iPhone 101: How To Set Up Parental Controls on Your iPhone

iPhone 2.0 Parental Controls

Welcome to iPhone 101, simple tips for novice iPhone users to help you take advantage of your new device.

Maybe your kid spends way too much time browsing the internet via Safari, uses the camera in ways that are not appropriate, or perhaps they went on a spending spree in the App Store and you didn't know until your credit card bill came in the mail. Whatever the case may be, find out how to regain some parental control by enabling restrictions after the break!

Settings

Ok, you will want to begin to go into the settings.

General

Once you are in the settings, go directly to the general tab.

Restrictions

Tap the restrictions tab and once on that screen choose enable restrictions.

You will now be asked to enter a 4 digit passcode. Do not forget this passcode, there is no way to retrieve it, and a full restore (re-installation) of the iPhone is needed to reset it.

Restriction Options

After you have entered your passcode, you will now have the ability to restrict any of the functions you see on the screen. Without going through each and every option, lets just take a look at Safari. If you turn off Safari and head back to your home screen you will see that the icon is removed and there is no way possible to reach that application any more.

To re-enable a function like Safari, return to the restriction page, authorize with the 4 digit passcode you entered above, and turn it back on.

So there you have it folks, if there is any reason you need to restrict certain apps or features on your (or your child's) iPhone, this is how you do it.

Jeremy

Community editor. Tech enthusiast. All-around geek.

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There are 38 comments. Add yours.

mobicip says:

Jeremy
Thanks for the post. FYI there is a better alternative to disabling Safari completely. Parents can install a parental control browser app designed for kids. Check out the Mobicip Safe Browser.
This Google Knol describes the setup in detail - http://tinyurl.com/cvm8m2.
Hope this helps.

Joel says:

Apple has done a stunningly poor job in this area. OSX at least has some rudimentary parental controls at the app and content level. Forcing a user to "restrict access" by completely disabling Safari, or the camera or any other iPhone app, is, in a word, lame.

AMY says:

has there been any improvements to solve the lame parental controls issues, since this post? kids are out smarting everyone by re-installing things or finding work arounds. can we out-smart them?

BBooDad says:

After your kid sexts someone, then turning off the camera completely seems like a pretty good idea!

Steve says:

My experience with the filter browsers has been less than stellar. It would be nice if either Apple allowed them access like safari or they would program them to be like safari.
Too many things blocked by the new browsers outside of what is or is not selected for restriction.

Sker says:

Ineffective and unacceptable...
Disabling Safari and using Mobicip (or equivalent "safe" browsing software) will block most novice users but the porn addict or the hormone crazed teen with average or better technical knowledge WILL be able to circumvent this EASILY.
Most free applications and several paid have links to either their main web site or to commercial web sites. If they have to go through Safari, this is fine, however most of these apps have browsers of their own WHICH ARE INDEPENDENT OF SAFARI or the "safe" browsers. If there are links to Google or Facebook, Twitter, My Space etc., they have their gateway to anything.
The novice won't find these. The person in control of their hormones won't use them but it's bad juju for someone who's trying to 12-step a porn addiction or is a teen, it's not good enough.
I've found the "safe" browsers on the iPhone typically block too much of the good stuff and not enough of the bad. Sometimes this can be fixed manually by creating safe and blocked sites so it's not completely unreasonable.
I believe other smart phones, although less safe to begin, can have Net Nanny or other better apps installed which, I believe (no personal experience) will block/restrict ALL internet access.
If someone knows how to block what I described above, I'd LOVE to hear about it. If there are apps for a jailbroken iPhone, that might be the way to go.
So far, my experience with the iPhone indicates it's rated R and setting it to G, PG or PG-13 is nearly impossible. Frankly, I think Apple has been irresponsible on this point. (I'd like to use other language which is rated R towards the brains behind this thinking if I thought it would do anyone any good.)
Finally, the answer of disabling Safari and, in their opinion, cutting off the web is impractical and unacceptable. Why would anyone get an iPhone to be blocked from the internet altogether. The AT&T data plan is mandatory as far as I'm aware and internet access is pretty much the whole point of that.

