Parental controls: your guide to safeguarding kids online

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In today’s world, we all rely on devices and screens for much of our daily life. They’re present at work and school, and we often need them just to get from point A to point B. So how can you make sure your kids are using the internet safely and securely while helping them build a healthy relationship with technology? 

Parental controls are a great option for many families. They implement safety precautions while maintaining trust in your kids and teaching them the value of moderation and mindful technology consumption. 

The internet holds endless exciting opportunities for kids and adults. The flipside is that even when you trust your kids, you can never truly know what content is making its way into their orbit. It’s tempting to exert as much control as possible over your kids’ screen usage. By using parental controls, you can help your child learn to make safe choices and self-monitor content, setting them up for healthier screen usage in the long run.

Below is a step-by-step guide that explains how to add controls to ten different systems and devices. Jump to each section to find the specific technologies in your home. Talk to your kids about your goals and next steps – they might even agree with you. This might also be wishful thinking but hey, they’re called parental controls, not kid controls. (note: your kids will probably not appreciate that line anymore than they appreciate your corny dad jokes).

First, let’s go over the signs of too much screen time and the basics of parental controls.

Do you really need parental controls?

There’s no single all-encompassing number that says how much screen time is okay.  You can check out recommendations from the AAP, advice from Boston Children’s Hospital, and research from The National Institute of Health to help guide you, but ultimately it’s about what works best for you.  

That said, there are some tell-tale signs your kid needs to cut back. Look out for these:

Trouble sleeping.

Your kids (and you) should avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. But that’s not always easy to enforce. According to parents polled by, about 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom. Your kids won’t be able to get the rest they need if they’re on screens too much throughout the day, and especially before bed. So if you notice your kids are more tired during the day, check on their nighttime screen habits.

Changes in physical activity.

Physical play is an important part of childhood. The way kids play and how much play they engage in, especially when it comes to getting outside, fluctuates in childhood as their interests and energy levels change. However, if you notice your child’s interests are becoming mostly screen-based, it may be a good time to reevaluate their screen time habits. 

Changes in behavior.

As kids grow physically, they are also developing their sense of self. Too much media consumption can alter the way they view themselves and how they behave. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "Children are influenced by media—they learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviors their own.” With so much content available, kids are vulnerable to both being cyberbullied and becoming the bully. Be on the lookout for any divergence from your kids’ typical personality. It might be a sign that something is up, and they may need more boundaries in place.

Slow language development.

Young kids need IRL interaction in order to develop their language skills. In a recent interview, Dr. David Hill, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media Executive Committee, said, “TV reduces speech between parents and their infants and toddlers. It’s really that casual, everyday speech that helps them develop language skills.” Kids learn better from real people than people on screens, so if you or your pediatrician notice issues with your child’s speech, it’s worth considering their screen time boundaries. 

Vision issues.

So many of us have felt eye strain at the end of the day. Kids feel it, too. If your child complains of any of these issues, they may be experiencing eye strain from too much screen time: 

  • Visibly straining to see
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

It turns out that kids who spend more time online are also at a greater risk of developing myopia, or near-sightedness, too, according to an Ohio State Study. The good news is that spending time outside helps both eye strain issues and makes kids less likely to develop myopia. 

Trouble focusing.

Research shows that boredom actually helps kids learn how to be creative! And too much entertainment can overstimulate kids. Giving kids a screen when they’re bored takes away from precious lessons in learning how to manage downtime. 

Any of these ring a bell? Don’t sweat it – we know that in today’s world, it’s hard to keep screen time down. It’s important to be kind to yourself here. We struggle ourselves to put our phones down, why should kids be any different? Your job is to do your best to help your kids find balance and have healthy relationships with screen time in our technology-focused world.  So let’s talk about what you can do. 

Parental controls: the basics.

Parental controls are a system of locks and restrictions put in place on individual devices, apps, and platforms. Many browsers, apps, and content platforms have  parental control options you can set up. This means your kids can go online without you standing in the background monitoring them. You can even use parental controls to set time limits.

Operating systems.

Most personal computers (PCs) are built with parental controls that can restrict a child’s access to age-appropriate content and limit their screen time, but these features aren’t enabled by default. Plus, there are distinct differences between how to activate them on Windows and Macs. Here’s how to put them in place

Windows 10/Windows 11:

Microsoft’s Family Safety features give you insight into how your children are using their computers, when they’ve shared their locations, and more.

First, create accounts for you and your child. Make your account the “administrator account” to adjust parental control settings whenever necessary. 

If you have multiple children, making a profile for each of them may be beneficial — you can better tailor content and time limits to their ages. Follow these steps:

  • Go to Settings, and click on Accounts.
  • Choose Family & Other Users.
  • Click on Add Account, and then click on Create one for a child.

