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How to set parental controls on the iPhone



Although the majority of iPhones, iPod touches and iPads are bought by adults, some of the biggest users of the devices are kids. This is due to what’s become known as the “pass-back effect,” as in passing your iPhone back to your kids to keep them entertained on a long car ride. This secondary market has become one of the main growth drivers of Apple’s App Store, with tens of thousands of apps devoted to games, picture books, and other kids’ entertainment.

But as numerous parents have found out, handing your iPhone over to your child has risks. The iPhone is a highly sophisticated device with instant access to a powerful camera, the Safari web browser, and numerous built-in apps. It also provides for instant access to iTunes, with the opportunity to download millions of songs, TV shows, movies and yet more apps.

For parents who have carefully installed parental controls on home computers, moderated e-mail activity, and locked down search engines, this new-found freedom for their Internet-innocent offspring can come as a bit of a shock. However, all is not lost. There are some highly-effective parental controls or “restrictions” on the iPhone. While most of them are of an all-or-nothing nature – i.e. they allow access to certain functions or they don’t – they can provide some comfort that the iPhone is not going to be used in an inappropriate manner.

Here’s how they work:

  • Select the Settings icon off the Home screen and then select General.
  • From the General menu choose Restrictions. The first time you use Restrictions, you will be prompted for a 4-digit Passcode, which will prevent your child from disabling or changing the settings at a later date.
  • Once you enter the Passcode, you will be presented with a series of Restrictions that can be set to ON or OFF. Here, if you wish, you can turn off the Safari browser or restrict access to YouTube, iTunes, or the App Store. You can also turn off access to the camera or to the FaceTime video calling app. If you choose any of these options, the feature is disabled and the relevant icon is removed from the Home screen. (Apple has unnecessarily confused the Restrictions page by using the header Disable Restrictions. Better to focus on the Allow header, where ON means the feature is allowed and OFF means it isn’t.)
  • The Allow Changes section allows you to block location services or any changes to Mail, Contacts or Calendars.
  • The Allowed Content section gives you options to restrict the type of content that can be accessed and downloaded from the iTunes Store. For example, you can restrict access to songs with explicit lyrics, or filter movies, TV shows and apps according to their age ratings. This section also allows you to turn off the ability to make in-app purchases, and require a password every time your child tries to make an iTunes purchase.
  • Finally, the Game Center allows you to restrict access to multiplayer games and the ability to add friends to existing games.

Parents should be aware that some of these restrictions are easy for even moderately tech-savvy kids to circumvent. For example, if you block access to YouTube and not Safari, your child can simply enter YouTube in the Safari search bar and pull up the video-sharing site without any restrictions. As with kids and any tech device, careful monitoring is still highly recommended!



Comments:
Comment by Chuck, posted 3/10/2014, 12:38 AM:

My ex wife bought my son an iphone 4s for Christmas and doesn't monitor anything that he does, which infuriates me! I don't want him to have internet access or texting right now because his grades are falling fast since he got this phone. I would love to know how to render his phone useless, but since it's on her plan, I cannot do anything. Does anyone know of anything that I can do besides literally breaking his phone? Please help this helpless Dad!
Comment by Chris, posted 1/15/2014, 4:50 PM:

Fred: look into OpenDNS to block all your devices at the DNS level. Works great.
Comment by Jay, posted 1/12/2014, 8:13 PM:

Kelly, You do not have a problem. He does. Here is a free app that works on computers and smart phones. Counseling on his side would not hurt either Shame on you Cassandra!
Comment by Karen, posted 12/7/2013, 7:33 AM:

I am looking for a way to block access to porn. Sad but this is a rising problem in our home.
Comment by Marilyn Jacobs, posted 12/4/2013, 10:10 PM:

My 12 year old daughter figured out way to change or by password for parental contol on iphone. I changed password and she still was able acess it. Is there way to secure this password? Thanks
Comment by Fred, posted 12/1/2013, 7:21 PM:

I have the ability to block my son's ipod through my Linksys router but I can't block web sites by category like I can with Norton Parental Control. With Cisco I don't have to load anything on his Ipod. Anything hitting my Linksys I can control. Is there a software that I can load on my laptop that will allow me to control category access through my server and not have to load onto his Ipod?
Comment by Janis, posted 11/16/2013, 4:06 PM:

My son keeps turning off the find my phone feature on his phone. Besides grounding or taking his phone away, is there a parental control to lock it on?
Comment by Dawn, posted 11/2/2013, 9:22 AM:

I'd like to block my son from deleting his text messages. I still want him to be able to send and receive but he deletes them all before I can monitor them. Any suggestions?
Comment by blondejamesbond, posted 11/1/2013, 11:19 PM:

Lynn, You can do the blocking on your cell phone server. Just call them up and block the number you don't want calling or texting your son.
Comment by lynn, posted 1/23/2013, 7:40 PM:

Hi. I am looking for a way to block texts from coming into or going out of my son's iphone from numbers that belong to people who I (and frankly he) do not know. Somehow someone has a hold of my sons phone # who shouldn't. Any ideas?
Comment by Cassandra , posted 1/22/2013, 7:11 AM:

Kelly, if you have to resort to controlling your husband like a child,at be it's good to seperate now. I'd take a serious look at the situation, get some counselling (for you, not him), and decide if the problem here is a compulsive or addiction problem on his part, or an insecurity or moral issue on your part. No app can actually solve this problem for you.
Comment by kelly, posted 1/11/2013, 8:35 PM:

I'm looking for info on how to block access to porn. it's a pretty sad situation. I don't have children that need monitored, but a husband that can't seem to refrain from pornography!!! it has come down to a block, or the possibility of divorce.
Comment by Ujena, posted 8/16/2012, 2:08 PM:

Hi! Thank you for this article and your site! Do you have any recommendations for a parental control app for the iPhone which will restrict all access to games, internet, texting, apps, (everything except Music), during certain times of the day?
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