How to Limit iPad Content Through iPad Parental Ratings

Kid using iPad
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One of the great things about the Apple app store is how parent-friendly it is. Not only does every app go through testing to make sure it performs as advertised, it is also verified to make sure the ratings are in line with the official application ratings. This includes making sure the app does not allowed unfettered access to the web, which could allow kids to reach non-age-approved websites. 

The first thing you need to do in order to limit content on the iPad is to turn on the iPad's restrictions. You can do this by opening the iPad Settings app, choosing "General" from the left-side menu and tapping "Restrictions" in the iPad's general settings. The option to enable Restrictions is at the top of this screen.

When you enable restrictions on the iPad, you input a passcode. This is used to get into the restrictions settings in case you want to change something or turn them off. This passcode is not the same as the passcode used to lock the iPad. This allows you to give your child the passcode for them to use the iPad and have a different one for setting restrictions. 

How to Limit Content for Apps

The iPad allows you to turn off various features such as the iTunes Store, the ability to install apps, and the most important one for parents: in-app purchases. For toddlers, it is easiest just to disable the ability to install any app, but for older kids, it can be easier to just limit the type of app they can download and install.

The official app ratings are age-based, but not all kids are the same. The ratings reflect a conservative estimate of age that even the most restrictive parents would generally agree with for the content. This may or may not fall in line with your own parenting. We'll break down the different ratings with a better explanation of what is involved in coming up with the rating. 

  • 4+. This is the rating for an application with no objectionable material. You can think of it like a G rated movie. This means no cartoon violence, drinking or drug use, gambling and certainly no bad language or nudity. 
  • 9+. This rating may include cartoon violence and/or mild suggestive, horror or fear-themed content not suitable for very young children. Think of it like a PG movie. You might see action and violence in a LEGO game rated 9+, but you won't see a Call of Duty level of violence. An example of a game in this category is theLEGO Lord of the Rings game, which does contain some fighting between characters, but some kids younger than 9 may be fine with the game.  
  • 12+. This category of app may contain infrequent mild language, intense cartoon violence, realistic violence or mild use of mature or suggestive themes. It may also contain simulated gambling. It's subject matter may be similar to a PG-13 movie. While this rating does allow some "realistic violence", which generally means blood shown when enemies are hit, this type of violence is relatively infrequent or cartoonish within the game. The 12+ rating excludes games like Mortal Combat and Call of Duty, which are regulated to those 17 or older. 
  • 17+. These applications contain mature themes like frequent realistic violence, sexual content and references to alcohol, tobacco and/or drugs. It is not suitable for anyone under 17 and can be treated like an R-rated movie. This is the highest rating. While these apps can show sexual content, actual nudity is banned from the App Store. However, 17+ apps include apps like web browsers that have access to the unrestricted Internet. 

What About Other Restrictions on the iPad (Music, Movies, TV, etc.)?

You can also set content restrictions on Movies, TV Shows, Music and Books. These follow the official rating guidelines, so with movies, you can restrict content based on the G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 ratings. 

  • For television, the ratings are TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G,TV-PG, TV-14,TV-MA. Many of these follow the mvoie ratings with the addition of the TV-Y and TV-Y7 ratings. Both of these ratings indicate that the content is directed specifically at kids. TV-Y means it is intended for younger kids and toddlers while TV-Y7 means it is directed at older kids aged 7+. This is slightly different from TV-G, which means the content is suitable for kids of all ages but is not created specifically for kids. 
  • Music and Book ratings are the easiest to understand. You can simply limit explicit content for music or explicit sexual content for books.  
  • For Siri, you can limit explicit language and disable web search content. 

How to Limit Content on the Web

In the website restrictions, you can limit adult content, which automatically disallows most adult websites. You can also add specific websites to allow access or disallow access, so if you find a website that slips through the cracks, you can keep it off the iPad. This restriction will also disallow web searches for keyword phrases like "porn" and keep "strict" restrictions on search engines.  This option also restricts the ability to browse the web in private mode, which hides web history. 

For younger kids, it may be easier to choose "Specific Websites Only". This will automatically include kid-friendly websites like PBS Kids and kid-safe websites like You can also add any websites to the list.

There are so many great education apps available for the iPad and so many fun child-friendly games that restricting most websites is a no-brainer for younger kids. Most of the content they consume on the iPad will be through apps, not the web.

How to Restrict Multiplayer Games

If you would rather your child not play with others, you can restrict multiplayer games on the Game Center. This is an easy option to miss because it is all the way at the bottom of the restrictions.

Turning off Multiplayer Games does not turn off the Game Center completely. Games can still give out achievements and scores can be posted to high score leaderboards. You an also choose whether or not to restrict the account from adding friends or recording the screen, which is a popular feature for some games.

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