How to Set Up iPad Parental Controls and Content Filtering

About two-thirds of parents with a mobile device engage in “pass-back” behavior — handing a phone or tablet to your child so they can play games, read books, and engage in other activities. The iPad is a particularly popular pass-back device because the screen is large enough for comfortable video viewing and games are even more engaging than on a phone.

There are two concerns when giving a small child or even an older kid your iPad: protecting the device from them and protecting them from what’s on the device. This and other hard core cases can take care of the former, but you’ll need to set up some parental controls to take care of the latter.

Apple provides some decent restrictions, allowing you to turn off certain apps, keep your kid from downloading more or buying things from inside an app, and even hiding inappropriate content. The the iPad’s restrictions don’t give parents options for safe web browsing, but there’s a good app for that.

The main drawback is that you have to re-set the restrictions every time you give the iPad to your child unless you want to live with them yourself. Once you disable restrictions, you’ll have to go through and enable each one again the next time — completely tedious.

There are several kid-safe tablets that offer better parental controls that you can set and forget. But if you’re sticking with the iPad, here’s how to set them up.

(Related: 5 Kid-Friendly iPad Alternatives For Kids)

Turn On The iPad’s Restrictions

Passcode - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls


Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and tap Enable Restrictions.

Every time you do this you’ll be asked to set a 4-digit passcode and enter it a second time. Be sure it’s something you can remember but your kid won’t figure out.

iPad Restrictions Parental Controls - Full List

Setting App-Based Restrictions

Apple doesn’t give you the option of disabling every app on the iPad individually, though some do have that option. You can turn off Safari, YouTube, the Cameras, Facetime, even iTunes. You can also keep kids from installing new apps (just in case they get your iTunes password) and deleting them.

Allow List - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Down under Allowed Content tap Apps. This gives you the ability to restrict apps by age range. These ratings are visible in the app store and assigned by Apple. Be aware that they may not conform to your idea of what’s appropriate for what age group.

More Apps Restrictions - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

App Restrictions - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Once you’ve set those, go back to Restrictions and move down to In-App Purchases. You can disable this completely or, if you plan to authorize each purchase individually (say to reward a kid for good grades) you can set Require Password to Immediately.

Under Game Center you can restrict how much kids interact with people via the gaming social network.

Setting Up Web Content Filtering

For very young children turning the iPad’s Safari browser off completely is a good idea. Older kids can benefit from browsing, especially if they’re using the iPad for learning. To keep them away from inappropriate websites and content, invest in the Mobicip Safe Browser.

This $4.99 app incorporates a content-filtering engine that restricts access to websites based on age range. Parents can customize the filter and create separate profiles so they can surf anywhere they like. Plus, they can view Internet activity to see where kids are going when they surf.

Keeping Kids Out Of Your Email

Mail Controls - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Another gaping hole you might notice is with messages. You can’t keep kids from opening the Mail, Contacts or Calendar apps, though you can prevent them from making changes under Allow Changes.

To block them from reading your email, you’ll have to use a another app for it. Mailboxes is a handy multi-user Gmail client that password protects each account individually.


Even if Safari is set to Off this browser will still show up on one of the Home screens. Though it only works with Gmail accounts, it’s better than nothing.

Setting Media-Based Restrictions

Kids will want to watch video, especially when they’re traveling. You can keep iTunes available but disable the inappropriate movies, TV shows and music.

Allowed Content - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Under Allowed Content you can set the ratings level for movies based on MPAA ratings and TV shows based on US content ratings. Unfortunately you can only disable explicit music and podcasts and not a wider range than that or all music.

Media restrictions - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Setting Location-Based Restrictions

Location Changes - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

There are few good reasons for kids to broadcast their location to an app or to friends from the iPad, so it’s a good idea to turn off location services.

Under Allow changes tap Location. The apps you see on this screen may differ from mine. Switch them all to Off, then flip Location Services to Off as well.

Location Controls - iPad Restrictions Parental Controls

Once you do, then choose Don’t Allow Changes to lock these down.


However, if you’re worried that your child will leave the iPad somewhere and forget it or simply lose it, leave Find My iPad on as well as Location Services.


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  2. Gareth Penman says

    one problem I found is the effect of using restrictions on app layout. I organise my apps by screen and in folders. I applied restrictions to a number of apps, making them disappear from the screen. When I un-restricted the apps had they been returned, but none were in folders or in the same place.

    This means whenever i pass my ipad to my son i have to set up all the restrictions, and then re-organise all the apps positions. This is not an easy system to use.

  3. jffranca says

    but the more important that would be define a period of time ( in minutes or hours ) that my child could play with ipad … that Apple forgot…

  4. nomad says

    as usual, apple parental controls suck, best form of control is to simply not give your kid an ipad, iphone, etc.

    • Manden6 says

      All of those controls are on the iMacs. Unfortunately somewhat missed on the othe portable products. thought don’t forget to check out the App Store for the timers for usage. I found 3-4 of them when looking under parental controls.

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