Cyberbullying, obscene or offensive content, pornography, hateful messages, and sexual predators are only a few of the alarming risks associated with your child interacting on the Internet on their devices. How do you help keep them safe while using their phones and tablets? If completely unfiltered access to the Internet and every imaginable topic and activity, phishing scams, privacy issues, and bad apps scares the crap out of you… parental control apps can help manage those concerns.
Most parental apps will allow you to disable the child’s Internet access remotely and completely, from any browser. Set and forget an easy to use timetable for your kids Internet and app use. You can also block specific apps instantly with the click of a button, and turn apps on and off in real-time, remotely. There is also content filtering to protect your kids, regardless of whether surfing the Internet or using an app.
When it comes to iPhone and iPad, Apple has done a great job of including parental controls. But is it enough? Should you get a separate app that offers even more control? In short, the iOS security features cover a lot and parents can set up a lot of restrictions from limiting access to inappropriate material to locating the phone to managing and purchasing apps. For many parents, this should be enough to give them peace of mind, but parents who want to add restrictions on when the phone is used and monitor who their kids are communicating with on the phone, should add additional parental control apps. Each parent/child is different and parents should consider their child’s own protective needs. Some parents need to feel peace of mind thinking they have control over the situation, and the paid apps can help do that. To help you decide what’s best for your family, we show you how to:
Setup iPhone and iPad Parental Controls
Pick an Additional Parental Control App
iOS Parental Controls: What’s Included on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch
Apple boasts that safety and security come standard with their iPhone and iPad devices. The latest iOS provides built-in security from the moment you turn on the device. The hardware, firmware, and operating system have built-in features designed to help your device and everything you put on it, stay safe. You can even use your fingerprint to unlock the device.
The built-in iOS parental controls for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches come in the form of ‘Restrictions.’ These controls help parents prevent access to specific apps and features on an iOS device. If YouTube is a concern, you can restrict the use of it in iOS5 or later. You can also go directly to the app online and enable YouTube parental controls. There are three areas where parents can restrict usage on the devices:
- Apps and Features: The apps you can restrict on an iOS device include: Safari, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, in-app purchases, Siri, AirDrop, CarPlay (iPhone 5 or later), and managing apps. You can add restrictions to all of these apps or just a few.
- Content: If you’re concerned about the type of content that kids can find on these devices, you can set up some controls. You can start by applying appropriate content ratings for the region in which you live or are visiting. Content restrictions are also available for music, podcasts, movies, TV shows, books, apps, Siri, and websites.
- Privacy Settings: Keeping your kids safe from what they can view is one part of the job, but you may also want to make sure outside sources can’t access their data (Think: websites requesting access to contacts). You can restrict such access to your child’s iOS device in these categories: location services, contacts, calendars, reminders, photos, Bluetooth sharing, Twitter, microphone, Facebook, and advertising.
To learn more about the types of parental control restrictions and how to turn them on and off on your device visit the Apple support page.
How to Setup iPhone Parental Controls
First things first, to get things initially protected, establish a password for your kid’s new device – it’s the first line in protecting your child’s personal info. Make sure you keep track of the password and avoid easy-to-crack codes like 1234. Also, set the phone to lock automatically after a few minutes, so if it’s left unattended for a while, it’s still safe. On most phones, it’s easy to set the password and lock settings. For an iPhone or iPad, click Settings and scroll down to Passcode. (On phones running something other than iOS 8, this setting can be found under “General.”)
Whether you want to limit the adult content to prevent a child from stumbling on a link they shouldn’t, block specific websites, or limit access to all sites except for the ones you approve, you’ll find everything you need right in Settings and Restrictions.
How to Set Up your iPhone or iPad Parental Controls
- Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
- Tap on General.
- Tap on Restrictions.
- Tap on Enable Restrictions.
- Type in a password you’ll remember so you can easily disable restrictions when needed. (This should be completely different from the Lock screen passcode; otherwise the kids will know it!)
- Under the Allow section, turn Off any apps that you don’t want someone accessing without your permission. (This section is for built-in apps and not third-party apps.)
How to Restrict Access to Personal Information with iOS Parental Controls
- Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
- Tap on General.
- Tap on Restrictions.
- Tap on Enable Restrictions if you don’t have them enabled already. If you do, skip to step 6.
- Choose a 4-digit passcode that only you will know. Never give this to your child or anyone you don’t want bypassing restrictions.
- Under the Privacy section, tap on the type of data you’d like to restrict and change the settings to your liking.
How to Block Specific Content or Sites on iPhone and iPad
If you’re not overly worried and just want to try and prevent your kids from hitting links that take them to adult material, or there are only a few sites you want to make sure they never land on, you can use the automatic settings, and the blacklist feature.
- Launch the Settings app from the Home screen of your iPhone or iPad.
- Tap on General.
- Tap on Restrictions.
- Enable Restrictions and set a passcode if Restrictions aren’t already enabled.
- Under Allowed Content, tap on Websites.
- Tap on Limit Adult Content under the Allowed Websites section. This feature automatically blocks many (but not all, they change too quickly) adult websites. To block specific websites:
- Scroll down and tap Add a Website under Never Allow.
- Type in a title for the website and then type in the full URL (including http://) of the website you’d like to block and tap Done on the keyboard.
Conversely, you can also add websites to the Always Allow option that should never be restricted. Additionally, if you don’t want to get that detailed select Specific Websites Only under the Websites option to see a list of pre-approved kid-friendly sites.
