How to Set Up Parental Controls on Your iPhone or iPad

For a while parents didn’t have many options when it came to controlling their child’s activity on the iPhone and iPad. Built-in features like Guided Access and Restrictions helped, but for many parents they didn’t go far enough. Now Screen Time, a new feature for iOS 12, looks to put parents back in control.

Screen Time combines parental controls of the past with a few new tools. It allows parents to set a screen time schedule, discourage the use of and even outright disable certain types of apps, and restrict content, purchases, downloads, and privacy. It also generates weekly reports about your device’s screen time activity. This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to understand your family’s screen time habits.

While powerful, Screen Time can be a little confusing to use. Follow along as we take a tour of Screen Time. We’ll show you how to set it up on your device and unearth just how beneficial it is for parents with tech-savvy kids.

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What Can Parents Control With Screen Time For iOS?

Before we go into how to set up Screen Time on your iPhone or iPad, let’s take a look at the tools it provides for parents.


Use Downtime to block your child from using the device during a certain time of day. You can make all apps (with a few exceptions) unaccessible during Downtime or only a select few.

Why Downtime is great for parents:

  • We recommend setting Downtime for all apps during dinner and overnight. This encourages family socializing and prevents your child from having sleep issues due to device misuse. You may also want to set Downtime during school hours, for older kids.
  • When set, Downtime sends your child a reminder five minutes before the designated time, so you don’t have to be the bad guy.
  • Use the Always Allowed feature to make certain apps always accessible no matter the time of day. These are great for parents who don’t want their children playing with their phone during school, but still want them to have access to high-quality, educational apps or tools, like the Calculator app.

Unfortunately you can only set one Downtime session at a time. It’s not very useful for parents who want their children to limit device time for an hour or two in the morning and another hour in the evening.

App Limits

App Limits allows parents to set daily time limits on how much their children use a certain type of app. For example, App Limits lets you set a one-hour timer for all of your child’s gaming apps. You can do the same for other types of apps like social networking, entertainment, and education apps.

Why App Limits are great for parents:

  • Use App Limits to control how much time your child is spending on high quality, educational apps as opposed to social networking, game, and entertainment apps.
  • Simply set stricter limits on those apps you like the least.

Device Usage Data

Screen Time collects valuable data that gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into your child’s screen usage (and yours, if you share an iPhone). See data for that day or the past seven days, as well as what types of apps you use the most and least, how often you pick up your device, and how many notifications you see per hour.

Why device usage data is great for parents:

  • Device usage data tells you when you need to employ some of the other Screen Time features. For example, if the graph shows that your child is accessing their device in the middle of the night, you know to set a Downtime limit during bedtime.
  • If the bulk of your child’s activity is on non-educational apps like games or social media, you can use App Limits to throttle back amount of time your child can access those types of apps.

Content & Privacy Restrictions

This tool is similar to the Restrictions feature found on iPhones and iPads in the past. The revamped Content & Privacy Restrictions tool lets parents do a deep dive on the kind of content their children can access on their devices.

Why Content & Privacy Restrictions is great for parents:

  • Set content ratings to protect your children from explicit songs, podcasts, shows, books, and apps.
  • Restrictions allow you to block or limit internet access.
  • Prevent your children from buying and downloading new apps, as well as deleting the apps already on your iPhone.

How to Set Up Screen Time on Your iPhone or iPad

We created a video demonstration of how to set up and use Screen Time on your iPhone. While we focus on the iPhone in this demo, the process for setting up Screen Time on your iPad is very similar. Watch the video above or follow these written instructions to set up Screen Time on your device.

To set up Screen Time on your child’s device:

  • Step 1: Locate the Settings icon on your iPhone or iPad. Tap to enter.
  • Step 2: Tap “Screen Time.”
  • Step 3: Tap “Turn On Screen Time.”
  • Step 4: Read through the introductory screen and tap “Continue.”
  • Step 5: Select “This is My Child’s iPhone”
  • Step 6: Choose the time range you want your child to stop using the device. Tap “Set Downtime.”
  • Step 7: Select the categories of apps you want to control. You can select multiple categories by tapping on the circle next to each category name. You can also select all of the apps on your iPhone by selecting “All Apps & Categories.”
  • Step 8: Scroll down and tap “Set” next to “Time Amount.” Select the number of hours and minutes you want to limit your child to. When you’re done tap “Set App Limit.”
  • Step 9: Tap “Continue.”
  • Step 10: Set a four-number passcode and re-enter it when prompted.

To set up Screen Time on a device you share with your child:

The first tasks are the same as if you were setting up Screen Time on your child’s iPhone. Simply follow steps 1 through 4 and select “This is My iPhone” when prompted. You’re immediately directed to the Screen Time control panel.

Managing Your Child's Downtime and App Limits

Follow these instructions if you ever decide to tweak your parental control settings or add new restrictions. We cover some, but not all, of these in the video above.

