Parental Controls for iOS

Apple's Parental Controls for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are quite detailed, but really quite simple.  This post covers the whole story to help you get up to speed on everything that is and isn't possible.

Getting Started

Open Settings in your child's device and go into General > Restrictions.

The first time you set up Restrictions on your child's device you will need to set a passcode.  Note that this is a different passcode to the actual device's passcode, so make sure you use something different otherwise your child will be hacking those Restrictions before you know it!

Features

There are two sets of controls in here which dictate what the device can do.  When a device is managed by curbi, a parent can update most of these settings remotely from their own iPhone, iPad or the web.  Not all settings can be remotely managed via curbi, so we've tagged the curbi-enabled settings in the list.

Feature Managed by curbi?
Safari Yes
Camera Yes
FaceTime Yes, through Camera blocking
Siri Yes
AirDrop No
CarPlay No
Feature Managed by curbi?
iTunes Store Yes
iBook Store Yes
Podcasts No
Installing Apps Yes
Deleting Apps No
In-App Purchases Yes

In addition to what you see on the Restrictions area, curbi has a couple of other tricks it can do:

  • Photo Stream: stop the device from posting photos to a Photo Stream
  • Screenshots: stop the device from taking screenshots.

Content

The next area of Restrictions is the content limitations.  curbi can't control much in this area, just the Explicit setting for Music and Podcasts.

The Content settings will vary by Country, so make sure your Country is set correctly in Ratings For.

Movies and TV Shows will have the ratings scheme for your country.  You should set this to the approriate level for your country, usually enabling G and PG levels only.

Siri - don't worry about this one as you can just turn off Siri completely at any time via curbi.

Websites - this has a Limit Adult Content setting available but don't trust it.  It is very hit and miss and won't catch everything.  The curbi content filter is updated weekly from a highly-regarded content categorisation service so you can trust this more than a phone setting.

Require Password - this is a big one.  Set this to Immediately now!  Leaving this at 15 minutes means that if you enter your password into your child's device to buy them that bag of jewels, they will have 15 minutes to buy whatever they want.  You should do this on your iPhone too.

Privacy

The Privacy area lets you manage which apps can access various aspects of the device.  Each area is pretty much the same - they show a list of apps and whether or not they have access to the service.

Privacy is under Restrictions because this is something that you can lock down.  For example, if you wanted to be sure your child's device couldn't be tracked by any app you can disable Location Services so that your child can't re-enable it without the Restrictions passcode.

Privacy also appears in the top level Settings menu.  If you don't lock down any Privacy settings under Restrictions, your child will have full access to change settings under Settings > Privacy.

At curbi, we don't recommend changing anything in the Privacy area unless you are concerned about a particular aspect.  Apple is very good about only giving apps limited access to Private information, even when permission is granted by the device user.

Location Services

This is where you can set general location management settings as well as the location tracking access for every location-enabled app.

Contacts

Like Location Services, this area lets your manage which apps can access the Contacts.

Calendars

Same again - lets you see which apps can access the Calendars to read and set appointments.

Reminders

Let's you see which apps can set Reminders.

Photos

This shows you which apps can access the device's Photos.  Be aware that no app can connect to the device's Photos and just upload them all.  This feature just allows an app to select a photo from the device through the user interface.

Share My Location

Shows which apps can access your location on an ongoing basis.

Bluetooth Sharing

Shows which apps are able to share data with a Bluetooth device.

Microphone

Shows which apps can access the Microphone.

Twitter

Shows which apps can access the Twitter account.

Facebook

Shows which apps can access the Facebook account.

Advertising

This allows you to lock down the Limit Ad Tracking setting found under Settings > Privacy > Advertising.

Allow Changes

Accounts

Prevents modification of Mail, Calendar and Contacts settings.

Cellular Data Use

Prevents modification of which apps are permitted cellular data access.  Cell data access for apps is kept under Settings > Cellular.

Background App Refresh

Shows which apps can continue working in the background.  Note that only Navigation and Music streaming apps can continue to run in the background for any period of time.  Third-party apps (i.e. non-Apple apps) can only run in the background for a maximum of 10 minutes.

Volume Limit

Prevents changing of the device maximum Volume Limit.

Game Center

Multiplayer Games - prevents Multiplayer games from being played on the device.
Adding Friends - prevents friends from being added to Game Center.

Moving On

That's a lot to take on board, but guess what?  That's only the start.  After all that you can't even put the most basic of usage limitations on an iOS device.

Macs and PCs have had time limits on them for many years now, but these have never shown up in iOS.  Why do you think this is?  The main reason is that mobile devices are not desktop devices.  When you set a limit on a desktop device it's a signal to the child to go and do something else.  On a mobile device it makes less sense.  Imagine a phone lock that cut in at 9pm but your 12 year old child was out later with friends and couldn't call you.  It would not be good PR for Apple.

With this kind of thing in mind, we created curbi to do 'just enough' blocking without going crazy about it.

curbi implements time-based rules to complement the Restrictions that you can already set.  curbi does have the advantage of letting you modify important Restrictions from your own phone, but its the rules and content filtering that make curbi great. 

Wrapping Up

If you made it this far you now know more about Parental Controls for iOS than 99% of the iPhone-owning population.

The point of this post was to give an overview of how Parental Controls work on iOS 8 and how curbi makes use of and extends them.

curbi provides you with remote management of the important iOS Restrictions while adding time-based Rules and 'Always On' content filtering to the device.  In many ways, curbi gives you the same level of control that has been possible for quite a while on desktop and laptop Macs.

With children today spending well over 50% of their online time on mobile devices, and for many, all their time, curbi is the solution that has been lacking in the mobile space for a long time.