Apple iPhone & iPad
The Complete Guide to Apple iOS Parental Controls
Parents often wonder if Apple or Android is a safer device for their kids. Pro’s and con’s of both devices include:
- Android devices are definitely cheaper.
- Apple devices are typically seen as “more cool” by kids.
- Android’s operating system is much easier for a solution like Bark to monitor when it comes to monitoring Snapchat and Instagram’s direct messages (DMs), Instagram’s search (Explore) feature, and deleted text messages. All of these activities are either not possible, or in the case of deleted iMessage on an iPhone, are just more difficult and less accurate.
- Although both come with nice parental controls (Screen Time for iOS and Family Link for Android), the most recent version of Screen Time is so buggy that we now prefer Family Link [Related article: 12 iOS Screen Time Hacks, picked up by the Washington Post].
- Android’s Safe Mode is unfortunately a very effective parental control circumvention and only a few parental control solutions flag when it’s being used. We’ve been told that encrypting the Android phone might solve this issue by requiring a password, but we’re still researching this solution with Google’s Android Support Forum (last updated: Jan. 19, 2020, here’s the link to the support inquiry).
[updated January 18, 2020] We believe there are multiple layers that should be in place in order to adequately protect an Apple device (iPad or iPhone):
4 Layers of iPhone protection:
Location -> WiFi (router) -> Clean DNS on the iOS device -> Screen Time
Layer 1: Guard the location of the iPhone or iPad.
Remember, where kids use technology often dictates how they use their technology. We have strong opinions about controlling where kids use their tech. For example, let’s keep all internet-ready devices out of bedrooms, where kids take more risks, and sleep is constantly interrupted.
Related post: The 5 Worst Places for a Kid to be Online
Layer 2: Set up clean DNS on your home’s WiFi (router).
You are responsible for every digital click on your home’s network, and so be sure to control the router. Popular options for parents are:
- Circle with Disney – by far the most popular parental control device on the market for controlling devices at the router (and also with Circle Go on devices).
- CleanBrowsing – use CleanBrowsing’s clean DNS and block most known porn domains (FREE). Read all about it in our extremely popular DNS blog post.
- OpenDNS – similar to CleanBrowsing, but with enough loopholes that we really prefer CleanBrowsing.
We’ve also recently found OpenDNS to be glitchy with our internet service, which is why we’ve moved to CleanBrowsing’s clean DNS for every device in our home, including the router.
Related post: How to Block Porn on Any Device. For Free!
Layer 3: Set up clean DNS on the iPhone or iPad.
If for some reason you can’t access your router’s dashboard in order to set up clean DNS, then you’ll want to make sure clean DNS is set up on the iPhone or iPad in order to block as much of the porn as possible.
Follow these steps for setting CleanBrowsing’s DNS on your iOS device:
- Tap the Settings app.
- Tap Wi-Fi.
- On the Wi-Fi network used most often, tap the blue “i” in the blue circle.
- Scroll down slightly until you see “Configure DNS.”
- Touch “Manual” (instead of “Automatic”).
- Delete everything under “DNS Servers” and “Search Domains” by tapping the white subtraction in the red circle.
- Tap “Add Server” under “DNS Servers” and type in 18.104.22.168 and then tap “Add Server” again and type in 22.214.171.124 – these are CleanBrowsing’s servers. If you prefer OpenDNS, then type in 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
- **Important!** Be sure to tap “Save” in the upper, right corner.
- Then, you can back arrow out.
You’ll want to repeat this for each of the primary WiFi networks used by the device.
But what about then the phone is using data and NOT WiFi? Keep reading!
A Few Bonus Steps for Keeping an iOS Device Clean:
How to lock in CleanBrowsing DNS settings on WiFi and data:
- Go to the App Store and search for the DNSCloak app. It allows you to use a DNS service across the entire device using the phone’s VPN.
- Search for CleanBrowsing in the list of possible DNS providers.
- Select “Use this Server.”
- To keep enforcing CleanBrowsing across the entire phone, you’ll need to lock in “VPN on demand.” Just click the 3 bars in the upper left, and select “Connect on Demand.” You might also enable “Show VPN icon” just as a visual reminder for the user.
- Then, click the 3 dots in the upper right, and select “Set Passcode” so that after you close the DNS Cloak app, the code is needed to get back in.
Note – there is still a way for a kid to toggle off the VPN on the iPhone, which would disable DNSCloak on the device. Just so that you’re aware, it’s done by following: Settings -> General -> VPN -> the little “i” next to DNSCloak -> “Connect on Demand” turned to off .
Layer 4: Use Screen Time on the iOS device.
Screen Time is Apple’s own, free parental control solution that is installed on all iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices. Our iOS 13 Parental Control blog post explains everything and has been used by thousands and thousands of parents:
Read more! -> iOS 13 Parental Controls Explained
You may also want to explore all of the hacks that we’ve discovered in iOS 13 with related solutions. It was used by the Washington Post in their article about Screen Time weaknesses.
Read more! -> 12 Ingenious Screen Time Hacks (and Solutions)
Special Note: How to control iMessages (Texting) on an iPhone
The biggest reasons kids ask for an iPod Touch are for texting with their friends and downloading and listening to their favorite music. Anyone with an iPod can iMessage (Apple’s word for text) anyone else with an Apple device while connected to WiFi. Unlimited and free! Here is an Apple article explaining how iMessage works. If you want to monitor your kid’s iMessage activity, here are two good articles with some savvy tips:
Bark, which we mentioned above, also monitors iMessages for inappropriate words and phrases, then alerts parents so that they can get involved at the right time. It’s pretty great!
Are any other parental controls needed on the iPhone?
It depends on your situation.
Mobicip is a really strong filter and has a whole suite of controls that mirror Screen Time. Some parents like having all devices using the same service, so in a mixed Apple, Android, Chromebook family, then Mobicip might work. It’s very reasonably priced ($49.99/year for the whole family and it’s our overall #1 parental control solution on iPhones, too).
Try Mobicip free today! Follow this link.
Bark is another tool that can be connected to a kid’s email account and other parts of the device in order to identify troubling words and phrases. The service successfully identifies instances of self-harm, violence, explicit conduct -> it’s awesome. PYE has over a 1,000 families using Bark right now and it’s reasonably priced ($99/year for the whole family).
Try Bark -> Free for 7 days! Follow this link.
For teens (14+), you might want to graduate from Screen Time to something more mature like Covenant Eyes, which uses the power of Accountability to change lives.
Finally, if you don’t think Screen Time or anything we’ve suggested above is working for your situation, then you can always check with your cell provider. Each has their own parental control plan:
iOS Parental Controls FAQ’s
Q: Screen Time just quits working on my child’s device from time-to-time. Am I doing something wrong?
Multiple parents are reporting this to us at PYE. I hope Apple fixes the bugs soon.
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*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!