How to Easily Set Parental Controls on iPhone in 2021

Shauli Zacks Last Updated by Shauli Zacks on March 01, 2021

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 – the Norton Family app 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. Norton Family 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 Norton Family 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 Norton Family because it worked better in terms of keeping my kids safe online.
  2. Create a child profile: With Norton Family, 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

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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 2021

1. 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
  • Report that details search keywords
  • Instantly lock child’s iPhone from anywhere
  • Remote learning feature helps kids focus on schoolwork
  • Try Norton Family free for 30 days – no credit card needed

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.

There are no secrets with Norton Family. It creates a list of House Rules, which the kids can see on their iPhones. It lets them know what types of websites are blocked, the time limits, whether video and search supervision are active, and more.

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

2. Qustodio – Comprehensive web filter and advanced location tracking tools

Qustodio Vendor Image
Qustodio Vendor Image

Key Features

  • Multiple screen time management tools
  • Comprehensive web filter that works with Safari and Chrome
  • Real-time location tracking and geofence
  • Cloud-based parent dashboard can be accessed from any device
  • Tested and proven 30-day money-back guarantee

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 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.

Qustodio gives 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.

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 “no questions asked” 30-day money-back guaranteed. I tested this policy by canceling my account and requesting a refund after 20 days. I received a quick reply via email and a full refund within 4 business days.

Try Qustodio for 30 Days Free

3. Net Nanny – Screen time management tools work perfectly with iPhone

Key Features

  • Web filter with 15 categories that work with Safari and Chrome
  • Enforces YouTube restrictions
  • Real-time location tracking
  • 14-day money-back guarantee

The Net Nanny web filter for the iPhone is one of the better ones I’ve tested. Not only does it give you the flexibility to allow or block 15 different categories, but you can also choose to add specific words or phrases, even 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

4. Kaspersky Safe Kids – Location Tracking and Geofence capabilities

Kaspersky Safe Kids vendor image
Kaspersky Safe Kids vendor image

Key Features

  • Solid web filter when using the Safe Kids browser
  • Automatically turns on SafeSearch
  • Try it free for 7 days

You will need the Safe Kids browser installed on the iPhone to enforce any of the web filters. That being said, I was happy with the browser. It had a nice design and loaded pages and videos quickly. The web filter is customizable, and my kids didn’t find any weak spots, but I had to trust they weren’t enabling and using Safari.

The location tracking feature is very easy to use. As a parent, all I needed to do is check my parent dashboard, and I could see exactly where they are, based on the iPhone’s GPS. Safe Kids allows me to create a geofence based on the device location history.

I tested Kaspersky Safe Kids by taking advantage of the 7-day free trial. I liked that I didn’t have to give over any payment information, and at the end of 7 days, I just uninstalled the app without having to worry about canceling it or requesting a refund.

Try Kaspersky Safe Kids for 7 Days Free

5. Mobicip – Instantly lock iPhone from anywhere

Key Features

  • Custom web filter
  • GPS tracking
  • Try it free for 7 days

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 to allow, social media networks, and the web categories that your kids can view.

Unfortunately, the screen time management tools are very limited. I’m disappointed that I can’t set a daily time limit for each child. The only options are to set a daily schedule, which only works with hour-long time blocks, or instantly lock all devices in my account.

Mobicip has a 7-day free trial, which I used when testing the app on my family. While I did have to enter in my credit card information, since I canceled the account within 7 days, my card wasn’t charged.

Try Mobicip for Free for 7 Day

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 Norton Family, 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. Norton Family 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 Norton Family – Free for 30 days!

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Shauli Zacks
Shauli is an online privacy expert with a love of all things technology. He spent the past few years testing, comparing, and reviewing different software programs.