How to Monitor Your Child's iPhone

By Vivian Wu
March 6, 2023
Tween girl looking excitedly at an iPhone she's holding

As parents, it's natural to want to keep your child safe, and with the widespread use of smartphones, monitoring their phone activity is becoming increasingly important. Whatever devices your child uses, it’s important that parents understand how to monitor them effectively, while also encouraging good screen habits. One of the most popular devices among teens is the Apple iPhone. In this article, we’ll explore different ways you can monitor your child's iPhone, from using built-in parental controls to third-party monitoring apps. So whether you're a tech-savvy parent or just getting started, read on to learn how to monitor your child's iPhone and keep them safe in today's digital world.

Can You Monitor Your Child’s Phone From Your Own Phone?

Yes, you can monitor your child's iPhone from your own phone by using built-in features as well as parental control or monitoring apps. Parental control and monitoring apps allow parents to monitor their child's phone usage, including their web browsing history, social media activity, and app usage. Some apps also offer geolocation tracking and allow parents to set usage limits on their child's device.

Apple Family Sharing

Apple's Family Sharing feature is a useful tool for parents who want to monitor their child's iPhone usage. By setting up a separate Apple ID for their child, parents can share purchases, subscriptions, and more across all their family's devices. 

This feature also enables parents to use the Screen Time feature to monitor their child's iPhone habits, set limits on app usage, and receive weekly screen time activity reports. With Family Sharing, parents can also manage and control their child's access to content and services.

How Do I Enable Family Sharing and Screen Time?

To set up Family Sharing, go to Settings, tap on your name, and select Set Up Family Sharing. From there, invite family members and set up sharing for features such as Apple Music, iCloud storage, and App Store purchases. 

To set up Screen Time, go to Settings, tap on Screen Time, and select Set Up Screen Time. From there, you can set up Downtime, App Limits, and Content & Privacy restrictions.

Parental Control vs. Parental Monitoring Apps

Parental control and parental monitoring apps are two different types of tools that parents can use to monitor their child's iPhone usage. Parental control apps are designed to block or restrict access to certain content or apps on your  child's device. Parental monitoring apps alert you to concerning content without interfering  in  your child's online behavior. While both types of apps can be useful, your family’s specific needs and preferences will determine which you choose. Here are some pros and cons. 

Parental Control Apps: The Pros and Cons

Parental control apps give parents more control over their children’s devices. 

One drawback, however, is that they don't enable kids to learn how to make their own decisions about which people and content to engage with online. This provides fewer opportunities for parents to coach their children through situations they are likely to run into online. 

Additionally, many parental control apps are VPN-based, which can drain the battery and slow down the internet on the child's device. 

Finally, a persistent child may find ways to disable or bypass the parental control app, rendering it ineffective.

Blocking access to certain sites and apps makes sense when your children are younger, but may leave older kids less prepared to handle the unrestricted internet access they'll have as adults.

Parental Monitoring Apps: The Pros and Cons

Parental monitoring apps like BrightCanary are useful tools for parents who want to keep track of their child's iPhone usage without restricting their behavior. 

One of the advantages of using parental monitoring apps is that they do not slow down the internet on the child's device unlike VPN-based parental control apps. Additionally, once parental monitoring apps are installed on the parent's device, they cannot be disabled by the child. 

One potential drawback of parental monitoring apps is that they do not allow parents to block or restrict access to certain sites or content on their own — you'll need to use Apple's built-in controls to do that. 

3 Best Ways to Monitor Your Child’s iPhone

Monitoring your child’s iPhone doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are three simple ways to keep track of your child’s iPhone activity. 

Built-in phone controls

One option is to use the built-in phone controls, such as enabling Screen Time, restricting app access, and setting time limits. 

Monitoring apps

Another option is to use monitoring apps, which provide real-time alerts, monitoring, and reporting on your child's device activity. 

Check-ins with your child

It's important to have regular check-ins with your child to discuss their online activity, educate them about online safety, and establish healthy screen time habits.

How to Build Healthy Screen Time Habits

Building healthy screen time habits with your kids is an important part of helping them develop a positive relationship with technology. Start by setting clear guidelines and boundaries around screen time, such as establishing time limits and setting aside screen-free times of the day. Have open and honest conversations with your child about the potential risks of excessive screen time, such as cyberbullying and addiction, and encourage them to speak up if they encounter any problems online.

Closing Thoughts

It’s up to parents to help their child navigate all the iPhone has to offer and to keep a close eye on their online activity. It's important to establish healthy screen time habits early on by setting boundaries, modeling good behavior, and having open conversations with your child about the potential risks of excessive screen time. Parents should expect an adjustment period, especially if their child has had a lot of freedom in the past, and be patient in helping their child develop healthy online habits.