Note: if you’re now running iOS 12, you’ll want to follow our Definitive iOS 12 Guide for Parents and ignore the instructions below.
How do I use Apple Family Sharing and Restrictions?
Apple makes it easier for kids and parents to have a safer Apple experience than with most other types of devices. They do this with Family Sharing and Restrictions.
Some adults can’t stand Apple’s devices because the iOS operating system is rigid and there’s only one way to do things (the Apple way). In contrast, Android devices have a more flexible operating system and multiple ways to do things (not to mention fancy weather widgets).
But, as a parent trying to teach my kids how to us the internet, I tend to prefer Apple. Why? Because their operating system is rigid, and there’s only one way to do things! During the internet training phase, my goal is to limit options and eliminate possible back doors. There are paid ways to limit Android devices, when it comes to parental controls, Apple devices come with options that are far and away better than Android.
Let’s talk about the two that matter most. In 60 seconds, just about any parent can enable both of them on any of Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPad or iPod) and go from internet safety zero to hero.
This video explains the process well and there are step-by-step instructions underneath the video.
Apple Family Sharing
The Family Sharing functionality allows parents (called “family organizers”) to approve app downloads on a child’s device from the parent’s phone, including in-app purchases.
To enable Family Sharing, follow this path on your Apple iOS device:
- Click “Settings” (looks like 2 gray gears)
- Click “iCloud”
- Look under your name and click “Set Up Family Sharing”
- Click “Get Started”
- Assuming you are the “Family Organizer” (the one in control), click “Continue” and add as many family members as you would like.
- Do you want to share your purchases as the adult? That’s your decision. Click “Settings” – “iCloud” – “Family” – click your name – then toggle on or off “Share my Purchases”
Situations where this works well:
- You have a trustworthy kid, but you want to be involved in app decisions (good move)
- You have a kid who is still in the internet “training” phase (age 15 and under)
The “Restrictions” feature is one of Apple’s most amazing tools for parents, and it’s what Android devices so desperately need. Enabling “Restrictions” allows parents to set up certain filters at the device level so that it doesn’t matter where the kid is using the device.
To enable restrictions, follow this path on your Apple iOS device:
- Click “Settings”
- Click “General”
- Click “Restrictions” and select a 4-digit code that your kid won’t know. **Important! Don’t forget this 4-digit code, or you’ll have to perform a factory reset if you want to change “Restrictions” in the future.
- From there, toggle off whatever you see fit. Here are some recommendations:
You can turn off Safari, which is Apple’s internet browser, if you want them to access the internet through another accountable browser, like Mobicip for young internet users (<12) or Covenant Eyes for older internet users (12+).
Earlier, we talked about controlling app downloads through “Family Sharing,” but, for young internet users, you might consider turning off the App store altogether.
Related post: 3 Reasons to Turn Off the App Store
Although it’s hard to find outright porn in the App store, with over 1.5 million apps and growing, there are plenty of apps that offer suggestive and offensive content in the app description that you might want to avoid. In fact, we recommend turning off the app store until age 13.
Further down in “Restrictions,” you can restrict settings for music, books, and Siri.
If you keep Safari as the Internet browser, in Restrictions, be sure to select the “Website” option and then select “Limit Adult Content”. This prevents the user from deleting their browser history and also provides an excellent level of filtering within Safari.
Two very easy steps! And, because Apple’s devices are wildly popular with tweens and teens, parents who take these two simple steps will significantly reduce the risk of exposure to inappropriate content. Be a hero!
Frequently asked questions:
What happens if I forget my 4-digit Restrictions code?
Unfortunately, there is no easy recovery without a factory reset, which will delete all data, including contacts, photos, music, and messages. This is not a decision to be made lightly! Some people have commented that it’s possible to restore an iPhone through iTunes, which is true. But, the restoration will also restore whatever Restrictions were enabled previously.
Can’t my son or daughter simply perform the factory reset and circumvent the 4-digit code?
Technically, yes, this is possible. But, it will mean erasing all data. If you have a high-risk child you might be devious enough to perform a factory reset, then make sure you set the Apple ID for the phone when the phone is first set up (or follow these steps to change the Apple ID for an iPhone). For iOS 7 and beyond, the Apple ID that was in place prior to the reset/reboot is required in order to initiate the device after the reset/reboot. This was put in place to deter thefts of the devices.
What are you waiting for? Please take 30 minutes and protect all Apple devices today! Be that Internet Safety Hero your kids are longing for.
P.S. Here’s an age-specific formula for iPhone, iPad, and iPod protection:
Middle School and early High School = Restrictions + Family Sharing + Covenant Eyes for browsing the internet and teaching accountability + Circle with Disney for time and app controls (if needed)
High School = Restrictions + Family Sharing + Covenant Eyes for browsing the internet and teaching accountability.
Call to Action – Now What?
After you set the right technical settings on your Apple devices, are you ready to have awesome conversations with your kids about how to use those iPhones well? Snapchat – pornography – predators – bullies – help! Please visit our Protect Young Eyes Parent University, where you’ll find videos to watch with your kids, creating common vocabulary, and awesome chats. Sometimes, when kids hear someone else talk about awkward things, it helps them really hear it for the first time. Please visit the PYE Parent University today!
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, porn survivor. Current marketing manager for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I love guiding parents to teach their kids how to use technology well while protecting them from the bad stuff.