How to Block Websites on the iPhone

young boy using iPhone
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With so much adult content on the web, parents may want to block their kids from visiting those websites on the iPhone. Luckily, there are tools built into the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch that allow them to control which websites their kids can visit.

In fact, these tools are so flexible that they can go beyond just blocking some sites. They can also be used to create a set of sites that are the only websites their kids can use.

The Feature You Need: Restrictions

The feature that allows you to block access to websites is called Restrictions. You can use it to turn off features, hide apps, prevent certain kinds of communication and, most importantly in this case, block content. All of these settings are protected by a passcode, so a kid can't easily change them.

Restrictions is built into the iOS, the operating system that runs on the iPhone and iPad. That means you don't need to download an app or sign up for a service to protect your kids (though there are options for that, too, as we'll see at the end of the article).

How to Block Websites on the iPhone Using Restrictions

To block websites, begin by turning on Restrictions by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Restrictions.
  4. Tap Enable Restrictions.
  5. Enter a four-digit passcode to protect the settings. Use something your kids won't be able to guess.
  6. Enter the passcode again to confirm it.

With that, you've enabled Content Restrictions. Now, follow these steps to configure them to block mature websites:

  1. On the Restrictions screen, go to the Allowed Content section and tap Websites.
  2. Tap Limit Adult Content.
  3. Tap Restrictions in the top left corner or leave the Settings app and go do something else. Your choice to block adult sites is automatically saved and the passcode protects it.

While blocking adult content this way is a nice feature to have, it's also pretty broad. You may find that it blocks sites that aren't truly 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 necessarily complete or perfect. If you find that your kids are still able to visit sites you don't want them to, there are two other options.

Restrict Web Browsing to Approved Sites Only 

Instead of relying on 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 may especially be good for younger kids.

To use this feature, follow both tutorials above, but instead of tapping Limit Adult Content, tap Specific Websites Only.

The iPhone is preconfigured with a set of these websites, including Apple, Disney, PBS Kids, National Geographic - Kids, and more. You can remove sites from this list by following these steps:

  1. Tap Edit.
  2. Tap the red circle next to the site you want to delete.
  3. Tap Delete.
  4. Repeat for every site you want to delete.
  5. When you've finished, tap Done.

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

  1. Tap Add a Website... at the bottom of the list.
  2. In the Title field, type in the name of the website.
  3. In the URL field, type in the website address (for example: http://www.lifewire.com).
  4. Repeat for as many sites as you want.
  5. Tap Websites to go back to the previous screen. The sites you added are automatically saved. 

Now, if your kids try to go to a site that's not on this list, they'll get a message saying the site is blocked. There's an Allow Website link allows you to quickly add it to the approved list—but you need to know the Restrictions passcode in order to do that.

Other Options for Kid-Friendly Web Browsing

If the iPhone's built-in tool for blocking websites isn't powerful or flexible enough for you, there are other options. These are alternative web browser apps you install on the iPhone. Use Restrictions to disable Safari and leave one of them as the only web browser on your kids' devices. Some options include:

  • MetaCert Safe Browser for Education: This browser only works on the iPad. It offers customizable filtering and blocking, and reporting for parents. The app costs US$7.99 and includes in-app purchases of $0.99 and $1.99. Download at the App Store
  • Mobicip Safe Browser: Offers a free version with basic features or paid tiers that provide more reporting to parents, the ability to set time limits on internet usage, and support for up to 5 devices. App is free; subscription is $39.99/year. Download at the App Store

Go Further: Other Content Blocking Options

Blocking adult websites isn't the only kind of control you can use on your kids' iPhone or iPad. You can block music with explicit lyrics, prevent in-app purchases, and much more using the built-in Restrictions feature. For more tutorials and tips, read 14 Things You Must Do Before Giving Kids iPod touch or iPhone.

You can also block at least some ads on the web, too. This requires add-on apps. To learn more about this, check out How to Block Ads in Safari on the iPhone.