During the account creation process, Windows 11 will ask for the child’s birthday and auto-generate restrictions based on their age. Here’s how to add your own manually:

  • Choose Family & Other Users.
  • Click on Manage Family Settings online or remove an account.
  • In the Your Family section, click on your child’s profile.
  • From the left navigation, you can limit screen time, adjust content filters, only give access to specific websites, and restrict online spending.


To enable Mac parental controls, you’ll need an administrator account, and your child needs a standard user account. Here’s how to create your kid’s account:

  • Go to Apple’s system settings.
  • Click on Users & Groups.
  • Click on Add Account and enter your administrator password.
  • Select Standard from the New Account menu, and fill out the required fields.
  • To activate the account, log out of your computer and log in with the credentials you used when setting up your child’s account. 

A setup assistant will help you set up the rest of the account. 

From here, you can configure Apple Screen Time, which has features like:

  • Downtime: Periods when kids can only use apps that you’ve enabled.
  • App Limits: Time limits on specific apps or categories of apps.
  • Communication Limits dictate with whom your child can communicate.
  • Content & Privacy settings limit content, downloads, and purchases.
  • If you have macOS Ventura, you can also activate Family Sharing to share subscriptions (without sharing personal information) and set up Ask to Buy to have your child seek in-app permissions before signing up for subscriptions or apps.

Remember to log out of your account and into your children’s whenever they use the computer.

Mobile Devices.

Research shows that children between 8–12 years of age spend an average of four hours and 44 minutes on smartphones. Thankfully, both iOS and Android phones include online safety features that are relatively easy to toggle on, so when your kids are using a smartphone you know they’re not spending your very real money on very fake gemstones.


Android has two options for enabling parental controls: self-serve or Google’s family safety app, Family Link. Family members who manage their own accounts need to:

  • Open Google Play.
  • Tap on the profile icon.
  • Tap on Settings, then Family, and then Parental Controls.
  • Toggle on Parental Controls.
  • Create a PIN that your child cannot guess.
  • Pick the types of content that you want to filter.
  • If multiple kids use the same phone, make these adjustments on their profiles, too. Keep in mind that parental controls only apply to the Android phone you’ve configured.

For those who’ve already downloaded and started using the Family Link app:

  • Open the Family Link app and select your child.
  • Tap on Controls, then Content Restrictions, and then Google Play.
  • Select the type of content you want to filter.
  • Alternatively, you can manage your child’s account online at: To set up or alter any of these settings, a parent in the family group has to enter their Google Account password. 

These controls will work on any Android device to which your kid is logged in with their Google Account.


iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch all have Screen Time settings that you can control. Here’s how to set them up: 

  • Go to Settings.
  • Tap on Screen Time.
  • Tap on Turn on Screen Time, and tap again. 
  • Choose This is My Child’s Device.
  • Follow the prompts and enter a unique passcode. You’ll need to enter this passcode whenever you want to make a change to Screen Time settings.
  • Tap on Content & Privacy Restrictions.
  • Enter your passcode, and toggle it on.

In Screen Time settings, you can also:

  • Restrict explicit content and content ratings for Music, Podcasts, News, Fitness, Books, Apps, and TV shows.
  • Limit gaming settings.
  • Block websites and Siri web search.
  • Prevent iTunes and App Store purchases.

Web browsers.

Surfing the internet, kids may encounter spam sites designed to steal personal information and perpetuate negative stereotypes or misleading advertising. Controlling search engine and internet access in your home reduces their chances of exposure.


Chrome activity and access are managed exclusively through Google’s Family Link app. Once you’ve downloaded and set up the app, open it, and then:

  • Select your child.
  • Tap on Controls, then Content Restrictions, and then Google Chrome.
  • Choose from three options:
  • Allow all sites
  • Try to block explicit sites
  • Only allow approved sites
  • You can also manually approve or block select sites in the Google Chrome Content restrictions settings under Manage sites. When a site is blocked, this overrides all other browsing settings.


Safari is Apple’s default browser and can be accessed on a Mac or any iOS device. Safari’s settings are dictated by the Screen Time settings that you choose on any device. (See instructions above). 

If you want to turn off Safari altogether, go to the Content & Privacy section of Screen Time and click on Allowed Apps. Toggle Safari off.


Head to the DuckDuckGo settings page and find Safe Search. Choose from Strict, Moderate, or Off. You can also instruct your kids to use for their searches. 

Gaming consoles.

Video games are more popular than ever – and some of those players aren’t fellow kids. Online gaming can expose players to widespread cyberbullying, or put your kids at risk of dealing with people or content they can’t handle. Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo all have parental control features to help parents monitor their kids’ gaming habits.


