How to Put Restrictions on Your Child’s First Cell Phone

If you’re a parent who is contemplating getting your child a first cell phone, there is an important and not all that well-known step that you should take before handing the phone to your child for the first time. We’re sure you know, or have heard, that minors should have a password on their phone. As a parent you should also have a password on your child’s phone, and yours is more important. Let us explain.

ios-restrictions-1A lot of (most?) parents we talk to are not aware that every iPhone comes equipped with parental controls, called iOS Restrictions. (Android phones have similar options, but may not be as easy to understand. You can find instructions here, but they may be different for some Android manufacturers.)

iOS Restrictions allow you as a parent to set up a separate password on your child’s phone, which should remain unknown to your child, that enables you to have a lot of control over what a child is able to download, view or purchase.

The Restrictions can be accessed on an iPhone by going to Settings -> General -> Restrictions and establishing a Restrictions password. Note: parents should write this password down and keep it in a safe place. If the Restrictions passwords is lost or misplaced, the phone will have to be restored to factory settings (wiped).

Once a Restrictions password is set, you will be required to input it to approve many actions, including the following:

  • App downloads
  • In-app purchases
  • iTunes purchases

In addition, parents can permanently set some important features such as:

  • Permissible content ratings
  • Accessible websites
  • Location settings
  • Photos

Especially for younger users, in a lot of the cases that we see where kids are at risk or do something inappropriate on their phones, parents don’t even know that the problematic thing is happening until after it is a problem. Most parents assume that their 12 year old isn’t using picture-messaging app Snapchat, or Yik Yak, an app favored by cyberbullies. Even if parents know that their 14-year-old is using Instagram, perhaps they don’t know that Geolocation is turned on, and their child is broadcasting the precise location of all of her photos.

Instead of finding yourself saying, “What? My daughter is on Instagram? That’s ridiculous, she’s 9 years old”, you could be saying “No, dear, you can’t download that Instagram app until you’re older.” Forewarned is forearmed.

If you have a tween or early teen who has had a phone for a while, it’s not too late to implement Restrictions. You’ll be safe going forward, and you can use it as an opportunity to discuss what apps are already on the phone, her current settings and how she is using the phone in general.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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