Parental controls work a little differently on the iPad compared to other devices. Apple has designed them to be one-user gadgets, so if you’re setting up parental controls on your own iPad bear in mind that the restrictions will affect you too: not ideal.
But if you want to lock down a child’s iPad so they don’t have access to inappropriate content, the system works pretty well because it’s almost impossible to circumvent.
The options are somewhat limited, though, so you won’t find more advanced features such as remote monitoring or access, and there isn’t even a setting to prevent use outside of set times.
However, such features are possible if you install a parental control app such as Screenlimit.
How do I configure the iPad’s built-in controls?
Note: We're using an iPad with iOS 11.2. Older versions may look slightly different and offer fewer options. Update to the latest version through Settings > Software Update if you can.
Then, go to Settings on the iPad and scroll down until you find Restrictions (which is likely to be set to Off).
Tap on it and you will see a menu of the available options. At the top is Enable Restrictions, so tap this to access these settings.
You’ll be prompted to create a passcode for Restrictions, which should be different from the main passcode used to unlock the iPad.
This will ensure that your children don’t simply go to Settings and undo your work. It also allows you to disable those restrictions when using the iPad yourself, just by entering the passcode.
With a passcode set and restrictions enabled, you can select the options that you feel are appropriate to your child. The toggles near the top of the list determine whether those apps or functions can be used. When you disable an app, its icon is removed from the home screens.
One of the most useful settings is to disable in-app purchases. You can potentially allow the child to install apps, but if you do, you should also head into the App Store settings and set ‘Require password’ to immediately to prevent your child from buying apps and games.
You can also set up Family Sharing which will give your child access to apps and other things through their own Apple ID. Our colleagues at Macworld have an excellent guide on how to set up Family Sharing.
Under the Allowed Content section, you can set limits to stop kids accessing explicit songs and videos from iTunes.
If you don’t want to disable the web browser entirely, tap Websites, then Specific Websites Only. A list will appear : you can remove sites from this by swiping left on them, and you can add sites by tapping the Add a Website button at the bottom.
In the Privacy section, it’s worth looking through the apps in Location Services and revoking access to any that you wouldn’t want knowing where your child is using their iPad. Usually, it’s ok to disable locaion services entirely.
Most of the other privacy settings prevent other apps from changing settings, so disable any that you want to.
There’s also an Allow Changes section, where you can prevent your child from changing other settings so go through this and lock down everything. You can always allow changes to a certain setting later if it’s a problem.
One that is important is Volume Limit: disabling this stops any app from overriding the safe volume when using headphones.
Finally you can prevent your child from playing multiplayer games and adding friends under the Game Centre section.
Which iPad apps are child friendly?
We recommend installing the YouTube for Kids app rather than the normal version, as this restricts the videos they can watch to only those which are appropriate. It isn’t a guarantee that that everything will be suitable, of course, and things always slip through the net.
For that reason, as we advise in our in-depth guide to keeping kids safe online, you shouldn’t use parental controls and kids apps as a nanny: you should always supervise what they’re doing and ideally lay down some ground rules before you give them the iPad to explain the dangers and why you’re keeping a close eye on what they’re up to.
Seemingly harmless apps may not have security measures in place to protect kids’ privacy, so be very careful what you install. Recently, apps such as Musical.ly and Sing! Karaoke by Smule have been in the news because of their built-in chat facilities and the fact that there is no ‘clean’ version which prevents songs with explicit lyrics being played.
See also: how to take a screenshot on an iPad.