How to Use iTunes Restrictions to Protect Your Kids

Take control of what your kids can download

Girl using laptop while listening to music at table

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The iTunes Store is full of music, movies, TV shows, and books, but not all content is appropriate for children or teens. If you're a parent, and you want to let your kids access some content from the iTunes Store but also protect them for material that's too adult for them, use iTunes Restrictions. iTunes Restrictions is Apple's built-in feature that lets parents control content in iTunes.

These instructions apply to iTunes 8.1 and later.

How to Configure iTunes Restrictions

Restrictions is a built-in feature of iTunes that lets you block access from a computer to selected iTunes Store content.

To enable Restrictions:

  1. Open iTunes on a desktop or laptop computer.

  2. Click the iTunes menu (on a Mac) or the Edit menu (on a PC), then click Preferences.

    Or, press Command+, (comma) on a Mac or Ctrl+, (comma) on a PC.

    The Preferences menu in iTunes
  3. Click the Restrictions tab.

    The Restrictions tab in iTunes preferences
  4. Click the Lock icon to make changes to settings. Then, enter your admin password if prompted.

    Your admin password is the one you use to log in to your computer or install new software. It's different from your iTunes account password. Kids who know it will be able to change the settings.

    Lock icon in iTunes preferences
  5. In the Disable section, select check boxes to block access to:

    The Disable section of iTunes Restrictions
  6. In the Ratings for section, restrict content based on its rating. First, select your country to get your local content rating system. Then, select the check boxes to:

    • Show the rating of the content in your iTunes Library.
    • Restrict music with explicit content. This restricts music marked explicit on your computer and at iTunes.
    • Restrict movies, TV shows, apps, and books on your computer and at the iTunes Store based on the rating chosen in the drop-down menus.
    Ratings for section of iTunes restrictions
  7. To save your settings, click the Lock icon and enter your computer's password.

The Limitations of iTunes Restrictions

Restrictions offer a comprehensive approach to keeping adult content away from your kids. But they have one major limitation: they can only filter content from the iTunes Store.

Any content you play in another app or download from another source — from Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, or Audible, for example — won't have the same restrictions. That's because the content has to be rated and compatible with the Restrictions feature. Other online stores don't support the iTunes restrictions system.  

Using iTunes Restrictions on Shared Computers

Using Restrictions to block explicit material is great if a parent can set it up on their kids' computer. But if your family shares a single computer, things get more complicated. That's because Restrictions block content based on the computer and not the user.

family using devices
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It's possible to have multiple Restrictions settings on one computer. In order to do that, each person using the computer needs to have a user account.

What Are User Accounts?

A user account is a separate space within the computer for one person (in this case, the computer user account and Apple ID are not related). Each family member has an account with a username and password that they use to log into the computer. After they log in to their account, they can install the software and set the preferences they want without affecting anyone else on the computer. Because the computer treats each user account as an independent space, the restrictions settings for that account don't impact other accounts.

This is particularly useful because it lets parents set different restrictions for different children. For instance, a 17-year-old should be able to download and view different kinds of content from a 9-year-old, and parents may want no restrictions on their options in iTunes.

To learn how to block websites based on content, find out how to block websites on the iPhone.

How to Create User Accounts

Here are the instructions to create user accounts on popular operating systems:

Tips for Using Restrictions with Multiple Accounts

It isn't enough just to set limits on what's available on iTunes. You should also take some extra steps to keep everything under control. Here are some other things you might want to do:

  • With the accounts created, tell everyone in the family their username and password and make sure they understand that they must log out of their account when they're done using the computer.
  • Parents should make sure they know their kids' usernames and passwords.
  • Each kid should also have their own iTunes account.
  • To apply content restrictions to kids' iTunes, log in to each user account and configure iTunes Restrictions.