TC says:

Totally agree! So disappointing to discover that this issue has not been addressed by Apple! with the increasing amount of young kids acquiring these technological advances its wild, and so many more parents promoting such phenomenon.... Unfortunately our society is one which leads to such premature exposure... but we have known this already... premature or not, what are the inventors of such technological advances doing about it? They better do something Fast I hope! For how much longer do I have to sit by my son's side every time he uses his new iphone to make sure he's not exposed to any inappropriate material! Or continue to stress our relationship by having him think I don't trust him? Or am I missing something already in place? If not, Apple please help!

Tan Ah Kow says:

I enabled the restriction as described above. I tested my kid and immediately when he found the safari browers missing, entered a search for it, located it and got it up and running immediately. No fuss, no trouble. So much for the built in restriction which is utterly useless.

BBooDad says:

You have to disable app installing AND app deleting. So if they manage to install something, you know about it when they give you their phone every night.

Also, make sure their icloud photostream is accessible. They have to know that you see EVERYTHING that goes on their phone.

Oh - you have to make them give you the phone at bed time, too! There is nothing like seeing what they are doing every day to know what they are doing. And most of the stuff is harmless and kind of cute.

Dana Bell says:

Yeah, that's my my folks do with my phone at night. (Advice to kids: just go along with it. you're not gonna win this battle). I just want to know, by restricting safari, does this restrict online apps like pinterest? does any body know? Or does it only restrict the ACTUAL safari app, but not wifi in general?

Fran says:

I tried the parental controls w my 3gs v4.1 and I tried to search for safari to reinstall, not possible... I am thinking of upgrading to the iPhone 4 and giving mine to my daughter with no phone service. She would essentially have an iPod touch since she would be able to use the wi-fi... This discussion was helpful and definitively put me at ease with her restrictions.

Kelli says:

I was considering getting an iPhone for my daughter. Like others said, the point of the iphone is to be able to use web & apps. So, not being able to filter via ratings, or SOMETHING, is irresponsible. It's not even thinking your child would seek out porno. Currently, porno is seeking out people. Anyone with hopes of getting someone to pay! Until Apple addresses this issue the way it should be addresses, I won't be buying any iphones for my family!

Algebraofthought says:

Covenant Eyes and other filtering software companies make an Internet browser for the iPhone. If you restrict Safari, this would force the user to go through the filter you setup for Internet access.

Pappy says:

Not if they use wifi which is everywhere

Shannon says:

I resently bought an iPhone for my 15 year old daughter. She has always been responcible and I never expect her to look up ANYTHING she shouldn't. But I wanted to check and see if it would block things from Coming up, and it did. Porn sites, pictures (explict) and other things young men and women shouln't see were blocked. Thanks for the Help!!

Sergie says:

@Sker
I 100% agree with you. There is no app or option out there than can monitor internet access on the whole iphone and apple has done a very poor job at this. At least they can have it so that in Restrictions you can turn off "Clearing Browser History". I would love a browser that stores web history and sends it to a specific email address every week so that no website is lost through the cracks (because honestly filtered browsers can always be circumvented with niche porn websites that have not been blacklisted).

BBooDad says:

Mobicip sends the web browsing history each week, even though they let the kid erase it on the phone, which is stupid. You have to pay for that though, and the set up is confusing, but ends up working nonetheless.

Eddie2ash says:

I've installed Covenant Eyes browser and had my pastor restrict Safari. Browser is unstable but activity shows on report. What I'm learning is that app like Twitter allows access to loads of porn that doesnt flow through the browser thus xircumventing accountability reporting. Can specific apps be blocked if they haven't been installed?

gregmemsevids says:

Comrades, why so much emotion?

n8isjack says:

My kid doesn't need the world. They don't need an iPhone. So they are going to get an iphone with safari and 'add apps' locked. If they want new apps they'll have to come to me. When their older and can buy their own, then they can make their own decisions. But this combination of restrictions appears to be a guaranteed deadlock against bad online content.

