How to Use iTunes Restrictions to Protect Your Kids

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The iTunes Store is full of terrific music, movies, TV shows, and books, but not all of that 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, what can you do?

Use iTunes Restrictions, Apple's built-in feature for letting parents control content in iTunes. Here's what you need to know.

How to Configure iTunes Restrictions

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), and then click Preferences.

    You can also press Command-comma (Mac) or Ctrl-comma (PC) on your keyboard.

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

    The Restrictions tab in iTunes preferences
  4. You may need to click the lock icon to make changes to settings. Do so, and then enter your admin password if it asks.

    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 in most cases. Kids who know it will be able to change the settings if they want.

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

    The Disable section of iTunes Restrictions
  6. The Ratings for section is where you restrict content based on its rating. To do that, 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 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 provided in the drop-down menus.
    Ratings for section of iTunes restrictions
  7. To save your settings, click the lock icon at the bottom left corner of the window and enter your computer's password.

The Limitations of iTunes Restrictions

Restrictions offer a pretty 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 or Google Play or Spotify or Audible, for example — won't have the same restrictions. 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.  

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 and not the user.

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 computer user account and 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 should probably be able to download and view different kinds of content from a 9-year-old — and parents will probably want no restrictions on their options in iTunes.

Curious about blocking websites based on their content? Check out How to Block Websites on the iPhone.

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.
  3. To apply content restrictions to kids' iTunes, log into each user account and configure iTunes Restrictions as explained on the previous page.