How to Childproof Your iPad Using Parental Restrictions

Make your iPad kid-friendly using parental restrictions

Young Boy Playing with Tablet

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Childproofing start with locking cabinets and drawers, but it doesn't stop there. If your child uses an iPad, it's important to take steps to turn it into a kid-friendly tablet, possibly even into their teenage years.

One important aspect of a child-safe iPad is ensuring that the proper parental restrictions are in place both to keep your kid safe and to protect your bank account.

Fortunately, Apple makes it relatively easy to make a child-friendly iPad.

Turn on Restrictions on iPad

The first step to a kid-friendly iPad is to turn on restrictions, the feature that limits which applications are permitted on the iPad. Restrictions are enabled through Screen Time, which you can get to through Settings > Screen Time.

The information in this article applies to the iPad's Screen Time feature, which was introduced in iOS 12.

To set up restrictions:

  1. Tap Settings on the iPad Home screen and select Screen Time in the left panel.

  2. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode in the main screen.

    Screen Time Settings on iPad
  3. Enter a 4-digit passcode to protect the restrictions you set up and prevent your child from making changes.You must enter this code to make changes in the future. It can be different from the passcode used to unlock the iPad.

    Settings a restrictions passcode screen on iPad
  4. On the Screen Time screen, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions.

    Content & Privacy Restrictions option on iPad
  5. Move the slider next to Content & Privacy Restrictions to the On/green position.

    Turning on Content & Privacy Restrictions on iPad
  6. Make selections in the iTunes & App Store Purchases, Allowed Apps, Content Restrictions, Privacy, and Allowed Changes sections.

iTunes & App Store Purchases Restrictions

The first section you come to in the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen is iTunes & App Store Purchases. Tap it.

iTunes & App Store Purchases restriction option

Elect to either Allow or Don't Allow each of the following:

  • Installing Apps
  • Deleting Apps
  • In-app Purchases

For young children, Don't Allow is the wisest choice for all three of these options, particularly for in-app purchases.

Choices to allow or don't allow features on iPad

While you are in this screen, select whether you want to require a password for additional purchases after making a purchase. Again, for young children (and maybe for older ones too) the best choice is Always Require

In-App Purchases

Some parents miss turning off in-app purchases in this step, and that can come back to haunt your wallet. In-app purchases are common in free apps, meaning that your child might download something free only to spend loads of money buying things within the app.

One example is with freemium games, which are iPad games that are priced for free but stacked with in-app purchases. These purchases, which are often currency, levels, items, or food within the game, can easily add up to a high price tag.

This makes it all the more important for parents to turn off in-app purchases on a child's iPad. Sometimes, an in-app purchase is valid, such as for an expansion to a game that provides real content. Many times, in-app purchases are shortcuts that can be obtained by playing the game and achieving certain goals. Often, a game or app is designed around enticing users into in-app purchases.

When you disable in-app purchases, the option to buy these extras within games and other apps is disabled. This means no surprises when the iTunes bill comes in your email

Installing and Deleting Apps

It doesn't take even a two-year-old long to learn how to use an iPad. This includes finding their way onto the App Store and purchasing apps. By default, the App Store will prompt for a password for even a free game or app, but if you've recently typed in your password, there's a grace period where apps can be downloaded without being verified. 

If the iPad is primarily used by kids, especially toddlers, it is a good idea to turn off the App Store. Not only does this give you peace of mind that your child isn't downloading apps, but they also can't browse through the App Store and beg for a fun game they find.  

If you decide to turn off the App Store, you may also want to turn off the ability to delete apps. Remember, it takes the intervention of a parent to download apps to the iPad, so if your kid deletes a game because they're tired of it or simply by accident, you'll need to re-enable the App Store, re-download the app or game, and then restrict the App Store again.

Allowed Apps

Many of the apps that come with the iPad, including email, FaceTime, the camera, and the Safari browser, are in this section:

On the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen, tap Allowed Apps:

Allowed Apps section of restrictions on iPad

Move the sliders next to each app or feature to the On/green or Off/white position. For young children, Off is the cautious choice for young children.

Restricting iPad apps and features

Content Restrictions 

This screen is a treasure trove of options you can use to personalize the iPad content for children.

While it might be easier to simply disable the App Store for a two-year-old or a four-year-old, when it comes to someone older like a pre-teen, you might prefer to give them a bit more access. 

You may not mind if your teen listens to music, but prefer Explicit content is not included. You may prefer to allow G movies, but not PG-13 movies. You can do that and much more from the Content Restrictions screen

In the Apps categories, you can restrict content by age. The categories are 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+. You can limit adult websites or forbid explicit language in general.

To enable one or all of these age restrictions on the iPad:

Tap Content Restrictions on the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen.

Content Restrictions on iPad

Make selections in each category to allow it or set limitations.

Options for Content Restrictions on iPad

Restrict Safari Web Browser

Apple has included a setting that allows you to have full control over what your child can view on the web. You can get to this setting via Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Web Content.

By default, iPad allows all websites to be displayed, but you can set the web content limit to Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites Only to choose specific sites from a pre-populated list (including Disney, PBS Kids, Time for Kids, or a custom URL).

Privacy

The Privacy section of the Content & Privacy Restrictions is the place where you allow (or not) you child to have access to Location Services, Contacts, Calendars, Share My Location, and other Apple services. In most cases, tapping each service presents you with a simple choice of Allow Changes or Don't Allow Changes.

Privacy section of iPad Content & Privacy Restrictions

Allowed Changes

In the Allowed Changes section, it is best to select Don't Allow for the listed options, which include Passcode Changes, Account Changes, and Cellular Data Changes, for all children. You may want to make exceptions for older children for Do Not Disturb While Driving, Volume Limit, or Background App Activities.

Allow Changes section of Content & Privacy Restrictions

How to Download Apps to a Childproofed iPad

Now that your iPad is kid-friendly, you may want to make it kid-fun by downloading some appropriate apps or games. How do you do this with all those restrictions you put into place?

You use your passcode and temporarily turn on Installing Apps in the iTunes & App Store Purchases section of the Content & Privacy Restrictions screen. Download the app or game and turn off Installing Apps again.

Gifting Apps to Your Child's iPad

Apple discontinued the iTunes Allowance feature in 2016. Another way to handle adding apps to a child-friendly iPad is to set up the iPad with its own iTunes account and remove the credit card from it. You then have the option of gifting apps to the iPad, which allows you to monitor what is installed.