Dashahervey says:

I think you all need to be aware that unless you disable safari your children will not be safe. The restrictions are extremely basic. Try it. Set the restrictions and then type in something graphic. It still pops up. You have to disable safari and by an app that is child safe. I even went to the Apple store and they said there is nothing they can do on Safari for internet safety. They are working on this. I also paid ATT for parent monitoring...still doesn't work.

computer monitoring says:

Are you searching for an application program that will keep close track of your family or spouse on the computer, Youngsters may get in all types of trouble on the web, and husbands and wives can have an affair over the net also. You can find all sorts of programs on the web that can provide you with real-time reporting in regards to what they actually do, I hope this can help.

iPhone Guy says:

The only way to completely block every avenue for any sort of graphic content on the iPhone is to disable Safari, youtube, disable installing apps, don't have any other apps installed except for those that are required by apple. The ones you can't disable basically. Then download a browser like covenant eyes or xwatch, which are accountability browsers, not content filters. This is a big difference! The former will email your accountability partners once a week if you have visited any questionable sites. Don't trust the filters, they WONT work for someone who is looking for graphic content. Basically no other apps can be downloaded, because there are always back doors into built in web browsers in most ALL apps that will completely circumvent all of this. The iPhone will basically only be used then for its cell phone, iPod, text messaging, email, camera, notes, misc. utilites, and a web browser that is reporting questionable material. To the app fiend, this may be pretty limited, but with all of these apps, you can do pretty much anything. You can check your facebook or post through twitter through your reporting web browser. Just don't search anything questionable. Trust me, if you must have an iPhone and you are worried about questionable content, this is the ONLY way to do it at the moment.

Preteen parent says:

I have searched on my sons iPhone for ways to block inappropriate content. Can't find a way. Discouraging. However, I told him I get an email that tells me every website he's been to once a week. I obviously do not get this, but for now I think he believes me.... Let's hope anyway! And maybe by the time he realizes it's not the truth, there will be something I can do to block the explicit and inappropriate content that is all too easy to access.

BBooDad says:

Mobicip does email you once a week. But I even uninstalled it until I am more confident in it's filtering and not being able to be circumvented by my son

Sally P says:

I have read some of the above comments and I am left in a state of confusion! I have disabled safari as the article suggests but then as someone above suggested, I searched for safari and was in straight away! Have I missed something?

TC says:

Exactly! You haven't missed anything! Even disabling Safari you can circumvent if the users knows how, and access it anyway... Wished I had seen this site two months ago, I would have NEVER agreed to get my son this iPhone... Just the mere act of having one changed him completely.... I guess I will be sitting next to him until Apple resolves this.

BBooDad says:

Just Take It! That is what I and lots of parents I know have done. He will get it back when I am confident it is locked down For no Internet access.

J Mary says:

I have an iphone 5 and password restricted Safari, Facetime, Installing Apps, Deleting Apps, Explicit Language, In-App purchases, and under 'Allowed Content' checked 'none' for : Movies, TV shows, Apps. Under Game Center I turned off: 'Multiple Games' and 'Adding Friends'.

I tried to do a search on my phone for Safari and it does not show up at all. I tried accessing Safari or the internet from hotspots and was unable to. I'm not sure why Safari is showing up on your phones when it is turned off, perhaps it is different with each phone? I tried searching for the words 'Safari', 'Internet', 'Browser', 'Online' ....etc in my phone, and it did not show anything and I was completely unable to access internet, even via the apps that came with my phone that I could not delete, like 'Games'. Hmmm.

Oh, I also turned off email on my phone and under 'General/Restrictions' also made sure that under 'Allow Changes' I clicked; 'None'.

