Parental & family settings

Setting Restrictions

A key set of options found within the General settings panel - and one that is particularly important for parents with young children - is Restrictions. By default, all restrictions are disabled - which means that all your apps run normally - and if you want to enable restrictions you first need to enter the passcode for your iPhone or iPad. Once that's done you'll see several different sets of controls that you can use to limit your child's access to apps, making purchases, and unsuitable content.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Restrictions

Under the heading 'Allow:' you'll see a list of apps - including Safari, the Camera and FaceTime - that you can block altogether. You can also restrict access to the iTunes Store and iBooks Store, so that your kids don't run up a huge bill without your permission. When you block these apps they disappear from the iPhone or iPad Home screen altogether, so your kids won't even know that they exist.

The one exception here is the iBooks app, which remains visible and will allow anyone to read books that you've already purchased - but which will no longer allow access to the iBooks Store for making any new purchases.

How to lock Settings

One handy option here is the entry marked 'Don't Allow Changes'. You can set up location services for your main apps - for me it's the BBC Weather and Maps - and then tap 'Don't Allow Changes'. This locks the settings for those apps so that they work the way you want, but automatically blocks any new apps that you might download from having access to location services. If you ever change your mind you can just tap 'Allow Changes' to change the location settings for all your apps once more.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: How to lock settings

Controlling In-App Purchases

We've all heard stories about kids spending a fortune on IAPs (in-app purchases), so iOS includes options for restricting these.

Scroll down a little and you'll see two options that allow you to prevent anyone from installing new apps or deleting any of your existing apps. Next on the list is the option to completely block in-app purchases as well. But, oddly, there's no option here to simply restrict access to the App Store in the same way that you can restrict the iTunes or iBook stores.

In fact, it is possible to do this, but for some reason this option is hidden a bit further down on the Restrictions panel. Keep scrolling down until you see a section called 'Allowed Content'.

The controls in this section allow you to apply ratings controls for music, video and other types of content - such as age ratings for films, or blocking music that contains adult language. There's also an option here that allows you to prevent any new apps being installed, or perhaps limiting new app purchases to apps that are suitable for a particular age group.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: In-app purchases

Restrict Siri

Last time around we saw how to completely disable Siri, as well as other apps such as Safari, that you might not want young children to use. If you do decide to leave Siri turned on you can still make sure that it doesn't accidentally slip in any unsuitable language or material. Go back into the Restrictions section within Settings, and scroll down to 'Allowed Content' once more. Just below the ratings controls for music, videos and apps, you'll see an entry for Siri. Tap on this and you'll see two options that you can turn on or off.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Stop Siri

Siri will never use adult language in response to a question, but it may repeat bad language that is spoken by others. Turning off the explicit language option will ensure that this sort of language is bleeped out or printed as asterisks on the screen. Turning off the web search option will prevent Siri from looking up information on Wikipedia, Twitter or Bing - which is the only search engine that Siri is currently allowed to use.

Read our Complete guide to Siri for more advice.

Website controls

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: Allowed content

Right underneath Siri in the Allowed Content controls is the Website option, which allows you to limit the web sites that can be viewed in Safari. By default, this is set to allow 'all web sites', but tapping on Limit Adult Content will automatically filter out most adult web sites. However, you can still allow or block access to specific websites by entering the address in the 'always allow' or 'never allow' panels.

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: Restricted content

The second option, labelled Specific Websites Only, is the safest bet for young children as it blocks all web sites apart from a few kid-friendly sites that have been approved by Apple - such as Disney and Apple's own web site. If you need to override these restrictions at any time you can still type a web address into Safari and then tell it to allow that web site by entering your password.

Purchasing settings

We've already looked at the various options that allow you to restrict in-app purchases, or to completely block all types of purchases from the iBooks and iTunes Stores altogether. However, there's another option that you may be able to use, depending on how your iPhone or iPad is set up.

