How to limit adult content and block private browsing in Safari on iPhone and iPad

Apple offers various parental control features for iPhone and iPad with the Restrictions settings. You can block access to some system apps altogether, like making it impossible to launch Safari, but there are also more fine-grained controls to restrict younger users from freely surfing the web.

The iPhone and iPad include a website content filter that can automatically detect explicit and adult content not suitable for younger viewers and prevent access to those pages. You can also block private browsing completely and prevent browsing history from being deleted, disabling the ability to activate the incognito feature. Full how-to instructions after the jump …

Apple has come under pressure from investors recently to improve its iOS parental control features. Apple has committed to adding new features in future iOS software updates, and highlighted how it is already possible to limit web browsing with the existing Restrictions functionality.

With Restrictions, you can set up a whitelist to disable web browsing to any arbitrary site, apart from a whitelist of domains that you choose. Other than removing the Safari app completely, this is the most intrusive approach and will cutoff access to all websites unless explicitly allowed. This may be suitable for cases where iOS device usage is well supervised.

The more balanced approach is to use the ‘Limit Adult Content’ option. This activates an algorithmic content filter on page loads that attempts to detect presence of explicit and adult material and will block access to the webpage if it finds anything. Most websites will be allowed through the filter and load as normal. You can also whitelist and blacklist additional domains as you see fit.

To keep tabs on what your child is doing, activating any of the website filtering options also removes the ability to use Private Browsing. The button to enable it simply disappears when website restrictions are active. This means browsing history and tabs are always saved between sessions. As an added measure, browsed pages cannot be removed by the user and the ‘clear all’ button is greyed out and disabled.

(Note that this disables Private Browsing in Safari only – incognito mode in Google Chrome or other third-party web browsers is not affected by this setting.)

To block access to private browsing and enable a content filter to stop kids from loading adult websites, go to the child’s iOS device and open Settings.

Tap on General, and then tap Restrictions.

If you haven’t set up Restrictions features on the iPhone or iPad before, it will ask you to create a passcode.

This is a four-digit code (separate from the passcode used to unlock the device) that will be asked for whenever Restrictions are changed in the future. This is what prevents the young ones from disabling the filter without asking an adult first.