How to set parental controls on your kid's iPhone

Setting restrictions on iOS can be an easy way to protect your child and your credit card on Apple devices.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
3 min read
Watch this: How to turn on iOS parental controls in 20 seconds

It's highly likely that a child in your family might get a new iPad or a hand-me-down iPhone as a gift this holiday. Their shiny new iDevice will give them access to amazing technology, but it also puts both them and you at some risk, too. Luckily, Apple has your back.

Built into iOS , are parental controls, though they're actually called Restrictions. These restrictions allow you to do a few things: protect your child's privacy , protect your child's access to explicit content as well as protect your credit card from your child. It's all easy and fast to set up.


Restrictions in iOS are fast to set up and easy to maintain.

Josh Miller/CNET

This will take about 20 seconds

Enabling Restrictions on iOS is fast. From the home screen:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Tap on General
  • Scroll down and select Restrictions
  • Tap Enable Restrictions and set a passcode.

The Restrictions passcode should not be shared with your child (duh), it's just for you -- this is different than your phone's lock screen passcode. And that's it. Told you it was easy.

The only thing left is to work your way through Restrictions for content ratings, privacy features and things like in-app purchases. Apple has conveniently divided the iOS Restrictions list up into five sections: allow, allowed content, privacy, allowed changes and Game Center. Here's what to look for in each section.

Restrict access to built-in Apple apps and your credit card


You can prevent your child from making in-app purchases.

Josh Miller/CNET

The first thing to audit is the "allow" section, aka what your child can access. You can restrict their access to built-in Apple apps and features like Safari, the camera and FaceTime.

Two of the bigger restrictions to consider are your child's access to the iTunes store and in-app purchases -- your wallet will thank you. Ultimately, the age of your child as well as your relationship with them will dictate which ones you should select.

Prevent your child from making big changes to their iDevice

The "allowed changes" section is as much for you as it is for your child. You can limit what your child modifies on their device. So no need to fear your child changing the password on an iTunes account or blowing through a ton of cellular data playing Super Mario Run.

Limit movies, music and shows using content ratings


Protect your child's eyes and ears from explicit content.

Josh Miller/CNET

In the "allowed content" section, you can use the content ratings on movies, shows, music, books and websites to restrict what your child consumes media-wise. This means you can rest assured that your child only watches films like "Finding Dory" instead of films like "Deadpool".

An important restriction in this section to check is websites. You can choose to give your child access to: all websites, websites with limited adult content or specific websites. You can even add specific websites that you never want them to access.

Control how connected your child's gaming experience is

Games are one of the biggest draws for children on iOS. The "Game Center" section lets you limit the social access they have while playing games. This includes controlling their access to multiplayer games, adding friends and screen recording.

Protect your child's privacy from being shared with others


Keep your kid's location private from websites and strangers.

Josh Miller/CNET

Nowadays, digital privacy is a big thing for us all. Apple, has made it simple to protect how an iDevice handles your child's privacy. Under the "privacy" section, you can prevent apps' access to your child's current location, the microphone or even whether they can share those things on social media.

Restrictions are all about protection

Enabling Restrictions on your child's iOS device is fast and straightforward. These restrictions aren't about ruining your child's experience on their new gift, but rather about protecting them so they can enjoy their new iPad to its fullest. Now you just need to get them to fall asleep by their bedtime!