How to Turn On Restrictions and Enable iPad Parental Controls

Kids using an iPad
Thijs Knaap / Flickr

The iPad contains customizable parental controls called "restrictions" that allow you to disable features like FaceTime, iMessage and the dreaded in-app purchases. You can also regulate certain features, such as limiting the websites your child is able to visit using the Safari browser or restricting downloads from the App Store to age-appropriate apps.

The iPad parental controls work by setting a four digit passcode on the iPad. This code is used for getting into and out of the restriction settings and is separate from the passcode used to lock and unlock the tablet.

After you create a passcode, you can tailor the restrictions to your child's age and what areas of the iPad you want them to have access. This includes selecting the what type of movies (G, PG, PG-13, etc.), music and even limiting the device to certain websites.

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How to Turn On iPad Restrictions

The parental controls are located in settings under Restrictions and allow a fair amount of control over what is available on the iPad. But first, you have to get into the Restrictions area.

  • First, launch the Settings app. This is the app that looks like gears turning.
  • On the left-side menu, scroll down and tap General.
  • Restrictions are about halfway down the General page. Tap the Restrictions button to open those settings.
  • This screen will be grayed out until you tap the Enable Restrictions button at the top of the screen.
  • When you enable restrictions, you will be prompted to enter a four-digit passcode. This is different than the passcode used to unlock the iPad and should be something you will remember but not easily guessed by your kiddo. You will be prompted to enter the passcode twice to make sure you don't make a mistake typing it in the first time.
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iPad Parental Control Settings

Once you have the iPad's parental controls enabled, you will be able to set different restrictions and even restrict some of the default applications that came with the iPad. This includes the Safari browser, the Camera, Siri, the App Store and iTunes, so you can restrict your child's ability to view websites, take pictures and buy music or movies for their iPad. You can also turn off AirDrop, which is a feature that allows wireless transfers between devices such as sharing a photo. 

Another important feature is the ability to turn off installing apps. You can still download apps to the iPad by installing them to iTunes and syncing them to the iPad, which will allow you to have complete control over which apps are on the iPad. If you don't want to hook your iPad up to your PC, you can also turn on the ability to install apps once every few weeks to download new apps to the iPad and then disable the App Store again. 

If you don't need that much control, you can set a ratings restriction for what type of apps can be installed on the iPad. (Find out more about the different iPad app ratings.)

Another good thing to turn off is in-app purchases. Many free apps allow in-app purchases, which is how they make their money. This type of monetization can be seen in apps like Roblox, which is a great iPad app, but parents must be aware that it allows for the purchase of in-game money.

Don't forget the Privacy settings. This section will allow you to modify how the iPad behaves and what features are allowed. For example, in the Photos section you can either restrict access to Photos or simply disable the ability to share Photos on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.