Gifting an iPhone to your child for the holidays? Set it up right

Protect your child and protect your iPhone purchase.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
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If your kid will unwrap an iPhone this holiday season, then you will need to find a time to pry it out of his or her hand and set up an Apple ID along with some restrictions in iOS against the wilds of the Internet as well as the App Store. And unless your child is preternaturally careful, an insurance plan and protective case are also good ideas. Let's get started.

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Wipe old phone

First things first: If you are not buying new but handing down an old iPhone, then you will need to wipe it before getting out the gift wrap. Follow the step-by-step instructions in the iOS section to learn how to wipe your iPhone.

Set up Apple ID for a child

Along with the gift of an iPhone comes the gift of an Apple ID. If your kid is older than 13, then they can set up their own Apple ID, but 12 and under means you, the parent, will need to get it up and running. 

To set up an Apple ID for your child, go to Settings > [Your Name]  > Family Sharing > Add Family Member and then tap Create a Child Account. You'll then enter their birthday, agree to the parent privacy disclosure, enter the three-digit code on the back of the debit or credit card tied to your own Apple ID, enter your kid's name, create an iCloud email address for your kid, choose a password for his or her account, and then set up a few security questions. The account will then show up under Family Members on the Family Sharing page in Settings.

If your teen created his or her own Apple ID, then you can invite them to Family Sharing so you can share App Store purchases and iCloud storage space. On the Family Sharing page, tap Add Family Member and choose either Invite via iMessage or Invite in Person and follow the instructions.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Turn on Ask to Buy

For kids 12 and under, Ask to Buy is enabled by default. To enable it manually, go to Family Sharing in Settings, tap on a family member's name, and then hit the toggle switch for Ask to Buy. With it enabled, you will get a notification on your iPhone to approve App Store purchases.

Turn on Location Sharing

Also on Family Sharing, check Share My Location and make sure it's enabled. I don't intend to spy on my daughter, but if she's out with friends and not answering my texts, it's comforting to know I can locate her using the Find My Friends app.

Set up Screen Time

Earlier this year, Apple introduced Screen Time with iOS 12 to help iPhone users curb phone addiction. It's especially useful to help young, developing minds resist the allure of the ever-present iPhone. Head to Settings > Screen Time and you can establish rules for your kid's iPhone usage, from Downtime and App Limits to setting Content & Privacy restrictions. You'll get a report each week detailing how many times your child has picked up his or her iPhone each day, and how many hours are spent on each app. You will likely find the report's data illuminating and alarming. You can also self-police your own iPhone usage and set up Screen Time on your own iPhone. Follow this Screen Time guide to set it up.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Insurance against drops

I recommend buying insurance for any iPhone that will spend the majority of its time in the hands of a teen or tween.

You can purchase insurance through your cell carrier or direct from Apple. The standard iPhone warrant protects against hardware failures and manufacturing defects for one year but doesn't cover cracked screens and other damage from drops or accidents. Apple has an extended warranty it calls AppleCare+, which according to Apple, "extends your coverage to two years from the original purchase date of your iPhone and adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a service fee of $29 for screen damage or $99 for any other damage." 

The extra-cautious can opt for AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss deductibles, which was introduced earlier this year. It protects against lost or stolen iPhones and allows you to pay only $199 to replace an iPhone 8 , iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s ; $229 for the iPhone XR , iPhone 8 Plus , iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus ; and $269 for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max , and iPhone X.

The cost for AppleCare+ varies by model. For the iPhone 8, for example, AppleCare+ costs $129 (or $5.99 a month) and AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss costs $199 (or $9.99 a month).

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Get a case

Finally, I would counsel against giving an iPhone to your child without also giving the gift of an iPhone case. And not some slim, sleek case but a thick, rugged case that will help an iPhone survive drops, bumps and bruises. Check out CNET's Best iPhone XS and XS Max casesbest iPhone XR casesbest iPhone X cases, best iPhone 8 cases and best iPhone 7 cases.