iOS 13 Parental Controls Explained

iOS Screen Time Parental Controls

iOS 13 Parental Controls Explained

On September 19, 2019, iOS 13 released to the public. As usual, a number of things changed (you can read a complete list here), but we wanted to focus in on three changes that impact parents and kids the most:

  1. Photo Privacy.
  2. Screen Time.
  3. Apple Watch.

Maybe you’ve already implemented Screen Time when it came out with iOS 12. Now might be a good time to refresh those settings if you haven’t checked them in a while! Screen shots 18-20 are new, and don’t miss the list of websites you need to block in Screen shot 33, even if “Limit Adult Websites” is enabled.

iOS 13 Made Changes to Photo Privacy

If you have not turned off location services for the camera, then you are attaching location-related metadata to every photo. Anyone with a free app can pinpoint exactly where the photo was taken.

First, we recommend removing location data from all photos but if you keep location turned on, then you might want to remove location for individual photos as you share them. Here are the new screens in iOS 13:

Explain iOS 13 Photo Privacy

Screen shot 1 – If you share a photo from the Share Sheet in the lower left, Screen shot 2– You now have the tag “Location Included – Options >” and if you click on it, then Screen shot 3– You can now toggle off Location, photo-by-photo.

Again, we suggest that parents turn off location for all photos at the Camera App level. How to turn off location sharing on all photos on iPhone:

  1. Settings App
  2. Click “Privacy”
  3. Click “Location Services”
  4. Click the Camera icon
  5. Then select “Never” for when location is shared.

iOS 13 Made Changes to Screen Time Parental Controls

Here is the entire process for setting up Screen Time from the start, with the new iOS 13 sections called out.

Screen Time Step 1 – Establish Family Sharing

*Note: if your child is already part of your Family Sharing, then skip down to (11) below. 

Getting the most out of Screen Time starts with understanding Apple’s Family Sharing feature. On a parent phone, you’ll want to establish a parent as the “Organizer,” for the family, who functions as the Administrator.

iOS 13 Parental Controls 1

Screen shot 1 – Select “Settings.” Screen shot 2 – Click on your Apple ID on the top. Screen shot 3 – Click “Family Sharing” and then follow the steps in screen shots 4-6 below.

iOS 13 Parental Controls 2

iOS 13 Parental Controls

Screen shots 7 – 9 – **IMPORTANT** Apple pays very close attention to the birthday attached to your child’s Apple ID, so make sure it’s correct.

Example: if you attempt to add someone as a “child” in Family Sharing, but you set the birthday to 20, Apple will classify them as an adult. You cannot exert any of the iOS 13 Screen Time controls over anyone who is >=18 according to the birthday on their Apple ID.

Screen Time Step 2 – Set-up Screen Time Features

Click back into Settings and then Screen Time (Screen shot 10). You should see the child you just added (Screen shot 11) and then you’ll want to enable Screen Time for that child (Screen shot 12).

iOS 13 Parental Controls

iOS 13 Parental Controls

Now, it’s time to set each of the 5 Screen Time areas, starting with Downtime (Screen shot 13).

A fairly recent update now allows users to customize Allowed Screen Time for each day (Screen shot 14)Once you’re happy with Downtime settings, it’s time to consider App Limits (Screen shot 15).

**Special Note – I had one parent ask us this, “In Our Pact, I can just shut down my kid’s apps, which I love. Can I do that in Screen Time?”

The answer is, “YES!” Once you’ve linked your child’s iOS device to yours, you can go into their Downtime settings and if you set the start time for something before “now,” then, Downtime will be enabled and their apps will shut down immediately. It’s a bit of a hack, but until Apple provides an Our Pact like “panic” button, it seems to be the only way.

App Limits (Screen shot 15) is an allowance feature. You can allow for a certain amount of time to be spent on categories of apps during a day (17-18) or on individual apps within a category. FYI – iMessage is categorized under “Social Networking.”

NOTE – if you don’t toggle off the ability to ignore App Limits, your kid will be able to just keep adding time. Read more in our iOS 13 Hacks blog post, specifically, #5

iOS 13 Parental Controls

Communication Limits (Screen shot 18) is a new feature in iOS 13 likely aimed at curbing strangers (tricky people) from contacting kids. Screen shots 20-21 below show parents the types of controls available to them.

iOS 13 Parental Controls

Screen shots 21-22 are step 4 in the Screen Time features, where you can decide what Apps are always displayed, even during Downtimes. Content & Privacy Restrictions in Screen shot 23 below is one of the more important sections, and is the last of the 5 Screen Time steps.

iOS 13 Parental Controls

iOS 13 Parental Controls

In screen shot 25, toggle on Restrictions and start at the top, where you determine what kind of behavior you want from the App Store and adding/deleting apps. The red note on screen shot 26 is important. Don’t miss it.

