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How to Easily Set Parental Controls on iPhone in 2023

Shauli Zacks
Last Updated by Shauli Zacks on January 01, 2023

In theory, Screen Time should be the only monitoring app you need with an iPhone since it’s built by Apple specifically to monitor your child’s activities. You can use it by enabling Family Sharing. Go to your iPhone settings, and open the Screen Time option. This is where you can set Downtime and app limits.

However, if your kids are anything like mine, they’ve probably figured out how to hack these controls to bypass Downtime (by changing the time zone), access blocked apps (through iMessage), or use apps even after the app time limit expired (delete the app and reinstall it).

That’s why I turned to parental controls apps, whose main focus is to enforce monitoring tools and stay one step ahead of the kids. Unfortunately, I discovered that many of them don’t work properly on iPhones, since Apple made it difficult to access the data needed to monitor or enforce limitations.

After testing 23 parental control apps, I found the best 5 that still work with iOS devices, and if you want the quick answer – Qustodio was the best of them all. It can bypass the iOS restrictions and make it easy to set filters and time limits that my kids couldn’t get around. Qustodio has a 30-day free trial, so you can use it and test it completely free with no need to give your credit card details.

Try Qustodio Free for 30 Days

Quick Guide: 3 Easy Steps to Set Parental Control on iPhone

  1. Get a parental control app: you can use apple’s screen time feature but I recommend Qustodio because it worked better in terms of keeping my kids safe online.
  2. Create a child profile: With Qustodio, I was able to set up a unique profile for each child, and customize the web filter and screen time schedule.
  3. Install the app on your child’s iPhone: That’s it! Now you have to log in using your account credentials and the monitoring will begin immediately.

Is the Built-In iPhone Parental Control Good Enough?

Ever since Apple released Screen Time with iOS 12 in 2018, people have been talking about how easy it is to bypass the restrictions. There are forums and message boards filled with tips, tricks, and even software that can be downloaded that makes Screen Time nothing more than a waste of space on your iPhone.

Here are some of the major flaws that I’ve come across with Screen Time Parental Control:

  1. Screen Time Tools: You can set what time you want the phone to enter a Downtime mode. This blocks most of the iPhone apps, except the phone app, iMessage, and any other apps that you specifically choose. However, some kids have figured out that they can change the time zone on their phone, and the phone never enters Downtime.
  2. Time limits for specific apps: Let’s say you give access to an app like TikTok for an hour per day. At the end of the hour, the child can uninstall and reinstall the app, which resets the timer.
  3. Getting around YouTube restrictions: There’s a real easy way to get around YouTube restrictions. The kids can send a video to their iMessage account, and once they click the link, iMessage will open the app, bypassing all restrictions.
  4. Use the screen recorder to find the passcode: Kids are smart. Mine turned on the screen recorder and then asked me to adjust one of the Screen Time settings. When I entered the 4-digit code, it was recorded, and my kid was able to watch the recording and see the passcode.
  5. Siri overrides many of the Screen Time restrictions: If you block iMessage or the phone is in scheduled Downtime, kids have figured out that they can just ask Siri, and she’ll open iMessage and send the text.
  6. You can’t really block Facetime: I heard from a friend that his daughter could access Facetime even after it was blocked by going to her phone history. There, she could see previous Facetime calls and just call the contact, even though it should’ve been blocked.

These are just a few of the hacks that I’ve seen my kids do or heard about from friends. Apple has improved Screen Time since it was initially released, but it doesn’t appear to be a top priority for them

Try a Top-Rated Parental Control App for Free!

Why Using Parental Control App for iPhone is a Better Solution

During months of testing these apps on myself, I found that not only are there better options than Screen Time, but they are quick to respond and give helpful solutions to stop my kids from hacking it. For example, Norton Family has a browser that you can install and turn off the Safari browser. This will block your kids from using iMessage to open YouTube or other websites since the browser is blocked. Another feature you can enable is to require permission to delete or install apps. This will prevent the kids from getting around the app time limits. There are many more scenarios where parental control apps do a much better job in terms of keeping my kids safe online.

