Family Sharing is Apple’s answer to providing a family of up to six people an easy way to share all their purchases from the App Store, iTunes and the iBooks store through one main account. Now, family members can share purchases from each of their own individual accounts without having to use the same username and password. Everyone has access to all the purchases made by each and every member of the family. This provides the family with a one-stop location where they can share all of their photos, app purchases, books and calendar items—as well as their location.
In order to set-up the the Family Sharing account, one person needs to be the main account holder. This person sends out the invites to everyone that will be included in the family. He/she is also responsible for providing the credit card information for all payment arrangements made by the family. The process is initiated with email invites that family members can accept to become part of the Family Sharing account.
My favorite part of Family Sharing is that I can add my children to the plan—although you will need to create an Apple ID for your child in order to add them. Children under the age of 13 will automatically be added to your Family Sharing Plan, and the “ask to buy” feature is automatically turned on for purchases made with their device. All purchase requests made with this feature active will have to get approval from the main account holder. This is true for free and paid purchase requests.
Unfortunately when minors are included in Family Sharing plans, parental consent must be verified through the payment information provided with your Apple ID. This means that, at least initially, you will need to provide a credit card and not a debate card for payment activity. Credit cards cannot be legally acquired unless you are an adult, so by providing one, you are essentially giving parental consent. If you choose to, your payment information can always be changed back to a debit card after the initial verification period.
All purchase media will be available to all family members. This information can be reviewed/downloaded from the “purchased” tab on your devices. It is important to note that all media available for download through the Family Sharing account will still mirror any parental controls you might have previously set-up on your child’s iPad. This way there’s is no need to worry if your child might be downloading media that isn’t age appropriate. Further more, you will be have the option to hide individual items when you set up their account.
Family members can also share their location with each other so they all know where they may be at any given time. This was always available to members using the same Apple ID as long as they had a registered device in Find my iPhone/iPad. With Family Sharing you can also use the Find my Friends app as well as by share your location via Messages app. Location sharing can always be temporarily disabled via the Share My Location switch in iCloud, if privacy is an issue.
Lastly, a full access Family Calendar is created that everyone in the Family can edit as needed. A shared calendar is helpful for sending alerts to those who need to know when appointment times may change. In addition, the Reminders app can be used send each other time and/or location reminders for events they may be attending together.
Family Sharing is a nice step in the right direction for helping us all integrate our busy schedules and shared appointments in one main hub. I hope Apple continues to develop this tool, and improve it incrementally. I really see this as an opportunity for them to do something bigger and more elaborate down the road.