6 Features to Look for in Parental Control Apps
Apple has done a great job incorporating a ton of parental control apps, but maybe you want even more security. If that’s the case, check out the Apple App Store where you’ll find a ton of paid and some free parental control apps for iPhone and iPad. Most parental control apps offer the following features, so look for the most comprehensive apps to cover these areas:
- Limit Contact Lists and Text Message Filtering: This feature allows you to select which numbers the mobile phone can be used to call and text. It can also be used to block calls and messages from specific phone numbers, as well as alert you when communication happens with that contact.
- Block Features and Media: Enable this feature to disable the camera or block movies or TV shows that can be viewed on the device.
- Set Time Restrictions: If you prefer your kids to be studying instead of playing games on their mobile device, this feature can help. Use it to set time restrictions that prevent apps or games from being used during specific times. Additionally, you can use time restriction features to lock the entire phone or limit the ability to make calls.
- App Blocking and Disabling: This feature allows you to block apps from being installed on the device. It can also be used as a way to limit the amount of time a child spends on a specific app.
- Access Parental Controls Anywhere: You should be able to access the parental control app either directly on the phone or via a secure web-based account. This way you can always see what your kids are doing on the phone.
- Internet Protection: Apps with these features can either replace the browser completely with one that only visits safe sites. It can also be used to block sites and limit usage.
There are more parental control features such as reading texts, reviewing photos, and monitoring call logs. However, these are typically not available for iOS devices. Additionally, products that do offer these features for iPhones and iPads require jailbreaking the device to use them.
Get More Security with iPhone Parental Control Apps
If you think you need some more powerful controls for your child’s iPhone and iPad, you’re in luck. There are parental control apps that can help. You’ll have to spend some money to get an app that will provide even more control than what is already available on iOS devices. There are a few apps that have a free version, but the most robust features are only available in the premium version. The good news is that most of these apps offer a free trial before you purchase. We compare the top parental control apps and where they stand on some of the more popular features in the chart below.
Mobicip: This app shines for managing all the devices in your household and setting time limits for Internet usage. There are two versions: free and premium. The free version lets you enable pre-defined content filtering, and create a safe browser environment. When your child attempts to access the Internet, you’ll get a notification. In the premium version, you’ll also be able to see the attempt in the browsing history reports. When a site is blocked, the user can ask permission to access it right from their iPhone of iPad. It also includes perks like custom filter settings, multiple device support, safe search, analytic reports, and more. Before signing up for an annual subscription for the premium version, you can try the free version and make sure it’s a fit for you and your family.
My Mobile Watchdog: This app offers a lot more features for Android users, but there are still some noteworthy ones available for iOS devices. It will automatically block any newly downloaded apps until you give your approval. Once you do give your approval, you can limit how much time is spent using the app. You can also use it to block the web browser or camera. Like many parental control apps, it comes with a free trial before purchase.
Net Nanny: This app is geared toward parents who want more control over what their kids browse and do online. It’s a family-safe browser that replaces the Safari browser on iPhone and iPad. It offers three pre-defined safety settings and is a perfect babysitter for your child who might be at risk of stumbling on inappropriate content like nudity, gore, or even racy swimsuits. NetNanny also features profanity masking. It’s a solid app, worth its one-time cost that will help protect you and your family from unwanted images and content online.
NetSanity: With NetSanity you can set time limits on browser usage and remotely turn on/off Internet access from anywhere. The AppBlocker feature allows you to decide which apps should be used on your kids’ iPhone or iOS device. NetSanity is always updating its list of apps that can be blocked as new apps are released and rise in popularity. You can also use it to block categories or specific websites, and disable games. To keep your sanity in check you can disable the camera, app store, and Safari. NetSanity is available as a monthly or annual subscription, but you can take it on a 7-day trial run, and decide for yourself before purchasing.
Norton Family: The free version lets you monitor sites that kids visit online, get insights about their social media activity, and help perform safe searches. It also comes with a companion app, so you can view your kids’ usage on the mobile device of your choice and adjust settings as need. The premium version steps up the controls with the ability to monitor text messages, manage whom your kids talk to and get weekly reports on where your kids have been online.
ParentKit: Use this app to block apps, movies, TV shows, and music based on age ratings from your own device. Basic parental controls let you decide when your child has access to things like apps, movies, games, and the Internet at specific times. When those things are limited, they simply disappear from the screen of your child’s phone and reappear when the time restriction is complete. It offers a one-month free trial, after that you can purchase a 6-month or 12-month subscription. There’s no automated billing after the trial, you decide if you want to subscribe or not, which is nice to remind you that you’re in control.
Qustodio: The free version of this app is a web-based dashboard that condenses your child’s Internet activities into easy-to-scan charts and graphs. It offers access to simple, daily timelines for minute-by-minute details on your child’s activities, plus a full record of the potentially harmful apps, websites, and social profiles your child interacted with online. While the premium version of the app includes usage time restrictions, call and text blocking, social media monitoring, and device tracking.
Whether built-in to your device, paid or free, we hope using these parental controls make you feel more at ease as you shelter your child from cyber bullying, blocking inappropriate websites, or simply cracking down on their phone usage! Remember nothing beats open communication between you and your child. You can block, hide, and shelter them from the dark side of the Internet with these parental control apps. But hopefully when it comes down to it, you both trust each other enough to talk openly about anything they may be experiencing.
Before installing or using these apps be sure to let them know what you’re doing. It’s important for them to know why you have set these restrictions, and all the risks associated with their online activity. Hopefully, over time you might reach a better level of comfort and reduce the amount of restrictions in place as your child shows responsibility and respect for your rules.