7 parental controls you can use right now on your kid’s iPhone


iPhones ($1,149.00 at Apple) are like cigarettes. They are addicting and marketed to kids. Similar to cigarette manufacturers being forced to curb their advertising and sales efforts toward children, Apple has been urged to address phone addiction among its youngest customers. In response, Apple has vowed to introduce new controls to help parents better manage their children’s iPhone use.

While you wait for Apple to add these new controls, here are seven controls parents can use right now to protect their kids’ privacy and restrict their access to explicit content. Apple labels the iPhone’s parental controls as Restrictions. To enable them, go to Settings > General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions and enter a four-digit passcode that will keep your kid from going in and changing the restrictions you set up.

1. Disable certain apps

After enabling Restrictions, you’ll see an Allow section at the top that lets you toggle off certain apps you don’t want your child using. Perhaps you don’t want them using Safari, for example, and accessing the internet at large, or using the camera to FaceTime. You can also prevent your kid from installing or deleting apps or making in-app purchases.

2. Content restrictions

Below the Allow section is Allowed Content where you can you can prevent your child from purchasing R-rated movies and TV shows rated TV-MA. You can also select content ratings for music and podcasts, books and apps. For websites, I suggest choosing Limit Adult Content or, for smaller kids, Specific Website Only and then making selections from the list and adding your own.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

3. Privacy settings

In the Privacy section, you can prevent your child from making changes to various apps and see if Location Services is enabled and, if so, which apps are using such services. One thing I would check: make sure that you choose Don’t Allow Changes for Share My Location so your kid can’t disable location tracking. 

I would also check the Photos line here to see which apps are accessing your child’s photos. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest might be OK with you, but if you see an unfamiliar app with access, then it might be time for a conversation with your kid about what that app is doing with his or her photos and how photos can never really be deleted once they’re on the internet.

4. Prevent changes

Further down on the Restrictions page, the Allowed changes section lets you prevent your child from making changes on their iPhone. You can prevent your kid from making changes to his or her account and the cellular data plan. The last item listed —  Do Not Disturb While Driving — should be enabled and not changed for any iPhone user of driving age.

5. Game Center settings

Multiplayer games can be a cesspool of poor sportsmanship and poorer language. In the Game Center section at the bottom of the Restrictions page in Settings, you can disable Multiplayer Games so your kid can still play games on his or her phone but not alongside online gamers. You can also turn off the ability to add friends to their Game Center account and record their screen while playing.

6. Ask to Buy

When you are done setting up the above Restrictions on Junior’s iPhone, grab your iPhone and add them to Family Sharing. Not only will you save money by being able to share App Store purchases and iCloud storage space, but you can also gain some control over their App Store purchases.

(If your child is under 13 years old, then you will need to create an account for them using your iPhone. To do so, go to Settings > [Your Name]  > Family Sharing > Add Family Member and then tap Create a Child Account. You’ll then enter their birthday, agree to the parent privacy disclosure, enter the three-digit code on the back of the debit or credit card tied to your own Apple ID, enter your kid’s name, create an iCloud email address for him or her, choose a password for his or her account, and then set up a few security questions. The account will then show up under Family Members on the Family Sharing page in Settings.)

Once you have added your kid as an official iPhone family member, you can start using the Ask to Buy feature to approve App Store purchases. For kids 12 and under, Ask to Buy is enabled by default. To enable it manually, go to Family Sharing in Settings, tap on a family member and then hit the toggle switch for Ask to Buy. With it enabled, you will get a notification on your iPhone to approve or decline proposed App Store purchases.

7. Location Sharing

Also on Family Sharing, check Location Sharing in the Shared Features section and make sure it’s enabled. This lets you know that you can use the Find My Friends app to see where your iPhone-toting child is, should they fail to answer a call or a text.

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