How to Use iPhone Parental Controls to Monitor Your Child’s Phone

By Andrea Nelson
August 22, 2023
Child scrolling on phone

You finally let your kid have the iPhone they’ve been begging for — and now you’re worried about what they’ll get up to on their new device. Never fear, dear parent: Apple’s iPhone parental controls are robust, and this guide will walk you through how to use them to your advantage.

What can Apple parental controls do?

Apple parental controls are useful tools 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 to put parental controls on iPhone

Apple parental controls screenshot

1. Set up Family Sharing  

  • Go to Settings
  • Click on your name 
  • Select Family Sharing
  • Follow the prompts to set up your Family Sharing group
  • Add your child as a family member 

2. Set a Screen Time passcode

A Screen Time passcode means if your kiddo gets their hands on your device, they can’t go in and change the parental controls. (Not that anyone’s angel would ever be that sneaky!)

  • Under Settings, select Screen Time
  • Under Family, select your child’s name
  • Tap Turn on Screen Time, then select Continue
  • Next, you’ll be asked if you want to set up Downtime, App Limits, and Content & Privacy. You can do this now or skip it and come back later. 
  • Tap Use Screen Time Passcode (tip: select a passcode that’s different from the one you use to unlock the device). 
  • Enter your Apple ID and Password. 

3. Manage iPhone Parental Controls  

All of the following settings can be accessed under Screen Time: 


During Downtime, only apps that you approve and phone calls will be allowed. You can also block the device from being used at all during this time. 

App Limits

Set daily time limits for either specific apps or entire app categories.

Communication Limits

Under Communication Limits, you’ll find two sections for iPhone parental monitoring:

  • Screen Time Communication Limits: During Screen Time (outside of Down Time Hours), you can limit your child so they can only communicate with people saved in their contacts, preventing them from communicating with unknown numbers. 
  • Down Time Communication Limits: If you want to make sure you or other caregivers can still reach your child during Down Time, you can specify that in this section. 

Always Allowed

If there are any apps that you want your child to be able to access during Down Time, (alarms perhaps, so they don’t oversleep), this is where you set that up. 

Content and Privacy restrictions 

Here is where most of the magic happens with iPhone parental controls. To make changes, first turn on Content and Privacy Restrictions. Then, you can go through and make adjustments to the following sections:

iTunes & App Store Purchases: You can use this setting to block your child from making purchases on iTunes or the App Store, installing or deleting apps, and making in-app purchases. You can also allow these actions but require a passcode. 

Allowed Apps: Select which already-installed apps are allowed and which are not. 

Content Restrictions: This super handy tab allows you to establish specific restrictions for how your child can interact with content. There’s too many to list, but here are the highlights: 

  • Music, Podcasts, News, Fitness: Under this tab, you can select Clean to prevent your child from accessing explicit content. 
  • Movies & TV Shows: These two tabs allow you to pick a rating limit (PG, TV-14, etc.) to screen which movies and TV shows your child can watch. 
  • Apps: You can either prevent or allow access to all apps, or select a limit based on the age ratings in the App Store.
  • Web Content: Under the Web Content tab, you can limit adult websites or restrict access to all websites except for ones you explicitly allow. 
  • Siri: You can use this to prevent your child from using Siri to search the web or disable explicit language from Siri. 
  • Game Center: This tab lets you manage who your child can interact with when they play in the Game Center. You can restrict their multiplayer gameplay to friends only, prevent private messaging in games, and more. 


Under Privacy, you can restrict what information apps have access to, such as photos and location. 

Allow Changes

If you prefer to be the only one who can make changes to things like the device passcode or account, you’ll want to specify that in this section. 

What about parental monitoring apps for iPhone?

Apple’s built-in features allow you to set guardrails around your child’s device use, but even Apple has limits: if you want to see what they’re browsing, you’ll have to scroll through their phone. That can get overwhelming quickly — how do you know what to look for and what apps to check? 

Parental monitoring apps for iPhone, such as BrightCanary, alert you when your child encounters concerning content. And unlike other apps, BrightCanary operates directly from the parent’s phone. There’s no need to install anything on your child’s phone or use a VPN, which can slow down the internet on your child’s device and drain their battery. 

Apple parental controls and monitoring apps definitely complement each other. It's also 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.

The bottom line

Apple’s Parental Controls provide a treasure trove of options that allow you to customize how your child uses their device. It’s a great tool to keep your child safe and help them learn good digital habits. After all, 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.

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