5 Best Parental Control Apps for iPhone in 2023

1. Qustodio: Comprehensive web filter and advanced location tracking tools

Key Features:

  • Multiple screen time management tools
  • Comprehensive web filter that works with Safari and Chrome
  • Real-time location tracking and geofence for iOS
  • Cloud-based parent dashboard can be accessed from any device
  • 30-day free trial – no credit card required

Qustodio managed to do something that very few parental apps have done, get permission to monitor and enforce web filters on the Safari browser. I was able to create different sensitivity levels and personalize the restrictions for each kid. The web filter has over 30 categories, and I can choose which ones to enable for each child. It also has customization options for each category, so I can set it to block the website that triggers the filter or let the child see the website but sends me an alert so I’m aware of what they’re doing (without them knowing).

The screen time management tools allow me to set up a daily schedule of when the kids can use their iPhones and a daily limit to ensure they aren’t spending all their free time in front of the screen.

When the screen time limit is reached, Qustodio will lock the phone. There are two options for what happens when the phone is locked. The first option is to lock the navigation completely. This blocks the browsers from accessing the internet but doesn’t restrict any apps. The second option is to lock the device, which blocks all apps with a 4+ age rating on the App Store.

You can use Qustodio to track your child’s location with the 24/7 live tracking. When you open the parent dashboard, you’ll see exactly where they are, and you can look at their location history for 30 days. Another nice feature is the geofence, which can alert you when your child enters or leaves a specific zone

I was very happy with the Qustodio parent dashboard, which I could access from any device. It gave me detailed reports of all my kids’ activities, showed alerts, and highlighted activities that might be of concern. I can also view each of my children’s live locations and set up a geofence that sends an alert when my kids enter or leave the predefined radius.

Qustodio has a 30-day free trial with no credit card required. This way, there are no surprise charges at the end of the trial period. If you don’t purchase one of the three subscription packages, your account will automatically downgrade to the limited free plan.

Try Qustodio Free fr 30 Days!

2. Bark: Monitors 30+ Social Media, Email, and SMS Apps and Sends Real Time Alerts

Key Features:

  • Check-In feature for location tracking in iOS
  • Create a detailed screen time schedule
  • AI-powered web filter with 18 categories
  • Get a 7-day free trial

Bark excels at monitoring your child’s social media networks to ensure they aren’t getting cyberbullied, talking about drugs, alcohol, sexual content, depression, suicide, weapons, and other dangerous or inappropriate conversations, comments, and pictures. When setting up your child’s Bark account, you will need to log in to each social media account and give Bark access. This way, the app isn’t just monitoring it when your child is on their iPhone, but whenever they log in, from any device.

The web filter has 18 categories, and it does a really good job blocking access from websites and apps that are deemed inappropriate. The filter uses AI to recognize slang, keywords, phrases, and it understands content to prevent your kids from seeing potentially dangerous content.

The screen time feature is pretty basic. You can create a daily or weekly calendar by adding different rule segments throughout the day. You can set rules for Bedtime, School, Free Time, and Default, and allow different app and web categories for each segment.

Another important thing you must do when setting up Bark on iOS is to enable the VPN. This allows Bark to bypass some of Apple’s restrictions, so you can activate the web filter and screen time rules.

In addition to the VPN, bark has another way to bypass Apple restrictions if you want to monitor iMessages, pictures, and videos. During the initial setup, download the Bark Desktop App and connect your child’s phone to the computer. Once the two apps are synced, the child device will upload all texts, photos, and videos throughout the day, as long as the phone and computer are on the same wireless network. While it’s not a perfect solution and doesn’t give real time updates, it’s one of the better hacks I’ve seen for monitoring this type of content on an iOS device.

Bark has two subscription plans, and you can get them free for 7 days. This should give you enough time to see how these monitoring features work on your iOS device.

Monitor your iOS Devices with Bark!

