How to Set up Family Sharing on iPhone

A photo of three kids on a bed, all using smartphones

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Apple's Family Sharing feature solve a long-standing issue in the world of the iPhone and iTunes:: it lets whole families share content bought or downloaded by just one member.

Anyone who is part of the Family Sharing group can download music, movies, TV shows, apps and books purchased by another family member — for free! — when Family Sharing is set up. It saves money and lets entire families enjoy the same entertainment.

Sound good? It is! This article shows you how to set up Family Sharing on the iPhone (they work on the iPad, too).

Family Sharing Requirements

To use Family Sharing on the iPhone and other Apple devices, each member of the family needs:

  • An iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, running iOS 8.0 or higher
  • A Mac, running macOS 10.10 Yosemite or higher
  • An Apple ID signed into iCloud and iTunes.

While Family Sharing runs on iOS 8 and up, the instructions in this article apply to recent models of the iPhone running iOS 11 and iOS 12.

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Setting up Family Sharing on the iPhone

set up family sharing, step 1

A parent should set up Family Sharing. The person who initially sets up Family Sharing will take on the role of the "Family Organizer" and will have the most control over how Family Sharing works. Follow these steps to set up Family Sharing:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name].  
  2. Tap Set Up Family Sharing.
  3. You'll be asked if you want to be the Family Organizer. Confirm that you do and that you're signed in with your own Apple ID.
  4. Now simply follow the onscreen instructions. 
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Family Sharing Payment Method and Location Sharing

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After you've started setting up Family Sharing on the iPhone, you must take a few more steps:

  1. Go to the Share Purchases screen and make sure the Apple ID you're logged in with is the one whose purchases you want to share. If so, tap Continue. If not, tap the link at the bottom of the screen to change this setting. 
  2. Confirm that the credit or debit card you have on file is the one that you want to use for shared purchases. You can do this on the payment screen. This card will be used not only for your own purchases, but for every purchase made by everyone in your Family Sharing group. All purchases must be made using the same credit or debit card. If children under 18 try to make purchases, you'll be asked to approve them first.
  3. You can choose to enable a feature that will allow your family members to see where you are (or at least where your phone is) whenever it's online using Messages, Find My Friends, or Find My iPhone. Tap Share Your Location if you want to do this, or Not Now. Then you'll move on to the next step.

To learn more about location sharing on the iPhone, check out How to Use Find My Friends For iPhone And iPad and How to Share Your Location on iPhone or iPad.

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Invite Others to Join Family Sharing

set up family sharing, step 3

With Family Sharing set up, it's time to start adding members to your family. Technically, these don't have to be people who are related to you. You can create a Family Sharing group with anyone, but you have you be comfortable with them downloading your content and making purchases using your credit or debit card.

To invite other family members to join the group, follow these steps: 

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing > Add Family Member
  2. Choose the way you want to invite people. You can do it using iMessage, in person, or create an account for a child.
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions. 

You can check to see whether someone you've invited to your Family Sharing group has accepted the invitation by going to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing.

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Accepting a Family Sharing Invitation

set up family sharing, step 5

After you've invited other users to join your Family Sharing group, they can accept your invitation by doing the following:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > Invitations.
  2. Tap Accept.
  3. Tap Confirm.
  4. Tap Continue to enable sharing of purchases.

After each new member of your Family Sharing group has accepted the invitation, they have to decide whether to share their location. This can be very useful — it's valuable to know where your family is, both for safety and for purposes of meeting up.

When prompted, each family member should either tap Share Location or Not Now.

If the Family Sharing group includes other options like a shared calendar, the user accepting the invitation will also have to decide whether or not to opt into those features.

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Learn More About Using Family Sharing

iphone family plan
image credit Jiangang Wang/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

Setting up a Family Sharing group is really just the first step in learning about this great feature. To dig deeper into it, we've got a number of other useful articles to help you learn more about Family Sharing, including: