How to Block Websites on the iPhone

Prevent your kids from viewing adult content on the internet

boy using iPhone

Inti St Clair / Blend Images / Getty Images

With so much adult content on the web, many parents want to block their kids from visiting those websites on the iPhone. Fortunately, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch include built-in tools that control which websites kids can visit.

These tools are so flexible that they can go beyond blocking specific websites. They can also be used to create a set of sites that are the only websites kids can use.

With iOS 12, Apple moved the option to block websites to the Screen Time settings. Previously, in iOS 8 through iOS 11, the feature was located in the Restrictions settings. Instructions for both are included in this article.

How to Access Restrictions

The feature that allows adults to block access to websites is located in the Screen Time settings or Restrictions, depending on the iOS version on the iPhone your child uses. You can use it to turn off features, hide apps, prevent certain kinds of communication and, most importantly, block content.

All of these settings are protected by a passcode, so a child can't change them, and they are built into iOS, the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. You don't need to download an app or sign up for a service to protect your kids.

How to Block Websites in iOS 12

Apple introduced Screen Time settings in iOS 12 and moved the Restrictions settings there. To block websites on the iPhone:

  1. Tap Settings on the iPhone Home screen.

  2. Tap Screen Time.

  3. Select Content & Privacy Restrictions. Enter a passcode when instructed to do so. It can be any four-digit combination. This passcode prevents your children from changing the restrictions you set in place.

    Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions on an iPhone
  4. Tap Content Restrictions.

    Turn the switch next to Content & Privacy Restrictions to on/green to access these settings. You may have to enter your system passcode to continue.

  5. Select Web Content.

  6. Tap Limit Adult Websites.

    Content Restrictions, Web Content, and Limit Adult Websites options in iOS Settings
  7. Exit the Settings app to save the Screen Time settings.

How to Block Websites in iOS 8 Through iOS 11

To block websites in iOS 8 through iOS 11, use the Restrictions settings:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Restrictions.

  4. Enter a four-digit passcode to protect the settings. Use something your kids won't be able to guess.

    General > Restrictions > Passcode entry screen in iOS
  5. Tap Enable Restrictions. Enter the passcode again to confirm it.

  6. On the Restrictions screen, go to the Allowed Content section and tap Websites.

  7. Tap Limit Adult Content.

    Enable restrictions for websites in iOS
  8. Leave the Settings app. Your choice to block adult sites is automatically saved, and the passcode protects it.

While blocking adult content this way is helpful, it's broad. You may find that it blocks sites that aren't adult and lets some others slip through. Apple can't rate every website on the internet, so it relies on third-party ratings, which aren't perfect. If you find that your kids are still able to visit sites you don't want them to, you can set up a list that contains only the websites they are approved to visit.

Restrict Web Browsing to Approved Sites Only 

Instead of relying on Screen Time (or Restrictions) to filter the entire internet, you can use the feature to create a set of websites that are the only ones your kids can visit. This gives you more control and predictability and is especially suitable for young children.

This feature is located on the same screen as Limit Adult Content, reachable by following the instructions in either section above.

Removing Websites From the Approved List

The iPhone is preconfigured with a set of these websites that are suitable for children, including Apple, Disney, PBS Kids, National Geographic - Kids, and others. You can remove or add sites on this list.

  1. In the restricted websites screen, tap Allowed Websites Only in iOS 12 (or Specific Websites Only in iOS 8-11).

  2. Swipe to the left on any website you want to remove from the approved list and tap Delete.

    Swipe left and tap Delete to remove access to a website in iOS
  3. Repeat for every site you want to delete.

Adding Websites to the Approved List

To add new sites to this list, follow these steps:

  1. To add websites to the approved list, scroll to the bottom of the approved websites list and tap Add Website.

  2. In the Title field, type the name of the website.

  3. In the URL field, type or paste the website address.

    Web Content menu in iOS settings with the Add Website button highlighted
  4. Tap Web Content (or Websites) to go back to the previous screen. Repeat for as many sites as you want.

  5. Exit the settings. The sites you added are automatically saved. 

If your kids try to go to a website that's not on the approved list, they see a message saying the site is blocked. It contains an Allow Website link so that you to add it to the approved list if they ask and you agree, but they can't add it themselves without the passcode.

Other Content Blocking Options

Blocking adult websites isn't the only kind of control you can use on your kids' iPhone or iPad. In these same settings, you can block music with explicit lyrics, prevent in-app purchases, and much more using the built-in features available in Screen Time or Restrictions settings.