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.