Ensuring that your children don't watch adult content online or spend too much time staring at their iPad can be a constant worry for parents. Thankfully, there are settings in iOS that allow you to address these problems by limiting access to certain content and adding time restrictions for specific apps.
And here we'll show how to use Screen Time to manage the way your children use their iPad.
If you prefer to use a dedicated service that can bring parental controls to other devices as well, then you should check out Qustodio. Along with setting time limits, enabling content filters, and generating reports to show which apps your child is using, it also has other advanced features such as social media monitoring and scanning text messages for key word that indicate potential harm.
For more details, and a selection of other similar services, read our roundup of the best parental control software.
How do I set up Screen Time on iPad?
When Apple released iOS 12 back in September 2018 it came with the new Screen Time feature that replaced the slightly clumsy Restrictions settings from earlier versions. The new options make it very easy to make your child's iPad safe and secure from the worst of the internet while also removing the need to argue when it's time to stop playing Stardew Valley or watching Peppa Pig.
To set up Screen Time go to Settings > Screen Time then tap the Turn On Screen Time option.
You'll see a list of the various features of Screen Time with a Continue button beneath. Tap this and then select the This is My Child's iPad option.
Next, you'll be asked to set the hours of Downtime. This feature will lock the iPad, making it inaccessible until after the specified End time. Essentially it's bedtime for the device. Select the Start and End hours then tap Set Downtime.
App Limits is the next option. As the name suggests this allows you to set daily time limits for certain categories of apps. The choices available are All Apps & Categories, Social Networking, Games and several others. Scroll down the list, selecting the ones you want to limit, until you see the Time Amount field. Tap Set and adjust the sliders until you have the time allocation you want, then tap Set App Limit.
Another important part of parental control is addressed on the next page with Content & Privacy. These let you restrict the kind of material your child will have access to both in terms of apps and online content. Tap Continue and you’ll be prompted to create a passcode. This should be different from the main passcode used to unlock the iPad, and will ensure that your children don’t simply go to Settings and undo your work. It also allows you to disable restrictions when using the iPad yourself, just by entering the passcode.
With a passcode set and the other restrictions enabled, you'll be taken back to the Screen Time settings page. Here you can tap on the Content & Privacy Restrictions option, enter your passcode, then work your way through the various options (of which there are plenty).
That's it, your iPad should now be safe (or at least safer) in your child's hands. You can also set up Family Sharing which will give your child access to apps and other things through their own Apple ID. Our colleagues at Macworld have an excellent guide on how to set up Family Sharing.
Which iPad apps are child friendly?
We recommend installing the YouTube for Kids app rather than the normal version, as this restricts the videos they can watch to only those which are appropriate. It isn’t a guarantee that that everything will be suitable, of course, and things always slip through the net.
For that reason, as we advise in our in-depth guide to keeping kids safe online, you shouldn’t use parental controls and kids apps as a nanny: you should always supervise what they’re doing and ideally lay down some ground rules before you give them the iPad to explain the dangers and why you’re keeping a close eye on what they’re up to.
Seemingly harmless apps may not have security measures in place to protect kids’ privacy, so be very careful what you install. Take a look at our sister site Macworld's roundup of the best kids apps for iPhone and iPad for a fine selection of appropriate games, creative play, and educational apps.