If your iPhone or iPad can use TouchID then as well as using your fingerprint to turn the device on, you can also use it to make purchases. That's pretty safe but, of course, not all iOS devices have the TouchID feature built into them. If your iPhone, iPad doesn't have TouchID then you'll see an extra option in the Restrictions panel labelled 'Password Settings' (this option will also appear if your device does have TouchID, but you've turned it off for making purchases).

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: Password settings

There are two main options here, and they apply to all purchases that you make in the iTunes, iBooks and App stores. The 'Always Require' option means that you'll need to enter your password for every single purchase that you make on that device - including in-app purchases too. If you select 'Require After 15 Minutes' then you get a bit of a breathing space, as you can enter your password for one purchase and then make additional purchases for the next 15 minutes without having to enter it again.

There's one last option here as well. Many apps that are now on sale are actually free to download - particularly games aimed at young kids - so they don't actually count as 'purchases', as no money has changed hands. But of course, these 'freemium' apps and games make all their money by pestering you to make additional in-app purchases as well. So this last option means that anyone using your device will still have to use a password for free downloads as well.

Family Sharing: adding family and approving purchases

Once you've created a family group (here's how to set up Family Sharing) you can then send invitations to the other family members that you want to include in the group. This requires that each family member has their own Apple ID account. (Parents can create and control special Apple ID accounts for younger children.) There is also a separate option for creating Apple ID accounts for students and older children. See here for more details on setting up Apple ID accounts for children.

These accounts for children also include an option called Ask To Buy that gives parents the ability to approve or block the purchases that their children make.

When the child tries to make a purchase - including items that are free to download - they will see a message on the screen of their iOS device telling them that their parent will be informed of the purchase, and asking them if they want to change their mind before going ahead. If they do go ahead with the purchase then another message will be sent to the parent/organiser giving them the option of allowing or blocking the purchase.

The Ask To Buy feature is automatically turned on for all children under the age of 13, but you can leave it turned off for older children and other adults in the group.

Share apps and iTunes purchases in a Family

The Ask To Buy option allows you to stop young children from making unsuitable purchases - such as violent action games, or blood-spattered episodes of Game Of Thrones. However, any purchases made by one member of the family group can be shared with everyone else in the group, which means that purchases made by an adult could still be seen by a child. If you want to prevent this then you'll need to use the Restrictions settings on your child's personal iOS device to set age limits for video, games and other material.

It's also possible to review the purchases made by members of your family group to make sure that nothing unsuitable gets through accidentally. If you tap the More button at the bottom of the screen in the iTunes Store app you'll see an option to view all your purchases, including those made by other members of your family group.

Family sharing: shared Photos and Calendars

Family Sharing isn't just about spending money on the iTunes Store. When you set up your family group you automatically create a new photo album that is shared by everyone on the group. All group members can upload and share photos, and there's an option to receive a notification whenever other people in the group upload photos too.

You can also create a shared calendar that works in a similar fashion, allowing family members to add events and receive notifications for birthdays, appointments and other events. The Reminders app is included here too, so you can send a quick reminder to get some milk without needing to use the full-blown Calendar app.

Family sharing: track locations

Your kids will no doubt be thrilled to hear that Family Sharing allows you to keep track of their movements as well. Each person that joins the family group has the option of sharing their location information with the rest of the group.

This location information can be found in a number of different apps, including Find My Friends and Messages, as well as in Find My iPhone in case anyone loses a device while they're out and about.

You can turn this option on or off whenever you want, so that's something that you'll need to discuss with your kids. However, for younger children, it is possible to lock the settings for Location Services, using the password-protected Restrictions settings that we've looked at before. And even if a family member chooses not to share their precise location information, it's still possible to activate a special Lost Mode on iOS devices that can lock the device to protect your personal information.

Lost Mode can also attempt to track the device - but can only do so when it's online with internet access, so it's best to activate location sharing whenever possible for maximum security.

Next page: Siri & accessibility settings >>