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How to set parental controls on an iPad

You and your child will need separate Apple IDs.
March 28, 2023

It’s usually best to hold off on giving an iPad to a child as long as possible, but once they hit the right age, it can be an almost ideal computing device — assuming the right restrictions are in place. Here’s how to make use of them.

How to set parental controls on an iPad

Creating a Family Sharing group

The smartest way of managing parental controls is a feature called Family Sharing. As the name implies, this allows up to six people to share app and media purchases, as well as subscriptions to services like iCloud Plus. More importantly for our purposes, however, you can assign kids their own Apple IDs and manage restrictions remotely.

If you don’t already have a Family Sharing group:

  • On your own iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app, then tap on your name/Apple ID. (If you have a Mac, equivalent options for creating or managing Family Sharing can be found under Apple menu > System Settings.)
  • Tap Family Sharing, then Set Up Your Family.
  • Follow prompts. If your child already has an Apple ID, you’ll have to send an invite. If not, you should hopefully see an option to create a child account.

If you already have a Family Sharing group or you don’t immediately see the option to create a child account, you can always add a child later by going to Settings > Family > Add Member. Choose Invite People if they already have an Apple ID, or else Create an Account for a Child. With the former, you or your child will have to enter their Apple ID login on your device.

Setting up restrictions for your child

When you first add a child in Family Sharing, you’ll be prompted to choose a variety of optional content restrictions. Let’s break them down:

  • Apps, books, movies, and TV shows can be independently limited to specific content ratings, or blocked outright. In the US for example you might limit a young child’s movies and TV to the G/TV-G rating.
  • Apple media specifically covers Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Apple News, and Apple Fitness Plus. You can only choose “clean” or “explicit.”
  • The music videos and music profiles options are connected to Apple Music. You can only turn these on or off.
  • Web content governs the Safari web browser. To censor web content, pick either Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites. If you choose the latter, you’ll have to whitelist sites your child can access. We have instructions for that further down.
  • Siri web search can be enabled or disabled.
  • Explicit language handles general language censorship. Use “don’t allow” to block profanity.
  • Deleting apps can be prevented, but this option is mostly useful with very young kids who don’t understand what they’re doing.

You’ll also be asked whether or not to turn on a feature called Downtime, which creates a window when your child will need your permission to use their device, or at least certain aspects of it. It’s normally intended to prevent your child from playing on their iPad when they should be sleeping, but you might also shift or extend those hours to ensure homework gets done.

Another thing you can turn on is Communication Safety. This uses algorithms to detect whether a child is sending or receiving nude photos in the Messages app. When this is on, nude images are blurred, and kids  get guidance on safe choices.

Restricting App Store purchases and subscriptions

If you go to Settings > Family > [child name] on an iPhone or iPad, there are a couple of options for controlling App Store purchases and subscriptions.

  • You can toggle on Ask to Buy if you’ve enabled Purchase Sharing (via Settings > your name > Family Sharing). That’s a good idea, since Purchase Sharing directs billing to a single adult, and you might otherwise find your bank card bled dry.
  • Subscriptions determines what App Store-based subscriptions are shared with a child. This is normally for things like Apple Music, iCloud Plus, and Apple TV Plus, since services like Netflix and Spotify won’t let you subscribe in-app.

Restricting access to websites, apps, and contacts

If you go to Settings > Screen Time and tap on your child’s name under Family, you can manage all of the restrictions we’ve talked about and more, minus Ask to Buy and shared subscriptions. Here are a few options we haven’t covered previously:

  • App Limits lets you specify time limits for individual apps. If you don’t want a child watching Twitch or YouTube for hours on end, this is how to do it.
  • Communications Limits lets you specify who your child can interact with via FaceTime or Messages. You can set separate restrictions in and out of Downtime, or even directly manage a child contacts, though they (or you) will need to accept on the target device.
  • Always Allowed lets you choose what apps and contacts will work regardless of Downtime.
  • Content and Privacy Restrictions includes the content censorship offered during setting up a child account, plus additional control over Safari, iTunes and App Store purchases, some device settings, and permitted Apple apps.

Critically, you need to go to Content and Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Web Content to whitelist websites if you previously limited your child to Allowed Websites. Just tap Add Website to enter a name and URL if it’s not already in your list. You can also use the Web Content menu to switch modes, say to Limit Adult Websites or Unrestricted.


Only in the sense of general parental controls. You can’t remotely steer input.

You can’t disable it on the fly, but if you have Family Sharing on and go to Settings > Screen Time > [child’s name] > Downtime and turn on Block at Downtime, their device will be completely inaccessible during the Downtime window unless they request permission and you or a partner grant it.

Yes, although none with the same level of integration as Apple’s own software. They usually serve different purposes.

Indirectly. With Family Sharing on, you can leave it out of whitelisted Safari websites, and/or prevent your child from installing new apps via Settings > Screen Time > [child’s name] > Content and Privacy Restrictions > iTunes and App Store Purchases. If you only want to limit the amount of time they spend with YouTube, try Settings > Screen Time > [child’s name] > App Limits.

Yes. With Family Sharing on, use Settings > Screen Time > [child’s name] > Content and Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps. Alternately you can restrict Safari to whitelisted sites using Settings > Screen Time > [child’s name] > Content and Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Web Content.