How To Set Up Parental Controls on an iPhone

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iPhones offer some built-in parental controls that prevent your child from accessing adult content, buying or downloading apps, and spending too much time glued to their phones. It’s a free but basic way to protect your child online.

We’ll explain what you can limit with iOS parental controls and how to access each setting. Before getting started, make sure your phone and your child’s phone are both running the latest version of iOS.


Video: How to Set Up Parental Controls on iOS

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How to set screen time limits

iOS’s Downtime feature restricts device functionality. Your child will only be able to make phone calls or access “Always Allowed” apps during scheduled Downtime.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime
  2. Toggle the Schedule button on if needed
  3. Tap Customize Days
  4. Set start and end times for each day

How to edit Always Allowed list

Downtime rules don’t apply to the Always Allowed list. Apps on this list can still be affected by app-specific time limits (see below).

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Always Allowed
  2. Tap the green icon to add any app to the Always Allowed list
  3. Tap the red icon to remove an app from the list

There’s also an option to restrict which contacts can be called during Downtime.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Always Allowed > Everyone > Specific Contacts
  2. Or, go to Settings > Screen Time > Communication Limits > During Downtime > Specific Contacts
  3. From the pop-up menu, tap Choose From My Contacts or Add New Contact

The contact restriction settings were glitchy when I tried to set them up. I had to choose option two from the list above and tap Specific Contacts, All Contacts, and Specific Contacts again to get the menu to pop up. Hopefully, Apple will sort out this glitch soon.

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Third-party parental controls for iOS devices

You can use a third-party parental control app to add more protection to your child’s iPhone, but the best way to lock down their internet access is to get a made-for-kids phone like the Bark Phone, Gabb Phone, or Gabb Phone Plus.

How to limit time on apps or websites

When your child is allowed to be on their phone, you can use the App Limits setting to make sure they don’t spend the entire time on one particular app.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits
  2. Tap Add Limit
  3. Select the specific apps, categories, or websites you want to limit
  4. Tap Next
  5. Select the total time limit for the apps you selected
  6. Tap Add
  7. Repeat as needed, or tap the original list to edit or delete it

How to block inappropriate content

Here’s how to restrict younger kids to pre-approved websites on iOS:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions
  2. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions at the top of the screen
  3. Tap Content Restrictions
  4. Scroll down to Web Content and tap it
  5. Check Allowed Websites
  6. Choose websites from Apple’s suggested list or tap Add Website to enter a custom URL and title

To allow older kids more freedom while still protecting them from adult content, check Limit Adult Websites instead of Allowed Websites. Add any specific ones you’re worried about to the Never Allow list. If a safe website gets mistakenly flagged for adult content, you can add it to the Always Allow list here.

From the Content Restrictions menu, customize each option based on your child’s maturity. Apple lets you restrict game center activity, voice searches, and App Store content.

How to block iOS’s built-in apps

iPhones come with a few apps that can’t be deleted. Follow these steps to block them from your child:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions
  2. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions at the top of the screen
  3. Tap Allowed Apps
  4. Toggle off any app you don’t want your child to access

How to restrict purchases

iOS’s parental controls only restrict purchases through iTunes and the Apple App Store. You’ll want to restrict your child to Allowed Websites (see above) if you’re concerned they’ll go on an Amazon shopping spree.

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions
  2. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions at the top of the screen
  3. Tap iTunes & App Store Purchases > In-app Purchases > Don’t Allow
  4. Alternatively, tap iTunes & App Store Purchases > Always Require to put password restrictions on purchases—a helpful feature if you’re willing to buy apps on a case-by-case basis

How to protect your child’s privacy on iOS

Some of the apps your child uses could be gathering data that you don’t want to share. Here’s how to double-check those settings:

  1. Go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions
  2. Toggle on Content & Privacy Restrictions at the top of the screen
  3. Scroll down to Privacy
  4. Tap each option and decide whether to allow or restrict it, paying particular attention to Location Services and Bluetooth sharing

Final touches

There are a few more things you can do from the main Screen Time menu:

  • Use Screen Time Passcode: Lets you set up a passcode that bypasses all Screen Time settings.
  • Share Across Devices: Applies all Screen Time rules to any device with the same login information.
  • Set Up Screen Time for Family: Allows you to manage child accounts and monitor activity from your phone.
  • Turn Off Screen Time: Removes all limits.

Take care not to turn off Screen Time unless you want to reset every setting.

FAQ

Not to the extent of other parental control apps like Bark. For example, you won’t get an alert if your child tries to access a restricted site or app.

With Screen Time for Family set up, parents can see which apps their child spends most of their time on. There’s also a way for kids to request an extension when they’ve used up their allotted time—parents see it as a push notification.

No, Screen Time doesn’t monitor texts, apps, or emails for signs of cyberbullying or other concerning conversations.

Yes, you’ll be able to see your child’s location through the Find My app. To set up family location sharing, go to Settings > [Name] > Family Sharing > Location Sharing > Automatically Share Location.


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Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over eight years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She is a certified Safe Sleep Ambassador and has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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