Our Complete Guide to Apple’s Parental Controls (iOS 11)

#1

Set up Family Sharing

Before setting up parental controls, known as Restrictions, we recommend setting up Family Sharing

What Is Family Sharing and Why You Should Set it Up

The major benefits include:

  • Setting up an Apple ID for a child under 13 (requires Family Sharing)
  • Paying just once for content and sharing it across the family
  • Tracking your family members’ locations (at least their devices)
  • Approving your child’s app downloads remotely with the Ask to Buy feature

To verify your settings and to confirm you are the designated Organizer, Parent or Guardian:

  • Go to Settings > Select Your Name 
  • Tap Family Sharing. Your designation will be listed under your name.  
  • If you’ve not been designated as a parent or guardian, you will need the Organizer to make this change. You will then both be able to approve purchases and downloads for your child as well as to make changes to your family account.  

If you need to set up Family Sharing, follow the instructions found here and continue to Step #2.

#2

Set Up Restrictions

In iOS 11 (up to 11.4.1), you will need to set up Restrictions from your child’s device. With these enabled, you can limit what functionality you grant on your child’s device and set parameters around what he or she can download.

  • Go to Settings > General > Restrictions
  • Tap Enable Restrictions
  • Create a Restrictions Passcode and re-enter to confirm

    

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HIFAF Recommendations:

Make sure to choose a parental passcode that your child won’t know and store it somewhere you’ll remember. One option to help you manage passwords is to create a Locked Note in Apple’s Notes

Note: If you forget your Restrictions Passcode, you’ll likely need to erase your child’s device and set it up as new–something every parent wants to avoid!

#3

Consider Which Apps You Will Grant Access to 

You have more control than you may realize–you can turn off literally every feature and every app, except calling*.

Under Settings > General > Restrictions

  • Decide what you will turn off and keep on
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Note: As so many tweens and teens use iPads and iPhones, most texting these days seems to happen using Apple’s iMessages. iMessages facilitates texting between Apple users (noted as green in the messaging app), and can be turned off. However, in iOS11, parents can’t permanently lock it, so wily kids can easily turn it back on.  Instructions are addressed herein: Step #9. 

 HIFAF Recommendation: 

We recommend turning off AirDrop to prevent anyone from sending your child inappropriate files, and turning off Apple News for its potentially mature content.

For older devices (those that can’t upgrade to iOS 12), we have found it helpful to setup iPads and iPhones with different functionality and limit what kids can do on each device. By establishing the iPad for entertainment (watching and playing games) and the iPhone for communicating only (calling and texting), we’ve found this makes it easier for kids to take a break. It can help to facilitate building healthy digital habits, plus, you’ll know that when your child is on the phone, he or she is not playing endless games.  

#4

Manage Downloads and Purchases

You can use Restrictions to make sure your child only accesses age appropriate content in the iTunes and App Store. 

Under Settings > General > Restrictions:

  • Decide if you want to turn off the iTunes Store
  • Decide if you want to turn off the App Store (toggle Installing Apps left, to the OFF position)
  • If you use parental control monitoring apps that need to be installed on your child’s device, you will want to Turn Off Deleting Apps
  • Turn Off In-App Purchases if you want to prevent your child from being bombarded with advertisements

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Prevent your child from going on a buying spree, by turning on Always Require a passcode:

  • Scroll down to Allowed Content > Password Settings
  • Choose Always Require

   

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HIFAF Recommendation:

If you want to tightly manage your child downloads (highly recommended), turn off the App Store and keep your child’s Apple ID and password for your eyes only.

Here is the issue with so many apps: if children want to keep playing they are required to watch ads, which may also be gamified, meaning that children earn extra points or special rewards for watching. We find the underlying manipulation deeply concerning. Here is one example of an ad that appeared when my daughter was playing Wishbone, an app rated 12+ that is a seemingly harmless would you rather game: movie vs. read a book, hamburger vs. pizza.

Further, because these aspects of an app may not be readily apparent, we do encourage parents to spend a few minutes playing the games, so you are fully informed. Establishing content parameters is especially helpful and we have a section for this in our Family Agreement.
. The Fewer the Apps, the Better!

If you want to give your child freedom to explore, but you want to approve all downloads first, you can turn on the Ask to Buy feature found under Family Sharing.

If your child is using lots of apps, it is a challenge to keep up with them, and time and again, we have been unpleasantly surprised.  Here is the issue with so many apps: if children want to keep playing they are required to watch ads, which may also be gamified, meaning that children earn extra points or special rewards for watching. We find the underlying manipulation deeply concerning. Here is one example of an ad that appeared when my daughter was playing Wishbone, an app rated 12+ that is a seemingly harmless would you rather game: movie vs. read a book, hamburger vs. pizza.

Further, because these aspects of an app may not be readily apparent, we do encourage parents to spend a few minutes playing the games, so you are fully informed. Establishing content parameters is especially helpful, and we have a section for this in our Family Agreement.
  The Fewer the Apps, the Better!

If you want to give your child more freedom to explore and choose to leave the App Store on, you still have the option to approve downloads before your child can access them. This is known as the Ask to Buy feature and is found under Family Sharing.

While some parents love this feature, we find it a bit clunky and unnecessary if you are typically approving purchases when under the same roof. Our Family Agreement can also help you to establish protocols around downloading apps, while also creating the opportunity for discussion.   

#5

Block Explicit Content 

What many parents don’t realize is that all Apple devices are sold with settings defaulted to Allow Explicit Content. Parents must take action to modify these settings.

In Restrictions (under Settings > General), Tap on Ratings For under the Allowed Content section.

