How to Set Up Parental Controls on Your Child’s iPhone

For some parents, giving their child or teen their own iPhone is a key milestone because it offers that child a greater degree of freedom. It certainly is a relief as a parent to know you can always reach your child, no matter where they are. And with apps like Find My enabled, you can even see where your child is.
Still, for some parents, an unrestricted iPhone is a little too much freedom for their kids. The truth is, there’s plenty of unseemly, seedy, and even predatory stuff out there, and kids don’t always know how to handle it or when to get help.
If you’re looking for a parental control option for your child’s iPhone, there’s good news. Apple has some great features for families, including some thorough parental controls for iOS devices that should be enough protection and monitoring for most parents. Here’s how to set them up.
Additionally, although we’ve written these instructions for iPhones, the process is nearly identical for all iOS devices (including iPads and the iPod touch).

How to Enable Parental Controls on a Device for the First Time

To get started, open the Settings app on the phone that needs parental controls, then find Screen Time. (Yes, this is a little confusing: Screen Time is both a single feature and also the place on the iPhone where all the parental controls live.) Once you’re there, follow these steps.
  • Tap Continue.
  • Next, tap either “This is my iPhone” or “This is my child’s iPhone.” The first option is for parents who let a child use the parent’s phone but want limits enabled by default. The second is for phones that “belong” to the child.
  • On a child’s device, you’ll need to create a Parent Passcode. It may ask you to log in using your Apple ID.
When setting this up, make sure this Parent Passcode is unique — if your child knows it, they can bypass any restrictions you set up. The same goes for your Apple ID and password. A savvy child could use your credentials to reset or disable Screen Time (and parental controls). So make sure you guard your Apple ID password. (And if you suspect your child has figured out a way to bypass these restrictions, changing both password and passcode is a great first step at retaking control.)

Types of Parental Controls on a Child’s iOS Device

Now that you’ve enabled Screen Time and set a Screen Time Passcode or Parent Passcode, you can use the actual Screen Time section to control an impressive range of functions and capabilities. Apple gives you even more control than what’s covered below; these are just the highlights.

Content and Privacy Restrictions

This is the main area most people think of when they think of parental controls. Toggle the switch on at the top of this section, and supply your Parent/Screen Time Passcode if asked. Doing this enables an astounding level of control. For example, you can allow or block app store purchases (including by age rating), or even lock down a phone so that only the specific apps you choose can ever be used.
You can also set global content restrictions based on your child's age or maturity level. Unfortunately, these aren’t 100% foolproof and don’t always reach the content inside non-Apple apps. You may need to prohibit certain third-party apps entirely or explore their own parental controls.
Still, the global content restrictions will filter out explicit sites, R- and PG-13-rated media, and so forth — all at the levels that you choose.
You can also tweak numerous privacy components and control what changes your child can make on the device, like preventing them from sharing their location or photos. You can even disable built-in apps, like News, Health, or even the camera.


Does your child have a bedtime (or other parts of the day) that’s supposed to be screen-free? Use Downtime to schedule time away from the phone. For adults, Downtime blocks everything other than phone calls and specifically chosen apps. For kids, Downtime includes a Block at Downtime toggle, which completely shuts out access unless a parent grants more time.

App Limits

This isn’t where you go to block certain apps; that’s under Content and Privacy Restrictions. Instead, this is where you set time limits per app. Is your child obsessed with Instagram? Set some healthy boundaries by limiting daily access to the amount of time you choose.

Communication Limits

Wide-open, unmonitored communication with anyone and everyone isn’t healthy or safe for kids. Communication Limits lets you control who your child can communicate with via Phone, FaceTime, Messages, and iCloud. However, since Apple doesn’t control third-party communication apps, you'll need to use Content and Privacy to lock those down.

Always Allowed

Are there apps you want your child to have access to, even during downtime or other restrictions? Toggle them here. You notice that a few core apps are toggled on by default here. You’ll need to manually turn them off if that’s what makes sense for your child.

Parental Controls Protect Your Child. Upsie Protects Their Device

Protecting your child via parental controls is a smart, responsible move. But what about your child’s phone itself? From drops to spills, your child’s phone is at risk of damage daily, and you don’t want your child to be stuck phoneless while you search for a replacement if something happens.
Upsie’s smartphone subscription warranties are perfect for kids, thanks to their accidental damage coverage. With an Upsie warranty, you can rest easy knowing that Upsie will cover damage from accidents and ensure the phone is fixed as quickly as possible.
Ready to get that phone protected? Get an Upsie plan today.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.