Create or change your Downtime settings:

  • Tap “Downtime.”
  • Toggle Downtime off (or on, if you didn’t set it earlier).
  • Adjust the time range for Downtime.

Decide which apps are accessible during Downtime:

  • Tap “Always Allowed.”
  • Several default active apps appear at the top under the Phone app. You can disable these by tapping the red circle next to each app and then tapping “Remove.” Only do so if you don’t want these apps available during downtime. You cannot disable Phone.
  • To make other apps available during Downtime, tap the green circle next to each app you want to enable.

Adjust your App Limits settings:

  • Tap the “App Limits“ button.
  • If you’ve already set a limit, select it from the list. Tap the “Time” button to change the number of hours and minutes. Tap “Customize Days” to make the limit active during different days of the week or for different durations during different days. Tap “Back” when you’re done. Finally, tap “Edit Apps” to change which categories of apps the limit applies to.
  • If you have yet to add a limit, tap “Add Limit” and select the categories of apps you want to control. Tap “Add” in the upper right corner. Select the number of hours and minutes a day you want to limit those categories of apps to.
  • If you want to add a second, third, fourth limit (or so on), click “Add Limit” and follow the step above to add additional limits to other categories of apps.
  • To delete a limit, tap on the limit you want to delete, then tap the red “Delete Limit” at the bottom of the screen.

Setting Content & Privacy Restrictions For Your Child

Spend some time reviewing the control tools in Content & Privacy Restrictions. It might take a moment to go through every option, but the effort is worth it to know your child is safer.

  • Tap “Content & Privacy Restrictions.”
  • Toggle “Content & Privacy Restrictions” on.

Here’s a quick overview of what each option offers:

iTunes & App Store Purchases lets you prevent your child from buying apps or making in-app purchases from iTunes and the App Store. This feature also stops your child from installing and deleting apps.

“Allowed Apps” allows you to block your child from accessing the internet, iPhone camera, Wallet, Siri, Facetime, and other default apps.

“Content Restrictions” adjusts the appropriate rating of content that appears in the App Store, online, through Siri, and in the Game Center. This is for parents who don’t mind if their children explore a little more within reason.

“Location Services” gives you the power to block apps from collecting location data. You can choose whether to shut down location services for all apps or only a few.

The “Contacts,” “Calendars,” “Reminders,” and “Photos” features allow you to decide which apps have access to the information in your contacts, calendars, reminders, and photos apps, respectively.

“Share My Location” lets you decide if your child is able to share his or her location using that feature in the Messages app.

“Bluetooth Sharing” controls whether apps are able to access share data via Bluetooth, even when you’re not using them.

“Microphone” allows you to block your child from using any microphone features in their favorite apps.

“Speech Recognition” lets you decide whether you want apps to access your child’s recorded voice to process requests. This is often used with Siri.

“Advertising” stops your child from changing your advertising settings. (Advertising settings allow you to limit how much the data your iPhone or iPad collects about you is used for advertising purposes. Head on over to iMore to understand your privacy options for iPhone and iPad.)

“Media & Apple Music” gives you the power to prevent apps from accessing your music, photos, and videos.

All of the options under “Allow Changes” let you decide whether your child can change other settings on your iPhone or iPad like changes to your passcode, account, cellular data, volume limit, and more.

Creating a Passcode To Save Your Screen Time Settings

You can set a passcode to protect all your Screen Time decisions. Once you activate your passcode, your child (and you!) will have to enter it before make any changes to Screen Time settings.

  • Tap on “Use Screen Time Passcode.”
  • Input the four-digit code you want to use. Don’t forget it!
  • To change or disable the passcode, tap “Change Screen Time Passcode” and select either “Change Screen Time Passcode” or “Turn Off Screen Time Passcode,” depending on your intent. You will have to enter your existing passcode before making any changes.

Using Screen Time For Family Sharing

Family Sharing is great for families with a number of devices. It not only allows parents to share music, books, photos, and apps subscriptions with children on separate devices, it lets parents keep track of where everyone is through location services and helps find iPhones and iPads when misplaced or lost.

Screen Time adds new functionality to Family Sharing by giving you the power to access usage reports and set parental controls for you child’s device from your own iPhone or iPad. So there’s no need to chase down each child’s device to set up Screen Time settings. Click here to learn more about setting up and using Family Sharing.

Screen Time Puts Parents in Control

Screen Time gives parents critical information to assess their child’s screen usage as well as the power to make changes to keep their child safe. It’s even more effective when you ensure that your child is interacting with an engaging, educational, kid-appropriate app like Jellies. Learn about what kinds of kids content, kids videos in particular, are best for your child in What Kids Videos Are Right for My Child. You can also learn more about how to navigate technology as a parent by reading other resources on the Jellies blog.

Please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook with any questions about Jellies or setting up Screen Time. Click here to download the Jellies app.