First, consider regulating purchases from the Microsoft Store by setting up a PIN. Start by pressing the Xbox guide button in the center of one of your controllers. Then:

  • Navigate to the Profile & System tab.
  • Select Settings.
  • Click on Account, then Family settings.
  • Enter your PIN or passkey.
  • Select My sign-in, security & PIN.
  • Select Change my sign-in & security preferences.
  • Choose Ask for my PIN.

To set up other parental controls like age restrictions, communication settings, and multiplayer restrictions, download the Xbox Family Settings app. Sign in with your Microsoft or Xbox account:

  • Tap on Add Child.
  • Tap on Create a new account if your child doesn’t already have one.
  • The app will run you through:
  • Age content restrictions
  • With whom a child can communicate
  • Spending
  • Multiplayer gaming
  • Note that the Xbox Family Settings app is only available for Android version 5 or higher and iOS version 10 or higher.


Like other apps and devices, PlayStation parental controls depend on having an account for you and your child. After you’ve created your account, sign in to the PlayStation Account Management settings and select Add a Child.

Enter your kid’s date of birth, accept the User Agreement, and then follow the prompts to set up parental controls. Content restriction levels will automatically be updated based on the child’s birthday. 

To add more child accounts, sign in as the family manager, and then head to the Family and Parental Controls area in Settings. Click on Family Management, and then Add a Family Member.

Within each child’s profile, you can also adjust:

  • Playtime settings
  • Age level
  • Use of PlayStation VR and PlayStation VR2
  • Allowed games
  • Privacy settings
  • Web browsing

Nintendo Switch:

You can adjust parental controls through the Nintendo Switch console or through the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app.

  • Go to System Settings.
  • Scroll down to highlight Parental Controls and pick Parental Controls Settings.
  • At this point, you’ll be directed to download the Parental Controls app. Press the X button and select Next.
  • Select Restriction Level.
  • Pick from preset restrictions (child, pre-teen, and teen) or select Custom Settings to change the settings manually. Available settings include:
  • Software ratings and restricted software
  • Posting to social media
  • Communication
  • VR mode
  • Select Save, and then OK.
  • Enter a PIN number between 4–8 digits, and then select OK.

In the app:

  • Link your Nintendo Switch console to the app.
  • Select Console Settings.
  • Follow the steps to adjust various settings related to play times, restrictions found within the console, and whitelisting.
  • Tap on the orange checkmark to confirm.
  • Changes will be reflected the next time the Nintendo Switch establishes an internet connection. You can link up to three Nintendo Switch consoles to the app.

Social Media.

35% of teens say they are using at least one social media platform “almost constantly."

Social media can be uplifting and creative with the right boundaries in place. We’re all pretty well-versed in the unique stressors and risks – cybercriminals, bullying, depression, oh my. Here are some steps to take:


Between the ages of 13 and 17, parents with an Instagram account can enable teen supervision by sending their child a supervision invite. Here’s how to do it:

  • Click on More at the bottom left.
  • Click on Settings, and then Supervision.
  • Click on Create invite in the left menu.
  • Review the information on the screen, and click on Continue.
  • Click on Copy invite and send it to your teen on whichever messaging app you use.

Once a teen accepts the invite, parents can:

  • See how much time their teen is spending on Instagram (across all devices).
  • Set Instagram time limits and schedule breaks.
  • See which accounts their teen is following and which accounts are following their teen.
  • Adjust sensitive content settings.
  • Note that only the latest version of the Instagram app has these supervision features.


Parents can manage their kid’s TikTok through the Family Pairing function on TikTok’s mobile app. Doing so allows parents to modify:

  • Screen time.
  • Direct message settings (which are defaulted to “off” for all account holders under the age of 16).
  • Liking and commenting settings.
  • Search settings (based on specific hashtags or videos).

To pair your account with that of your child:

  • Click on your profile.
  • Tap on Menu.
  • Tap on Settings and Privacy and scroll to Family Pairing.
  • Select Teen or Parent and follow the prompts.
  • In 2019, TikTok came out with a limited-experience app for children. Today, any child under the age of 13 who signs up for TikTok will automatically receive the TikTok for Younger Users experience — with stricter content restrictions, no commenting, sharing or direct messaging, and no data sharing.

If you don’t want your child to download TikTok at all, enable age restrictions on your child’s iPhone or Android so they can’t download it — the app is rated 12+ in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. 


Unlike other social media apps, Discord has very limited parental controls. You can make Discord safer by joining its Family Center, which displays a dashboard of weekly activity. 

To register, you’ll need to create your own Discord account, and your child needs to be willing to accept your invitation in order for you to follow their activity.

First, go to your child’s account:

  • Click on User Settings (the gear icon) and select Family Center.
  • Click on Connect with Parent, and then Reveal QR Code.

Open your Discord app:

  • Tap on the menu icon, and then tap on your user icon.
  • Choose Family Center, and then Connect with Teen.
  • Scan the QR code on your child’s device.
  • Tap on Send Connection Request.

