Keeping kids safe in today’s high tech world can quickly feel like an overwhelming project. To help parents and kids successfully navigate the online world, we are starting a series of blog posts that tackle different aspects of online life.

This post will cover creating and managing restrictions for iPhones and iPads. Future topics will include YouTube, Facebook, Kindles, Android devices and more.

iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, doesn’t currently allow for multiple users to sign in to the same device. All of the work will be done using one account.

The Settings menu in iOS 9 and above has a search feature to make navigation easier. Swipe down on the main Setting menu screen to activate the search bar and you can search for what you need instead of having to remember where each topic is located in the menus.

Let’s run through the different ways parents can customize an iOS device for their kids.

Guided Access
Guided Access locks your iOS device into a single app. You can find this feature in General > Accessibility > Learning. You can also trace circles around different buttons on the screen to turn them off. This may not be the best option for older kids who switch back and forth between games and other apps.

iOS-Restrictions-Main  iOS-Restrictions-RootiOS-Passcode

Enable Restrictions
Almost all of the work to manage an iOS device as a parent takes place in the Restrictions menus. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions to get started. You’ll then need to create a restrictions passcode. Choosing a different code from your general unlock code is key. You (or a kid looking to access the menu) will get six attempts to enter your passcode before the menu will lock up.

Now it’s time to get to know the different parts of the Restrictions menu.


Allowing Apps and Features
When you disable one of the features at the top of the menu, the corresponding apps that use those features will disappear from the device. For example, if you turn off the camera, the camera and FaceTime icons will be disabled and disappear from the main screen. When you turn the camera back on, the missing icons will return.


Allowed Content for Media
You can completely turn off access to iTunes and the App Store or you can limit different types of media by ratings. Each piece of content has a rating and you can choose what level of access will be available for movies, TV, music, apps and podcasts. The age rating scales are slightly different for each type of content.

Siri and websites are at the bottom of this section. You can customize the access Siri has to web searches here. For general website access, you have three choices: 1. All Websites 2. Limit Adult Content or 3. Specific Websites Only. If you choose to limit Internet access to specific websites only, you’ll need to enter your Restrictions code for every site you visit as you build your whitelist of approved sites.


The next section will be privacy. This section includes location information, access to photos, social media accounts. Some of the key areas to check here are:

Location Services. A number of apps will ask for access to location information. A maps app or a weather app will need your location to effectively function. The downside for kids can be sharing location information with online strangers. You can turn off location services for your entire device or decide app by app what kind of location services you’d like to allow. For kids, it’s likely better to turn off anything that doesn’t need location data to work.

Background App Refresh. Turning Background App Refresh (BAR) off can be a good way to maximize battery life. You can turn off this feature altogether or you can choose which apps can grab small updates throughout the day to keep information up-to-date.

Share My Location. This is where you can disable location sharing for the native Find My Friends and Messages apps. Unless you’ve set up family sharing, turning this off until you need it is probably a smart move. Make sure to talk to older kids about how they may be using this and why it’s important to keep things private.

Allow Changes
There are a number of setting where you’ll see either “Allow Changes” or “Don’t Allow Changes” for different apps and features on your devices. This on/off choice in the Restrictions menu is where you can lock the ability to make changes to other settings you’d like to control.

For example, it’s probably a good idea to reduce the maximum volume available in headphones for devices that kids are using. To do this, go to the Music option under the main Setting menu and reduce the volume limit slider. Next, you’ll need to go to Restrictions, enter your restrictions passcode, go down to the Volume Limit choice in the Allow Changes menu and select “Don’t Allow Changes” to lock in your new limit. Not completing this second step means anyone can go back in the Music menu and crank the volume back up.

Game Center
This is where you can limit the use of the Apple Game Center social network. Unless you have older kids who have a group friends that play games together, turning this off makes sense.

Turning off Game Center in your iPhone or iPad eliminates the pile of pop-up notices the app can generate and gets rid of another social network to monitor for bullying and other negative online behavior.

Getting to know your Restrictions menu is the best way to start to take control of your iOS devices.