It all worked for me, anyway. But I COMPLETELY AGREE with the above poster who said that downloading apps, even innocent children's apps or photo editors, USUALLY includes a browser within their app. I tested this with several apps, and they all had their own browser. That being said - if there is anyone who knows of an online source to find non-browser apps for phones, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I have searched and searched and cannot find a site or blog that lists non-browser apps.

Hope this helps.

Jodiann Hansen says:

Is there away to restrict wifi?

davepageclean says:

There’s a service called http://www.pageclean.com that’s specifically designed to filter the internet for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. (yes - I work with them! I hope this info is helpful)

The unique features are:
- you can keep using the Safari or any other web browser.. don’t need to install any app
- can be locked in place with a passcode
- even blocks inappropriate “sexting” apps

This is the easiest way to keep a filter running smoothly, with no work to set it up.

Ambah85 says:

I use 3xwatch app it sends me a email and 2 other accountability partners for my family computer and phones. But in games I cant get around the twitter can I block twitter or any browser in any games. Safaris blocked already! Help

phil_davis says:

We've just launched an iOS app and website that you guys might find solves the problems - curbi (http://curbi.com). curbi provides parental controls specifically for your childrens' iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

In addition to permanent content filtering curbi lets you set up, from your own iPhone, rules that determine what your child can do on their phone, and when they can do it. For example, you can block social media apps during study time to keep them focused.

A key part of curbi is the feedback you receive about what your child is doing on their device - what site's they are visiting, what apps they've used and how long they've spent using them.

Yes, I guess this is a plug but I hope its useful. Our product has evolved out of our own frustration as moms and dads.

Paul DeSimone says:

There is an inexpensive phone camera blocker on the market to protect you and your children from Prying eyes. The product can be purchased from www.secdotx.com or www.phonecamerablocker.com . It is removable and reusable, but will not fall off in your pocket or in your purse like others on the market.

cgarrett32 says:

I've had success blocking Safari from the iPhone and deleting all apps that have their own internal browers. After that, disabling the ability to download apps keeps any other problems from popping up. BUT, lately Apple has "enhanced" the Music app, which apparently can't be blocked, by adding a radio player. Problem is, there are tons of album artwork that have inappropriate images on them. One only has to search for them. Does anyone know of a way to block this or disable this?

wayne simandl says:

Install IPROTECT, LOOKOUT and DROPBOX. If on Android use APP LOCK instead of iprotect.

IPROTECT allows the user to lock apps on the phone.  I would suggest locking the General/Settings button to prevent the child from altering settings.  Delete any apps , social media and texting applications you do not want.

LOOKOUT is for device location/recovery/wiping.  The parent can use it to locate the device when their child isn’t with them.  The app installs as an admin so the parents can locate it by GPS even if the child has disabled GPS.  Lookout will remotely enable GPS for locating.  The parent would create the free Lookout.com account online and don’t share the password with the child.  The parent can then at anytime from a PC login in and locate.  This is free, there are paid features available if needed.  Using IPROTECT block this app so the kid can’t open it and alter settings.

DROPBOX is cloud storage for pictures/files.  The parent would install dropbox create an account and again don’t share the login info with the child.  The parent would also need to create their own separate account.  Login to the child’s account from a PC and you will see a folder called Camera Uploads.  You can share this Folder with anyone you want. Click share or Link and type in the email address of the person you want to share with.  The parent would email the link to their own email account they used when setting up on their phone.  You then log out of the kids account and into your own account.  You will see a notification, accept it and you will now have access to every photo the kid takes, Rename the folder to your kids name.  With the IPROTECT app previously mentioned you would block Dropbox so the kid can’t open it, when they try to it will prompt for a pin or swipe pattern.  Every picture they take will automatically upload to dropbox, giving you access to every picture they take.

By locking the phone down this way, and forcing them to use stock messaging apps, should prevent any incidents and doing it this way is completely free.  You can go one more step and set up Google voice and from a PC login and read every text message.

ReneeMercier says:

Thank you for this information.
Google Voice allows you to see SMS texts but not iOS texts.