You can do just about anything with a smartphone, so Apple has baked in a number of security features into the iPhone and iOS to keep its users and their data as safe as possible when interacting with the digital world.
If you’re concerned about your kids’ safety, security, and privacy, here are some security features and configurations to consider if you’ve entrusted them with an iPhone.
Secure Your Kid's Apple ID
The first line of defense when it comes to device security is the passcode. When you hand your of-age kid an iPhone, they will need to create an Apple ID that connects it to Apple’s services and passcode in order to access the iPhone.
Create a strong Apple ID password with a combination of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers, and special characters. The more complex your passwords, the harder they are for hackers to crack. That could also make them harder for you to remember, but we have a few tips for recalling difficult passwords.
An extra security step is to enable Two-Factor Authentication for your kid’s Apple ID, which requires additional credentials when accessing the account from a trusted device or via the web. This ensures that the account is protected even if somebody else has the account password.
Turn it on via Settings > [tap account at top] > Password & Security > Two-Factor Authentication. Then, when your kid signs into their account for the first time on a new device, or with a new password, they’ll enter the password and a six-digit code displayed on a trusted device or sent to a phone number. Note that once two-factor authentication is enabled, you can only turn it off within two weeks of activating it. After that, two-factor is there to stay.
You can add your number as an additional trusted phone number as a backup because, well...kids. Open Settings > [tap account at top] > Password & Security. Under Trusted Phone Number, tap Edit > Add a Trusted Phone Number.
Secure the iPhone Itself
The next step is to create a passcode to access your kid’s iPhone itself. A six-digit passcode is suggested by default by Apple, but you can set a longer, more complex, or (dare I say it) shorter passcode. Work with your kid to pick a passcode that’s safe but not intimidating. Navigate to Settings > Touch/Face ID and Passcode > [enter passcode], where you can set up a passcode, change an existing one, or turn the passcode off (not recommended).
In addition to a passcode, newer iPhones offer the option to add either Touch ID (fingerprint) or Face ID (face scan) that’s personal to the user, which makes the device more secure and faster to access versus entering a passcode in certain cases.
With passcode and Touch/Face ID enabled, your kid’s iPhone is inaccessible without the proper credentials, but some data can be accessed while the phone is locked, like Siri, Notification Center, Wallet, and Message replies, which can contain sensitive information. To view/hide these features, go into Settings > Touch/Face ID and Passcode > [enter passcode]. Under Allow Access When Locked, enable/disable the features you feel comfortable being accessible or visible when the iPhone is locked.
Now that the Apple ID/password and iPhone passcode is set, keep track of these credentials because it’s pointless to set this all up for your kid only to have them forget the credentials. A solid password manager can get the job done.
Screen Time Restrictions
When it was introduced in iOS 13, Screen Time offered a way to keep track of how much time you spend on your phone. It lets you set time limits on categories of apps (2 hours per day on social media apps, for example), though the time’s up alerts are easy to swipe away and ignore.
Apple has since stepped up its Screen Time security measures. Parents can control who their children communicate with and what apps they have access to, as well as manage the overall type of content that appears on their devices.
Open Settings > Screen Time. Here, you can set up App Limits, Communication Limits, as well as Content & Privacy Restrictions. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode to require a code in order to swipe away time-limit alerts so your kid can’t usurp your digital authority.
If you enabled Apple Family Sharing, you can set up Screen Time for your kid from your own device. Family Sharing also lets “organizers” share the app and in-app purchases/subscriptions with family members, as well as require certain family members to be granted permission before they can download apps or make in-app purchases.
Setting up Family Sharing also makes it easier for an Organizer or a Parent/Guardian to keep track of their kid's whereabouts after enabling location sharing in the Find My feature, Apple’s device-location service. Open Settings > [tap account at top] > Find My > Share My Location and turn it on.
Once enabled, a Family Sharing Organizer or Parent/Guardian can view the location of all family members’ devices from the Find My app without your kid individually sharing their location with each family member.
Now that you’ve established who can track your kid’s device location, it’s time to decide which apps and services should not be tracking their device location. Unfortunately, you can’t use Screen Time or Family Sharing to adjust or manage this; you’ll have to comb through certain location settings manually on your kid's device.
Start at Location Services, where you can decide if you want Apple or third-party apps to track your kid's location history in order to provide location-relevant information. According to these services, location history will provide a “better overall experience,” but you may also want to block it at the start, then slowly allow services based on your comfort level.
Open Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Shut off Location services completely, or allow or deny select apps to have access to your kid's device location. Note: If you turn off Location services, personalized location settings set up in Family Sharing and Find My will be temporarily restored if your kid's phone is put in Lost Mode because, well...kids.
If you enable Location Services, you can customize location settings for each app installed on your kid's device. Within Location Services, tapping on an individual app will give you the ability to choose when and the app can know the device location (Never, Ask Next Time, While Using the App, Always), as well as enable/disable Precise Location tracking. For example, if your kid is old enough to use ride-sharing services, you may want to enable Precise Location for Lyft and Uber, which will provide an approximate location in order for your kid to use the app properly.
The final place you should secure is the browser, where kids will also spend a bunch of time. There are content settings you may have already adjusted with the Screen Time service, but you can dig deeper by going into Safari’s privacy and security settings.
Open Settings > Safari and under Privacy & Security, you can adjust settings like alerting your kid if a site they are attempting to visit has been suspected of phishing (using fake websites or tools to get users to reveal personal information because, well…(you know the rest).