How To Setup Parental Controls (Restrictions) on the iPad

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iPad Settings Restrictions

The iPad is a wonderfully easy and intuitive device to use. This is generally nothing but a major advantage – but at times it can cause issues if you have children who share your iPad or are allowed to use it from time to time. Problems you might encounter range from a child inadvertently deleting a frequently-used app to discovering that your child’s favorite new iPad game has allowed them to rack up hundreds of dollars worth of charges to your credit card via In-App purchases.

Fortunately, the iPad (and iOS) comes with a strong set of parental controls that you can choose to apply to reduce the chances of seeing any problems when you allow your kids to use an iPad, it’s a shared one or one of their own. On the iPad these are called Restrictions – and here’s a quick rundown of how they can be setup:

You’ll find these controls in the iPad’s Settings app – under Settings > General > Restrictions.

Enable Restrictions

To get started you tap the ‘Enable Restrictions’ button at the top of the page – when you do you’ll be asked to set a passcode and confirm it.  You’ll need to enter this passcode every time you want to adjust Restrictions settings – so you obviously want to make sure you set a code that you’ll remember, or make a note of it in a secure location, or better yet in a password manager app.  If you don’t have any more use for them, you can disable restrictions at any time by returning to the same Settings area and tapping ‘Disable Restrictions’.

There are four sections to the Restrictions area. They are as follows:


Apps and Items You Can Allow or Disallow: Safari, YouTube, Camera, FaceTime, iTunes, Ping, Installing Apps, Deleting Apps, Dictation, Explicit Language. When you disallow Safari, YouTube,Camera or iTunes the icons for these will disappear from your home screen – and you’ll find that URL and YouTube video links in emails will no longer work.

If you disallow Voice Dictation the microphone button will be removed from the keyboard in all apps. If you disallow just Explicit Language under Voice Dictation then any curse words you try to enter using voice dictation will have asterisks placed within them.

iPad disallow explicit in voice dictation

You can also disallow installing and/or deleting apps. If you disallow installing apps it will remove the App Store icon and App Store links in emails will no longer work. Choosing to disallow deleting apps will remove the X icon on each app when you tap and hold on app to bring up the ‘wiggly icons’ – so nobody will be able to intentionally or inadvertently delete an app.

iPad allow changes

Allow Changes

There are only two items under this section: Location and Accounts. Under Accounts you have just two basic options – Allow Changes or Don’t Allow Changes. The latter option prevents adding, removing or modifying accounts under Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.

The Location section offers  lot more choices, starting with the same Allow Changes or Don’t Allow Changes. In this case, if you choose Don’t Allow Changes it will lock all of the location settings you select below and, importantly, also prevent new apps from using location services. Like any of these settings though, you can adjust this later if you need to allow a new app access to location services. Right below those first two options, you can choose to have Location Services On or Off. Below that you have a section listing all of your currently installed apps apps that are capable of using location services – and an On and Off toggle button for each of them.

Finally, there’s  a section for System Services. The first two services listed – Cell Network Search and Compass Calibration – are generally quite useful. Diagnostics & Usage, Location-Based iAds and Setting Time Zone are arguably far less so – and the time zone service in particular has been said to be a likely source of faster battery drain in the past.

iPad allowed content

Allowed Content

The choices here are as follows:

Ratings For: the default is the United States but it’s easy to switch countries.

Music & Podcasts: choose whether or not to allow explicit content (on or off)

Movies: allow all, don’t allow movies, or allow anywhere from G only up to NC-17

TV Shows: the equivalent set of options for TV as for movies

Apps: Similar again to movies and TV shows – allow all apps, don’t allow apps, or allow anywhere from 4+ up to 17+

In-App Purchases: simple On or Off, to allow or disallow In-App purchases. This one can be a godsend for parents with kids who are drawn to ‘freemium’ iPad games.

Require Password: This setting controls how soon after entering your App Store or iTunes password you will be prompted to enter it again if purchasing an app or other iTunes content. Sadly there are only two options – Immediately or 15 minutes. This can be another very useful one if you have an iPad shared by your kids – as kids figure out very quickly that mom or dad’s password still works right after installing an app (if you don’t have this setting set to Immediately).

Game Center

Two settings to work with here – Multiplayer Games and Adding Friends. Both can be turned On or Off.

That’s about all there is to working with restrictions on the iPad. Hopefully you won’t often need to use any Draconian restrictions on the iPad – but if you do, or if you just want to set moderate levels of parental controls, this is how you do it.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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10 thoughts on “How To Setup Parental Controls (Restrictions) on the iPad”

  1. If you need a parental control for the iPhone/iPad, check out FREE McGruff SafeGuard.

    You may remember McGruff “The Crime Dog” – Take A Bite Out of Crime – from your own childhood.

    They also have a Windows Parental Control system (
    McGruff SafeGuard released a Child Safe Browser app that is a look-alike for Safari, but provides a parent with full control of the categories of websites that can be visited.

    It also provides a summary of activity to the parent via email.

    Check out

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  3. The iPad restrictions are very poor and do not work most of the time. I have 3 kids in “digital” classes and I my 5 year-old daughter was listening to Music store when “Pink” dropped the F-Bomb. Needless to say, I immediately reviewed the iPad restrictions on it and even comparied setting on the Apple site and other communities. The iPad is set up properly for “clean” and the “Pink” music is labled with “Explicit Language” but some how it just plays. I’m going with theory that Apple would rather make money than protect our children by folowing the ‘guidelines’ Apple set forth. Another crappy corporate decision Apple!

  4. I have full parental controls set up on my son’s ipad, but was horrifed to discover he has accessed sexual images on google images. I can’t see how I can stop this, as the google images ‘search safety’ button doesn’t appear when you use iPad. Any ideas? I’d also like to prohibit specific sites – eg YouTube, Facebook. Can I do this?

  5. You can set up all the parental restrictions AND all other restrictions that exist, BUT if a child goes to the settings menu, he/she can undo it ALL!!!!! You just wasted your time. :(
    They need to allow us to require a password to access the settings menu, then all of the restrictions would be effective.

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