  • Choose the rating region
    • Tap on your desired country
  • Block Explicit Content by tapping each of the content types under the Allowed Content section. Your options include:
    • Music, Podcasts, News
    • Movies
    • TV Shows
    • Apps: If you’ve kept the App Store on, your child will only be able to browse and download apps that you’ve designated as age appropriate. For example:
      • For example,If your child is 11, and you’re comfortable with him playing apps up to age 13, you would select 9+ 
      • If your child is 10, and you grant her permission to use Tik Tok Musical.ly, then you’ll have to set app limits to 12+ because Musical.ly is rated a 12+ app. This means your child will be able to access any 12+ app (which means through age 17.)
      • If you grant permission to your child to use YouTube, then you’ll have to set app limits to 17+, which means he or she will be able to browse all apps in the App Store
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  • Restrict websites your child can visit — In Allowed Websites, select either:
    • Limit Adult Content — here you can also select websites to NEVER ALLOW (for example, if you’re not okay with your child watching youtube.com)
    • Specific Websites only — for younger kids who use learning programs such as Starfall or IXL, you may want to consider using the allow this feature to contain them

*Setting either of these website restrictions options automatically disables private browsing.  

  • Restrict what your kids can ask Siri by toggling Explicit Language to the OFF position (grey)

If your kids watch YouTube, we recommend limiting them to watching on the browser-version through Safari for two reasons:

  1. You won’t have to override all App restrictions, so your child will only be able to browse apps you’ve designated as age appropriate
  2. You can layer on Safari web browsing Restrictions on top of YouTube parental controls for extra protection

Whether your child accesses YouTube via a web browser or the app, be sure to set up YouTube restrictions and monitor your child’s activity! And be advised that the above Restrictions only apply to movie and TV shows downloaded from the iTunes store — they do not cover content streamed through Netflix or Amazon, so you will need to set up parental controls for these content providers as well. See Our Guides to the Major Content Providers.  

#6

Review Location Sharing

You can set up your child’s iPad or iPhone, so you can monitor his or her location, or at least the location of the device. If you’ve already set up Family Sharing, you’ve automatically completed this step, but we recommend confirming the settings below. If you child has both an iPhone and and iPad, make sure you do both!

Child Device > Settings > Privacy > Location Services:

  • Under Location Services, make sure it’s toggled ON
  • Tap Share My Location, make sure Share My Location is toggled on and confirm it says, From this Device (selecting the iPhone is recommended).

To find your child’s device, log into Find My iPhone on your phone.  Note: you will need your Apple ID and Password. Select your child’s device and Play Sound to help you locate the device.

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So often we find we are trying to get in touch with our kids when we are out of the house.  Our kids ignore the landline and really don’t pay much attention to their iPhones.  So we have found it effective to use Find my iPhone to grab their attention.  When you select their device (even if you don’t expect that they’re on it), we use the Play Sound feature.  When we set multiple devices off at once, they know we are really trying to get in touch and should call us immediately!

#7

Review Privacy Settings

  • In Settings, scroll down to Privacy and tap
  • Review which Apps your child’s device is sharing its location from
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Generally, the only app we think it’s essential to share location from is Find My iPhone so you can locate your child’s device if it gets lost. We recommend turning off Location Sharing for Camera to prevent your child from sharing photos with geotags (e.g. If your child took a photo at home and posted it online, someone could easily figure out your address.)

If you are particularly concerned about protecting your child’s privacy, we recommend blocking Apple’s ability to track your child’s device behind the scenes.  While Apple does say that it encrypts the data, parents may be surprised to see that their child’s device’s location can be pinpointed to an exact location, at a specific time of day, with a history of previous locations.

To turn this off:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy
  • Click Location Services
  • Scroll down and tap on System Services
  • Tap Frequent Locations and toggle it OFF

         

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#8

Lock Parental Control Settings

You may want to consider restricting your child from making changes to their Location Sharing settings as well as their Account settings. Some teens have been known to get fairly creative– hiding text messages and faking their location. To prevent this from happening, make sure you’ve locked down your child’s iPhone. 

Go to Settings>General>Restrictions and enter Passcode:

To Lock Location Settings: 
  • Under Privacy, click Location Services
  • Click on Share My Location
  • Make sure it’s toggled ON and sharing from your child’s iphone
  • Go back by clicking Location Services (top left) of the page
  • Click Don’t Allow Changes

          

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To Lock Account Settings:
  • Scroll down to Allow Changes section
  • Tap Accounts 
  • Click Don’t Allow Changes

   

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#9

Turn off Texting (Messages)

Turning off texting is not locked under Restrictions in iOS 11, so your child can turn it back on if he or she is particularly wily, but for a lot of kids, turning off iMessage will work just fine.  

Here’s how:

  • In Settings > go to Messages and in iMessages, toggle to the OFF position 
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  • The iMessage app may still appear on your child’s device, but he or she will be blocked from logging in with their iCloud account credentials

#10

Consider what access you will grant your child

Parents are well-advised to consider the age and maturity of their child when considering what access to grant when it comes to device use.  For example, will your child know:

  • The device’s passcode
  • His or her own Apple ID and passcode

We have found that Guided Access is the very best, easy-to-use, parental control for older iOS devices. It is great for young children because you can lock them in to just one app and set time limits.  Click here to see how to set up any iOS device in just 3 minutes

HIFAF Recommendation:

We encourage parents to take the lead in guiding children’s technology use and recommend that you always have access to your child’s device. If your child’s device has Touch ID, be sure to add your fingerprint!

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