Sep 30, 2019

Whether you wish to prevent your child from accessing inappropriate material on your phone or are issuing your child their first iPhone or iPad, you’ll want to know how to set iOS parental controls. Taking advantage of built-in parental controls is your first step in making the iPhones and iPads in your home more family friendly.

Having these devices on-the-go has become incredibly convenient but they also give kids access to the Internet at their fingertips. This can be great but it also means that your kids can access websites, apps, and games that might not be appropriate for them or they can rack up quite the bill concerning in-app purchases.

Are your kids avid gamers? Learn how to set parental controls for Nintendo Switch.

Why You Should Set iOS Parental Controls?

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, 45% of teens reported that they are online almost constantly, nearly doubling from their previous study in 2014. Left unchecked, kids can get up to a lot of trouble on mobile devices or spend far too much time glued to their screens. It’s not possible for parents to be constantly monitoring their child’s phone use and this is where parental controls can help.

In 2018, Apple added Screen Time features to iOS devices, which gives users device usage insights in addition to an array of control features. These features allow you to set limits and restrictions that work for your family and are aimed at keeping your kids safe while promoting healthy technology use. While Apple’s Screen Time features are not a complete parental control solution, they can help families manage their device use.

From restricting game time to filtering content, here’s how to set iOS parental controls on your Apple device in four steps:

Step 1: Navigate to The Screen Time Menu Under Settings

Screen Time is your hub for setting device controls and monitoring your child’s device usage. This menu is where you’ll begin when you’re figuring out how to set iOS parental controls on your child’s device.

Information About Device Usage

Under the Screen Time menu, you’ll find a usage report for the iOS device you’re on, giving a total amount of screen time used, broken into categorical usage. Tapping on the Screen Time usage report will bring up more detailed information by day or for the last seven days.

The Screen Time area will show you how much time your child has spent on their device in the following areas: Social Networking, Reading & Reference, Productivity, Entertainment, Creativity, Health & Fitness, and Games. Tapping on any of the categories will show a further breakdown of usage with specific apps under that heading.

The information in the screen time area is almost eerie with its reports, showing users how often they pick up their device in a day, in addition to the number of notifications they receive per day. As a parent, you can see how often your child is checking their phone and how often they’re getting called to their device for a notification (the numbers here will likely surprise you).

Areas Included in Parental Controls

iOS provides the following menu selections for setting parental controls: Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions.

Downtime allows users to schedule time away from their device’s screen, limiting the apps available during that time and allowing phone calls to be made or received.

App Limits is the control most parents have been waiting for, allowing you to set a daily time limit for specific app categories, like social networking or games, on the device per day. If you want to limit time on the device, no matter the category, this is an option as well.

Always Allowed gives users the ability to designate which apps will still be available on the device, such as the Camera or Maps apps.

And lastly, Content & Privacy Restrictions is straightforward; this is where you’ll set limits on content to be blocked, restrict purchases, and block apps you don’t want your child to access on the device.

Step 2: Set Screen Time Passcode

Your time spent customizing your child’s iOS device settings will be all for naught if you don’t password-protect them. Take the time now to create a password by selecting the Use Screen Time Passcode option under the Screen Time menu and inputting a four-digit passcode. You will be prompted to enter your passcode a second time to verify the code entered.

Now that a passcode is set, you’ll be prompted to enter that code each time you make a change to the iOS device settings.

Step 3: Set Content Restrictions

Next you will want to set up content restrictions by selecting the menu option, Content & Privacy Restriction. Here you will be able to select the areas you wish to adjust.

iTunes and App Store Purchases

If you wish to restrict purchases on your child’s device, select the iTunes & App Store Purchases menu option. Under the purchases heading you can limit your child’s ability to install new apps, delete apps, or make in-app purchases.

If you do not wish to restrict access to installing or removing apps and purchase abilities, you can opt to password-protect them by requiring a password to continue. This is a good option for parents who wish to monitor activity rather than completely restrict it.

Allowed Apps

If you wish to limit your child’s access to apps on their device, navigate to the Allowed Apps menu. Under Allowed Apps, you can tap the slider next to each application to either allow or restrict access to it on your child’s device.

For example, those with younger children may wish to remove Safari or the Camera from their iPad home screen; Allowed Apps is where you’ll make those selections.

Content Restrictions

To customize the content your child can access on their iOS device, navigate to the Content Restrictions menu to select options. The Content Restrictions menu is separated into four categories: Allowed Store Content, Web Content, Siri, and Game Center.

Allowed Store Content manages the items your child can purchase and view through the rating system and designated content type (clean or explicit). You will first set the country you wish to establish ratings for and then assign the allowed rating per content type for the following categories: Music, Podcasts & News, Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Apps.

Web Content allows parents to set the access-type for websites or to enable unrestricted access on your child’s device. Under the Limit Websites option, parents can add sites that may contain adult material, such as Wikipedia, to an approved access list, as well as adding specific websites to which their child is never allowed access.

Parents also can select particular websites their child can access -- and nothing more -- under the Allowed Websites Only option. Parents are given the option to choose from the provided list of sites or add their own.

While Siri can be fun for children to use, parents may wish to restrict how their child uses Siri on their device. The Siri menu allows parents to block web search content found by Siri and explicit language.

Lastly, the Game Center menu gives parents the option to tailor their child’s gaming experience on their device by providing the ability to block multiplayer games, prevent their child from adding friends in games, and blocking the ability for their child to record their screen during gameplay.

Step 4: Set Privacy Restrictions

The iOS platform allows parents to set Privacy restrictions, which is incredibly vital with minors, especially those with a social media presence.

Under the Content & Privacy Restrictions menu, users scroll down to see the Privacy subheading and its options. It’s important to note that setting privacy restrictions on your child’s iOS device will also prevent apps from accessing information from your child’s device, such as their location or their photos.

While parents may wish to restrict their child’s ability to share their location from their device, some essential apps require this information to work correctly, such as the Maps app. In this case, Apple allows you to select the apps you wish to grant access to the device’s location services information.

The Location Services menu is also where you’ll want to block your child’s social media apps from accessing and sharing location information; you’ll do this by selecting each app you wish to deny access.

Additional Parental Control Tools for Parents

Now that you know how to set iOS parental controls, you can track or limit your child’s screen time, as well as set content and privacy restrictions on their device. Utilizing these built-in parental controls is essential for protecting your children, but it’s not entirely foolproof. This is where Net Nanny steps in, providing the peace of mind you deserve.

As with any device or electronic that connects to the internet, the native parental controls are only the first line of defense. Manufacturers are focused on creating technology to access the internet, not built-in controls to restrict access and as such, content often slips through the cracks.

With Net Nanny, parents have the peace of mind knowing that inappropriate web content is blocked in real-time with software that adapts to the ever-changing nature of the internet. Parents also receive notifications and reports if their child searches flagged keywords on the internet or tries to access a site with mature content. The easily customizable features that Net Nanny offers allow parents to choose the level of filtering that is appropriate for their family.

Learn more about how to set parental controls on your child's devices.

Lauren B. Stevens

Lauren B. Stevens is a writer, editor & digital parent, whose pieces have been published across the internet and featured in several print anthologies. Lauren lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and son, and enjoys spending her family time hiking and traveling.