3. Mobicip: Instantly lock iPhone from anywhere

Key Features:

Most of the Mobicip premium features work well enough with the iPhone. The web filter is completely customizable and, more importantly, works with Safari. When creating a child profile, you can decide which apps and social media networks to allow, and the web categories that your kids can view.

The location tracking feature will show you where everyone in your family is by displaying their avatars on a map. You can also share your location with the family, which I found helpful when meeting up or if your child is waiting for you to come to pick them up. Mobicip can also give you step-by-step directions to your child’s live location to make it easy to find them.

I like the remote control access that Mobicip gives me over my kid’s phones. I can log into the parental dashboard from any device and lock the child’s device, block specific apps, or adjust the screen time rules without needing physical access to their iPhone.

While there is no way to completely prevent kids from uninstalling Mobicip from an iOS device, parents receive an instant notification if the app is disabled or uninstalled. Mobicip has a 7-day free trial, which I used when testing the app on my family. I was happy to see that they changed their previous policy, and I was able to activate the free trial without entering my credit card information.

Try Mobicip for Free for 7 Day

4. Norton Family: Create custom web filters, screen time rules, and live location tracking

Key Features:

  • Special Norton browser that allows you to monitor what websites the kids visit
  • Remote learning feature helps kids focus on schoolwork
  • Try Norton Family free for 30 days

Norton Family has a few smart hacks for bypassing the Apple restrictions. Since Apple makes it difficult to monitor or add filters to Safari, it installs the Norton browser and disables Safari. This gives Norton Family the flexibility to add custom web filters and strong monitoring tools. While testing Norton Family, my kids had no issue with the browser. It worked seamlessly and was fast.

The second hack is that it installs a VPN that runs in the background. It’s needed to bypass the built-in iPhone feature that blocks third-party applications. When the VPN is on, it allows Norton Family to monitor all activities that aren’t done on the browser, such as search and video supervision.

I was able to create daily schedules for each child and an overall screen time limit. Norton Family also has an Instant Lock option that can be enabled from the parent dashboard.

From the parent dashboard, I can check in on my child’s live location 24/7. It places their avatar on a map, so I can relax, knowing exactly where they are. Unfortunately, this feature only works in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

I took advantage of the free 30-day trial offered by Norton Family. Unlike other parental control apps I tested, this isn’t a money-back guarantee, where I had to spend the money and then try to get a refund. It’s 100% free and allows me to get full access to all of its features at no risk.

Try Norton Family – Free for 30 Days

5. Net Nanny: Screen time management tools work perfectly with iPhone

Key Features:

The Net Nanny web filter for the iPhone works pretty well. It gives you the flexibility to allow or block 15 different categories, and you can add specific words, phrases, and URLs to the filter.

The screen time management tools are very easy to use and can be controlled from the parent dashboard. Like most top-quality parental control apps, I could set up both a daily time limit and schedule, to make sure they aren’t spending all day staring at the screen.

Not only does Net Nanny have location tracking capabilities, but it also allows me to check the location history. This came in handy when I needed to know where my kids were the previous day or week.

The parent dashboard is the Net Nanny nerve center. It’s very well designed and makes it easy to monitor your child’s online activity from anywhere.

Net Nanny has a 14-day money-back guarantee, although you will need a good reason for canceling. When I made my refund request, I had to give a reason, and only when the customer support team saw they couldn’t help me, did they issue the full refund.

Try Net Nanny for Free for 14 Days

Set a Parental Control App on Your Child’s iPhone!

As you know by now, putting a parental control app on your child’s iPhone is pretty much a necessity. While I understand the appeal of using the free Screen Time app, it has too many flaws for me to recommend it.

At the end of my rigorous testing period, I can say that not only would I recommend that you use Qustodio, but it’s what I’m using with my family as well.

But don’t take my word for it when you can try it yourself at no risk. Qustodio gives you a 30-day of free trial, no credit card is needed, so you can use it with your family and see if it works for you.

Try Qustodio Free for 30 days!

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