Screen shot 27 gives you the ability to permanently toggle off certain apps. The most popular apps that parents typically toggle off are Safari and AirDrop.

If you’re using a filtered browser like Mobicip or Covenant Eyes, then toggling off Safari makes sense so that kids can’t circumvent your controls. AirDrop has been the subject of our blog posts where kids and adult send unsolicited porn and cruel content to each other when AirDrop is enabled – read more in My Kid Received Unsolicited Porn – What is Cyberflashing?

iOS 13 Parental Controls


After toggling off Safari and AirDrop, click “Back” in the upper left and click “Content Restrictions,” as shown in screen shot 29. For many parents, this section is of great interest.

On Screen shot 30, first, you’ll notice the list at the top where you can control ratings for Music, Podcasts, Movies, Apps, and others. Make whatever selections you think work for your kid. Then, click “Web Content.”

Then click “Limit Adult Websites” as in screen shot 31 and then in screen shot 32, we provide the following list of websites that should be added to the “Never Allow” list because these sites aren’t filtered by Screen Time (for some reason).

  • Imgur.com
  • Reddit.com
  • Yandex.com (Russian search engine)
  • Yandex.ru
  • Yandex.com.tr
  • Yandex.ua
  • Dogpile.com (easy to toggle off safe search even with Screen Time enabled)
  • Flickr (lots of inappropriate content)
  • Excite.com (old search engine, can toggle off safe search even with Screen Time enabled)
  • Instagram.com
  • Tumblr.com
  • https://youtube.com (if you want to completely limit YouTube access, even if someone sends a video link in an iMessage – text). You have to type it in exactly how it is here.

With “Limit Adult Websites” enabled, you cannot delete Safari’s search history. So, parents can inspect the types of websites and searches kids are attempting by clicking the Safari app -> then the Book icon in the bottom menu of Safari -> then the clock option at the top, right. You’ll notice the little “Clear” option in the lower right is greyed out, since “Limit Adult Websites” is enabled.

NOTE: If you want to toggle off Safari altogether, a super-safe, porn-blocking, free browser you might consider is the SPIN browser from Boomerang.

Boomerang Spin Browser

If you decide to keep Safari and you follow the steps above, you’ll be able to fully control the Screen Time settings for your child’s device from your device. Just click the Settings app and then Screen Time on your device, scroll down to see your child’s name and click.

Frequently asked questions about iOS 13 and Apple Screen Time:

What if I have an Android phone and my kid has an iPhone. Can I still use Screen Time?

Yes! Start at Screen shot 10 above ON YOUR KID’s iPHONE. Click “Use Screen Time Passcode,” create a 4-digit passcode on his device (that he/she doesn’t know), and then set things up starting on Screen shot 13 however you would like.

Our family shares an Apple ID. How does that impact Screen Time?

This just means that certain rules will impact all devices using the same Apple ID. For example, if you set a Downtime rule for shutting off certain apps from 10pm – 7am, this (according to Apple), “will apply to all devices that are using iCloud for screen time.” One consideration – with the arrival of Screen Time, which gives parents greater control over their child’s device(s), it might be a good time to allow your child to have his/her own Apple ID as a way to see how they do with some additional responsibility.

Do I need to upgrade both my device and my child’s device to use Screen Time?

Yes, both the parent and the child device need to be upgraded to iOS 13 in order for the Screen Time controls to work on the child’s device.

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 on the iTunes backup.

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 who 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.

But, now with iOS 13 and the weekly activity reports and being able to see the amount of time that a phone is being used, as soon as an Apple ID’s time plummets, that’s a flag that maybe something has been changed.

How Does iOS 13 Work with Popular Parental Controls?

Bark + iOS 13 Screen Time = solid monitoring of many popular social platforms, iMessage, and everything from iOS 13.

Covenant Eyes + iOS 13 Screen Time = amazing content filtering through their browsing app, Accountability Reports sent to parents, a lock on YouTube Restricted Mode in the YouTube app, and the app control explained above.

Mobicip + iOS 13 Screen Time = amazing content filtering through their browsing app, and the app control explained above. Quite a bit of the value these services used to provide parents with app control can now be handled through iOS Screen Time.

If you can afford Bark ($9.99/month or $99 annual) + Covenant Eyes ($15.99/month or $183 annual) + iOS 13 = an amazing triple layer of protection.

iOS 13 Finally Provides Better Apple Watch Parental Controls

Based on limited testing, it seems that whatever Content Restrictions you have set on your iPhone will now be enforced on the Apple Watch. **This is new with iOS 13! We still have more testing to do here, so we’re anxious for any feedback from families out there who have a different experience. Here’s a screen shot from an Apple Watch, connected to an iPhone that had selected “Allowed Websites Only” per screen shot 31 above, where Google.com wasn’t on the “Allowed List” and this was the result from clicking the link in a text message received on the watch. We appreciate the guidance from a PYE friend who shared this iOS 13 tip about Apple Watches with us!

