Guide to iPhones & iPads

Considering purchasing or handing down your old iPhone or iPad to your child? Or are you looking for instructions on setting it up to be cyber-safe?

Written by Tech Expert:

Jessica Hill

What are iOS devices?

iPhones and iPads run Apple’s smart device operating system known as iOS.

iOS devices are a very popular choice for families due to their intuitive interfaces and endless array of available features and apps.

It’s important to remember that iOS devices are designed for and default to settings suitable for adults. This means access to adult material, access to compulsive games and social platforms and no limits to what can be consumed and for how long. And through messaging and location services iOS devices provide the ability for people you may not know to interact with your children.

In our experience, setting up an iOS device to be child-safe is a moderate-high on the difficulty scale. This is because there are many exposures that require consideration and, for determined tech-savvy teens, there are methods to avoid almost any measures you put in place.

Set out below is our guide on the basic cyber safety steps you need to complete for iOS devices. But please remember, cyber safety technology and settings are only part of the picture. Engaging with your child’s technology use, monitoring and communication are critical to keeping your child cyber-safe and supporting their journey to being a savvy digital citizen.

Secure and prepare your child’s iOS device

The first step is to get the iOS device off your child and find out the PIN. This isn’t always easy.

If your child isn’t playing ball or if you are handing down a second-hand device then you may need to factory reset and wipe the device. Here’s how you do it:

  • Plug the device into your computer with iTunes

  • Put the phone into Recovery Mode*

  • Select Recover in iTunes

*Apple has changed how this is done over time. You may need to Google your iPhone model and "Recovery Mode" to find instructions.

Set up Apple Screen Time to manage apps and device features

Screen Time is Apple’s parental control tool for iOS devices. There are a range of features in here. Some work well and some not so well. Here are our suggestions:

Step 1: Set up Screen Time and set your Parent Passcode 

On your iOS device go to Settings and tap Screen Time. Tap Continue, then choose "This is My [Device]" or "This is My Child's [Device]".

If you're setting up Screen Time on your child's device, follow the prompts until you get to the Parent Passcode and enter a passcode. Re-enter the passcode to confirm. 

NOTE: Make sure that you choose a passcode that's unique and that your child won't be able to guess. To change or turn off the passcode on your child's device, tap Settings > Screen Time > [your child's name]. Then tap Change Screen Time Passcode, and authenticate the change with Face ID, Touch ID or your device passcode.

*If you forgot your Screen Time passcode, update your device to the latest iOS or iPadOS then reset your passcode.

Step 2: Set Screen Time restrictions

There are many options available in Screen Time. Here are our recommendations:

Start by going to Settings and tapping on Screen Time and then follow our guide below.


Allows you to set time periods where the device (except for calls) is inoperable. This can be a good feature for younger children however home lives are so dynamic you may find yourself constantly adjusting the rules - and you need to do this on your child’s device.

At most we suggest setting a bedtime as downtime.

App Limits

You can set time limits for categories of apps and specific apps.

We suggest setting daily limits for Social Networking & Games and Entertainment. Nothing too restrictive unless there are behavioural issues you’re addressing.

Don’t worry about websites. Use Family Zone for this (see instructions below).

Communication Limits

You can set time limits for use of the iOS communication services such as calls an iMessage. 

Managing iMessage is a big challenge for parents. If you’ve set a Downtime (above) then iMessage will be blocked at that time. You can modify this - however we suggest you don’t.

Always allowed

We recommended leaving this as Phone calls.

Content & Privacy Restrictions

This can be daunting as there are an enormous number of options. Here are our recommendations:

  • If you’re using Family Zone, we recommend permitting your child to install apps and let Family Zone notify you so you can talk to your child about them. 

  • We suggest you disable deletion of apps, because kids can uninstall and reinstall apps to bypass screen-time limits.

  • If you’ve set up a debit card for your children to manage spending & pocket money, we recommend permitting In-App Purchases. If not, we suggest setting up Apple Family Sharing. Google this to find out more.

  • Block explicit content and mature content in the Content Restrictions area for Music, Movies, TV and Books. Note, this only works with Apple delivered media.

  • Select Limit Adult Websites in Web Content. Again, this won’t block everything nasty.

  • Set Siri to not accept explicit language.

  • Depending on your child’s chosen settings for their gaming, we’d suggest not allowing the adding of friends until teenage years.

Privacy / Location

We suggest disabling location settings for all apps other than what you use to locate your child and their devices until your children are teenagers. The risks here are with predators locating your children in gaming and social media apps.

