls with an external service. We use NetSanity, which adds unlimited parental controls from the cloud. Block apps, set time limits, monitor activity, get alerts and more. They have a free trial too.

I don't know, I think this is just too much to do and u nderstand for a non-tech person like me. I would broke the phone at the end of the installation, I guess. I found there are so-called parental control Apps, you just install it and it does everything for you. I am on a free trial nowwith Pumpic app so I guess it can change but for now its clode to be perfect. I just have to check my personal pannel once in a while and that's it, all social media uisage, internet browsing, texts, photos -I have it.