Apple Watch Parental Controls

As with all things that are new, there’s bound to be little things that we didn’t get right, so please let us know!

P.S. We’ve identified 12 Screen Time hacks that parents have reported from their kids and solutions! Don’t miss this next post:

Read: 12 iOS Screen Time Hacks Discovered by Kids

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34 thoughts on “iOS 13 Parental Controls Explained”

  1. I have updated to IOS 13.1, but still am not seeing the new “Communication Limits” listed. Do you know if this is going to be rolled out at a later date, or should it have been included in 13.1?

  2. Something to note. Maybe you have mentioned it elsewhere but I don’t see it.
    This is related to installing apps. If at some point you allowed an app to be installed on your child’s device but then decided that it was not appropriate or your child did something with the app that you did not approve of so you want to remove it, whatever the case may be. After you remove it they can still reinstall it if you have the option to “Installing Apps” set to allow. It would appear that the app store allows a reinstall of an app even if you require your child to ask for permission on any app install. The only way I have found to not allow this is to not allow “Installing Apps” which, as you mention, removes the App Store from the phone.

  3. Is there some way for the age limit to be changed for special needs adults using IOS screen time as a child?

  4. Hi! No, there isn’t. I have a similar situation with a parent who I would like to exert more Screen Time control over, but currently there is no provision for adults in these special situations. The only option is to give them an Apple ID with an incorrect birthday. I’ve spoken to Apple’s customer service about this and this was the conclusion.


  5. My children use older iPads and iPods. Does this mean I can never update to iOS 13 on my device until I buy both children all new devices compatible with iOS 13?

  6. Correct. It won’t work on anything older than iPhone 6S. It’s not for iPad at all – iPads are now going to have their own, unique OS. Similar to iPhones, but optimized for tablets.

  7. How can I get the App Store off of iMessage? It still comes up even when installing apps is turned off.

  8. It should not still be there. At least in iOS 13 if you have Add Apps set to “Don’t Allow,” then the App Store should not be clickable in iMessage.

  9. Shane Churchill

    My kids have iPhones XR running IOS 13 and I have an Android Samsung s10 running Android 9.
    Is there any way to set or edit parental controls in IOS 13 from an Android or Computer or Website?
    Can I make myself (Android user) the administrator of Apple’s Family Sharing on my kid’s iPhones?
    Anyone aware of any Parental Control apps that work across both platforms, Android and IOS?

  10. Janorisè Robinson

    I’ve set up Down time for the evenings and selected the few apps I would like for him to access during that time; Messages not being one of them. However, he still has access to messages and Safari. How do I block those apps during the down time?

  11. Hello! You toggle off Safari under “Content & Privacy Restrictions” and then “Allowed Apps.” Then, go to “Always Allow” on the main Screen Time screen, and see if iMessages are included in the “Always Allowed” list. You’ll know if there’s a red circle with a white minus sign – that means iMessages stay ON even after Downtime starts. You’ll want to tap that to remove iMessages from the “Always Allow” list of apps. Hope that helps!


  12. Hi, great article, but you left out one very important point. You’re not alone. You won’t find this out until it’s too late. What you and every other website, including apple, don’t mention is that if you create a child icloud account, you can’t delete it. If you make the mistake of logging a phone into that child account, you better be sure you’re going to be happy with the parental control functionality. Because it’s very difficult to then break the link between the parent and child phone if you change your mind.
    For example, I took an old unused 5s phone and set it up with a child account, just to demo the parental control features, before I victimized a real pre-teen child with this mess.

    Good thing it was only a trial! The parental controls didn’t work for me, perhaps because 12.4 is the last update for the 5s, but a lot of parents might find themselves using an old phone for a child. I tried the downtime feature, and although it worked initially, the next day, I couldn’t control it from the parent phone, only from the child’s. Dealing with a teenager, that defeats the whole purpose. I also noticed that asking for permission, to extend downtime, or to add an app, didn’t work. I never got the notification on the parent phone. Imagine the fun that would be dealing with the teenager? You might also just decide later parental controls just aren’t right for you and your child. Beware! It will be too late!