Of course many children today use services like Uber, Maps, Pokemon Go, etc. which rely on location. So there are important judgments to be made by you.

Step 3: Be aware of Screen Time hacks

We recommend you check your child’s iOS device regularly as there are a range of methods used by children to bypass the Screen Time features. These include:

  1. Watching YouTube in Messages;

  2. Uninstalling and reinstalling apps (to reset time limits);

  3. Changing the time;

  4. Screen recording to steal passcodes;

  5. and more.

We also recommend having Family Zone installed alongside Apple Screen Time to provide an extra layer of protection and transparency.

Setup Family Zone to manage web content and work with your school’s programs

Family Zone is one of the world’s leading parental control software services. It’s recommended because its clever platform allows schools and parents to collaborate with cyber safety and learning programs. Here’s some brief advice on setting up Family Zone on iOS devices. 

Step 1: Create your Family Zone account

Go to to sign up and set up your Family Zone account. You will need to verify your contact details and register your children with names and dates of birth.

Step 2: Download the Family Zone app to your phone and upgrade to Premium

  1. Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Family Zone App.
  2. Sign in using your email address and password and install as a Parent.
  3. Follow the instructions to upgrade to Family Zone Premium. This version of Family Zone allows you to apply content filters and work with school programs.

Step 3: Download the Family Zone app to your child’s iOS device

  1. Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Family Zone App.
  2. Sign in using your email address and password and install as a Child. Follow instructions carefully.

Step 4: Set up Family Zone for your child

Family Zone offers you many options and features to keep your child safe. Here are a few you should be aware of:

Expert filters & rules

When you set up your account your children are allocated basic filtering settings. These block adult and malicious content.

We suggest you subscribe to automatically updated settings from Family Zone’s cyber safety experts.

There’s no cost and this offers you peace of mind that your settings will be age-appropriate and will develop as the internet changes.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

In the Family Zone app, go to Settings > Internet filters & rules and choose the cyber expert rules.

App alerts

When your child installs an app on a device which has the Family Zone app active you will be notified. This notice will include expert advice on the app and suggestions for controls and conversations with your child.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

Safe search

When Family Zone is running on your child’s device, they will be directed to safe web browsers and safe internet searches.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

School time

If your child is enrolled at a participating Family Zone school then your child’s school can take control of internet rules during school time.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

Safe WiFi

Family Zone allows you to specify WiFi networks that you trust to keep your child safe. This is called Safe WiFi, and when your child connects to a Safe WiFi network, Family Zone disables.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

In the Family Zone App, go to Settings > Safe WiFi.

Snapshots & Reports

Family Zone provides you with weekly snapshots of your child’s activity including apps installed and internet and app usage. Family Zone also provides you with the ability to drill into detailed reports on your children’s activity.

This is not available in Apple Screen Time.

In the Family Zone app, go to Snapshots.

Manage your child’s apps and in-app purchases

Today there is a constant stream of new apps and in-app options for our children. There are so many apps and so much change that it is beyond any parent to keep up.

Not only is this vast ecosystem exposing our kids, there are real financial consequences with today’s apps, being mostly free, and cleverly tempting us into in-app-purchases and subscriptions.

How can I provide safe independence to my child?

We recommend using a children's debit card in conjunction with a personal Apple ID, Apple Screen Time and Family Zone to manage this challenge. They serve these purposes:

  • Use a children’s debit card to limit your financial exposure and teach your children about the value of money and importance of budgeting.

  • Provide your child with a personal Apple ID so they can spend their own money in apps and in-app purchases. 

  • Use Family Zone to notify you of newly installed apps and provide you with advice and links to find out more when apps are detected as risky.

  • Use Family Zone to block the internet access of risky apps.

  • Use Apple Screen Time to limit the time your children spend on certain apps.

What are children’s debit cards?

There are a variety of providers of children’s credit cards. These services let you register a debit card for your child and give them a periodic allowance (which can be linked to completion of chores). 

A great example is Spriggy (which is an Australian-based provider), however there are many options. Google "kids debit cards" or "pocket money apps".

The benefit of these services is you can register this debit card to a personal Apple ID for your child. This allows them to download apps and complete in-app purchases without requiring your intervention (as required by Apple Family Link). It also means you can limit their purchases and teach your child about the value of money and budgeting.

If you go with this option, we recommend you use Family Zone to notify you of downloaded apps so you can intercept any risky downloads and have a conversation with your child.