How to Use iTunes Restrictions to Protect Your Kids

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Configuring iTunes Restrictions

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The iTunes Store is full of terrific music, movies, books, and apps. But it's not all appropriate for children or teens. What's a parent to do who wants to let their kids access some content from iTunes, but not all of it?

Use iTunes Restrictions, that's what.

Restrictions are a built-in feature of iTunes that lets you block access from your computer to selected iTunes Store content. To enable them, follow these steps:

  1. Open the iTunes program on your desktop or laptop computer
  2. Click the iTunes menu (on a Mac) or the Edit menu (on a PC)
  3. Click Preferences
  4. Click the Restrictions tab.

This is where you find the Restrictions options. In this window, your options are:

  • Disable—Check these boxes to completely block access to:
  • Ratings for—You can restrict content based on its rating. To do that, first, choose the country you're in to get your local content rating system. Once you've done that, your options are:
    • Show the rating of the content in your iTunes Library
    • Restrict music with explicit content. This is used to restrict 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 provided in the drop-down menus.

To save your settings, click the lock icon at the bottom left corner of the window and enter your computer's password. This is the password you use to log into your computer or install software. It's different from your iTunes account password in most cases. Doing this locks the settings. You'll only be able to change the settings by entering your password again to unlock them (which also means that kids who know the password will be able to change the settings if they want).

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Limitations of iTunes Restrictions

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Clearly, Restrictions offer a pretty comprehensive approach to keeping adult content away from your kids.

But there's one major limitation: they can only filter content from the iTunes Store.

Any content played in another app or downloaded from another source—from Amazon or Google Play or Audible.com, for example—won't be blocked. That's because the content has to be rated and compatible with this feature in order to work. Other online stores don't support iTunes' restrictions system.  

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Using iTunes Restrictions on Shared Computers

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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, not the user. They're an all-or-nothing proposition. 

Luckily, it's possible to have multiple Restrictions settings on one computer. In order to do that, each person using the computer needs to have their own user account.

What Are User Accounts?

A user account is like a separate space within the computer just for one person (in this case, the user account and iTunes account/Apple ID are not related). They have their own username and password to log into the computer and can install whatever software and set whatever preferences they'd like without affecting anyone else on the computer. Because the computer treats each user account as its own 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 can probably download and view different kinds of content than a 9-year-old—and parents will probably want no restrictions on their options (but remember, the settings only restrict what can be accessed from iTunes, not on the rest of the Internet).

How to Create User Accounts

Here are instructions for creating user accounts on some popular operating systems:

Tips for Using Restrictions with Multiple Accounts

  1. 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 all of their kids' usernames and passwords.
  2. Each kid should also have their own iTunes account. Learn how to create an Apple ID for kids here.
  3. To apply content restrictions to kids' iTunes, log into each user account and configure iTunes Restrictions as explained on the previous page. Make sure to protect these settings with use a password other than the one used to log into the user account.