    They’ll tell you you can’t delete that account. You can’t disable family sharing on the parent phone, or remove the child account from family sharing. You can’t disband the family. Those are all things you’ll find links to in a google search, but none of them will work. You also won’t be able to sign out of the child account on the child phone, or factory reset the child phone.
    Oh! I know! After you’ve fought with your teenager, spent hours googling, with building frustration, they’ll tell you that you can transfer this mess of a problem to someone else! I know. Transfer the problem to your ex-spouse! Get them to send the child an invitation to join their family group! Great! Thank you Apple! Right! What a great idea!
    Somewhere in Internet wasteland, someone will tell you to call Apple support! Another marvelous idea! If you thought you were frustrated before, give up 2 hours of your life dealing with the mindless script kiddies on “tech support” wait until you go through that! If you press hard enough, and long enough, and pull out enough hair, a senior advisor may just admit Apple’s dirty little secret about family sharing to child accounts. Yes, you can delete the damn account!
    Save yourself some time and frustration. First, don’t turn on family sharing to a child account unless you’re sure you want to deal with this mess. Second, like me, do it to an old phone. Don’t screw up a teenager’s functional lifeline to the universe and single most prized possession until it’s your last resort, and you’re damn sure you know what you’re doing! Make sure you know what you’re doing. Make sure the parental controls are going to work as expected, and most importantly, make sure the parental controls are really going to work in your relationship with the child. If you do it anyway, and then change your mind, here’s the dirty secret:

    go to privacy.apple.com. Login with the child account. Request to delete the account at the bottom of the page. An email will be sent to the parent account. Read that email from the parent’s phone, and click the link to privacy.apple.com. If you clicked that link from the parent’s phone, when you log in, you’ll be asked to verify the child’s request, and the account will be deleted. Go to the child’s phone, settings, down to the bottom, and you should be able to sign out of the child icloud account. Ordeal Over! Thank you Apple and every other resource on the Internet advocating the family sharing and parental control features for sharing that experience with us all!

  13. I just updated my phone and my kids iPads to iOS 13.1.3, but “communication limits” does not show up under screen time. Any ideas?

  14. Hi, Adam – you might need to contact Apple for this. We’ve not found any rhyme or reason on why some people receive the “Communication Limits” feature in iOS 13 and others do not.

  15. Chris,

    Thanks for the article. I have Siri disabled on the iphone and Siri search suggestions turned off but somehow I still see Siri suggestions when using the search feature. Also using a whitelist with only a handful of urls on the whitelist, search still gives website suggestions (for example I entered the word “popcorn” and a couple Twitter account suggestions (with profile pics) come up as well as other website suggestions with pictures). If Siri is off and Twitter, Wikipedia, and about 99% of the Internet is blocked, I am not sure how I am getting these results. Any suggestions?

  16. Hi, I vaguely remember another parent mentioning the same thing. When you say “Siri suggestions when using the search feature,” are you referring to the “swipe right” search from the home screen?

  17. We are a divorced family and it seems my son’s screentime settings seem to not work when he’s at his dads. The downtime is set, we both are updated on phones, i’ve taken screentime off then on again. What kinds of “holes” can I look for on his phone? I saw the time zone one above, are there any others I can keep an eye on? He’s on it way too much at his dad’s and staying up way too late and getting up way too early. I’m thinking of getting the OurPact app, but it’s $7/mo and would rather use what we already have on the iPhone. Thanks for any help!!!

  18. Since updating to iOS 13.1.3 I have had issues with content & privacy restrictions.
    Before update I went to settings, clicked on screen time , then clicked on content & privacy restrictions, asked for passcode and entered it before I was able to get onto the page. I could then turn restrictions on or off and set restrictions. Since the update I do the same thing but once I click on content & privacy restrictions it opens the page without requiring a passcode which means my kids can turn it off and see whatever they want on the internet. Help. Downtime is the only one still requiring a passcode to get into.

  19. So I can’t type in the screen time code on my childs device. The code I use on my phone will allow me to set screen time controls so I know its the correct code .
    However if i try to type the same code directly on my childs device to get into screen time on his device or locked apps it says wrong code.

    Has my child figured out the old code and set up a new one ? It appears screen time is working.. and maybe turning it on and off from his device or is this a glitch ?

  20. Hi, Kelly – that’s not a normal behavior of the Screen Time feature. You might want to turn off Screen Time altogether and start over to see if that resets something or causes you to remember a step that isn’t quite right. Particularly, making sure the toggle at the top of the Content & Privacy Restrictions settings page (see step 24 in the blog post), is toggled on.


  21. Hi, yes, if you have the toggle shown in #24 in the blog post toggled on, then the 4-digit Screen Time passcode is required in order to make changes to location services. Does that help?


  22. I just updated to iOS 13.2 on iPhone 6s for my kid and now screentime limits allow the kid to have “one more minute” without asking for permission, apparently forever. This defeats the purpose completely. Can this be fixed? Also I don’t have “communication limits” is there a solution for this yet?

  23. What good is screen time when it’s so easy to defeat by simply changing the time or date in settings? There seems to be no way to restrict the child from changing the time in route to give them selves an unlimited amount of open ended access to everything.

  24. Hello, has Apple addressed the issue on the iPhone screen time by bypassing the time zone? or has it been resolved?

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