The Mac has parental controls that let you limit what a child can do in macOS, but what about on an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone? Happily, iOS provides similar controls, called restrictions, that let parents have a say in what their child can do—find them in Settings > General > Restrictions.
An important thing to consider is that your 8-year-old may be using her iPad responsibly now, but that doesn’t mean she will when those tween hormones kick in. Since restrictions are protected by a passcode that’s separate from the device passcode, it’s best to set it now, before your daughter or her friend does, even if you don’t want to restrict anything yet.
The extremely long list of restrictions begins with a few Apple apps that you can disable entirely. Turn off the switch for an app like Safari or FaceTime, and it disappears from the Home screen.
Of course, if you disable FaceTime, your child could still make video calls by downloading Skype. To prevent this, turn off the Installing Apps switch, which causes the App Store app to disappear as well.
Alternatively, if you are using the Ask to Buy feature of Apple’s Family Sharing service, you can leave the App Store app available, but be confident that your child won’t be able to download any apps without your permission.
You can also flip a switch to prevent your child from downloading new media from Apple’s iTunes Store, including movies, TV shows, and songs. This setting hides the iTunes Store app and prevents access to all items that were not already available in your child’s iTunes Store account.
Another possibility is to leave the iTunes Store app available, but use the next set of options in Allowed Content to block certain types of content, or limit content based on industry rating standards, such as movies rated R or NC-17. Or, if you are using Family Sharing, your child can browse for media but can’t purchase anything without your permission.
Although you can’t disable Apple’s iBooks ebook reading app, you can restrict access to the iBooks Store within the iBooks app.
You can also keep your child out of all Web sites, limit access to adult content on the Web, or allow access to only approved sites by picking from a list of child-focused sites (Disney, HowStuffWorks, Scholastic, etc.) or entering your own allowed sites. If you restrict Web access and your child browses to an unknown site, Safari shows a message explaining that the site is restricted and offers an “Allow Website” link. Tap the link and enter the restrictions passcode to load that site and add it to the set of allowed sites.
You can turn off Siri & Dictation, but we recommend that you leave this switch on because voice control is becoming an important skill—and it’s fun for kids. Besides, Siri is infinitely patient! If you feel your child is abusing Siri, tap Siri in the Allowed Content category and disallow explicit language or Web searches. That leaves Siri available for on-device commands like making reminders or speaking text messages.
Another category on the Restrictions screen is Privacy. Use the items here as a jumping off point for thinking about where you stand as a parent. Should your child’s device always share its location? Or only with certain apps? Should other apps on the device be able to access your child’s photos? These questions deserve careful thought, but there’s no single right answer.
In the Allow Changes section, consider enabling Volume Limit, which controls the loudest sound that the Music app will play through connected headphones. Start by setting an appropriate maximum volume in Settings > Music > Volume Limit. Then, to lock that volume level, go to the Restrictions screen and tap Volume Limit > Don’t Allow Changes. Unfortunately, other apps don’t honor the Volume Limit setting.
Unlike macOS, iOS does not offer any time-based restrictions, so it’s not possible to limit your child to only a certain amount of time per day or to prevent usage after bedtime.
Going through a long list of possible restrictions for your child may not be the most exciting way to spend an evening, but you’ll sleep better knowing that it’s done.