Finally, go back to your child’s account:

  • Tap on My Family.
  • Scroll to Incoming Parent Requests.
  • Tap on Accept Request.
  • You can head back to the Family Center on your Discord app whenever you want to view your child’s activity.


YouTube has several mechanisms for enhancing child safety. The easiest one to activate is Restricted Mode, which screens out mature content. To turn it on:

  • Open the YouTube app.
  • Tap on your profile picture, and then tap on Settings and General.
  • Find Restricted Mode and toggle it on.

If you have a Google account, you can also set up supervised accounts for children under the age of 13. This will enable you to customize the videos that your kids can watch.

  • Create a Google account for your child.
  • Follow the prompts to connect to a supervising account.
  • Click on My parent is here and log in to your account.
  • Set parental controls and content settings for YouTube as well as for Google Play and Chrome. You can choose from Explore (content for kids over the age of nine), Explore More (content for kids over 13), or Most of YouTube (videos that aren’t marked as 18+).

YouTube Kids is another option. It’s a separate app built just for kids, and lets you choose from preschool, younger, or older content restriction settings.

For an even greater level of control, the app’s Approved Content only feature lets you approve collections, channels, or individual videos.

Smart TVs and streaming services.

Most popular apps have some kind of parental control options. We explained how to set up some of the most common ones for families:

Apple TV:

On your AppleTV, you can stop kids from purchasing movies, viewing explicit content, playing multiplayer games, sharing their location, and more. To turn on these restrictions:

  • Press and hold the TV button on the Siri remote.
  • Select the General Settings tab.
  • Select Restrictions.
  • Turn on the restrictions that you’d like, and then enter a four-digit passcode. 


You need to login to Netflix in a web browser to implement parental controls. 

Once it’s pulled up, open Parental Controls. If you don’t see a link for Parental Controls, you already have the latest version and can customize individual profile content settings. Within parental controls: 

  • Require a PIN to access your profile (or those of other adults).
  • Choose a maturity level for each profile.
  • Review Restricted Titles for each profile, and save your changes.


Hulu manages kid-friendly content through Kid Profiles. To create a profile:

  • Open the Hulu app.
  • Tap on the Account icon.
  • Select your name.
  • Tap on (+) New Profile.
  • Fill out your child’s information, and toggle on Kids Mode.
  • Tap on Create Profile.
  • You can create up to seven total account profiles (including your own). You can also prevent kids from accessing your profile by creating a PIN number. 

In the Profile section of the app or desktop site, click on Manage Profiles. On your profile, select Turn on PIN Protection and enter your password. Enter a PIN and click on Save Changes.


Router parental controls add yet another layer of protection, giving you even more control over what your child views (and does) when connected to your Wi-Fi network. 

For instance, NETGEAR, a widely known router provider, has controls that allow only certain devices to connect to your home internet. 

For a $7.99 fee, you can upgrade to paid smart parental controls that:

  • Filter out unsuitable content.
  • Set automatic time limits.
  • Set daily bedtimes.
  • Schedule internet breaks.
  • Reward kids with additional internet time.
  • The paid plan also comes with an accompanying My Time companion app through which you can control these features remotely and track internet and app usage.
    Contact your internet provider to see what they offer.

Smart home devices.

Home hubs like Google Nest and Amazon Alexas have surged in popularity, with 25% of U.S. adults owning at least one Alexa as of September 2023. 

Google Nest:

The Google Home app controls Google Nest speakers and displays. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app on your phone, you can block explicit videos and music from YouTube or other radio services. Here’s how it works:

  • Tap on Settings, and then tap on Digital Wellbeing.
  • Tap on Set up or Add device filter.
  • Choose how you want to restrict news, calls, videos, music, or podcasts.
  • If you’re not seeing some of these settings, check your device for a software or Google Home app update to get the latest Digital Wellbeing features.

Amazon Alexa:

You can manage Alexa through Amazon’s Parent Dashboard. To create an account, you’ll first be prompted to create a free child profile from which you can control Alexa settings.

Alternatively, you can use Amazon’s free FreeTime feature. From your Alexa app:

  • Tap on the Devices button, and select your Alexa Device.
  • Tap on FreeTime and toggle it on.
  • Choose Setup Amazon FreeTime and fill out your child’s name, gender, and birthdate.
  • Tap on Continue and sign in to your Amazon account.
  • Agree to the Parental Consent terms. 
  • Toggle on the Alexa services that you want to control.

How Aura can help.

Adding parental controls to all these apps and devices is a great way to help keep your kids’ online actively safe and responsible. It’s also exhausting. One more to do item in the fraught world of modern parenting, amirite? Here’s how Aura can help. 

Aura is a leader in end-to-end online family safety, providing proactive protection from online threats like financial fraud, identity theft, and more. 

Aura also offers robust parental controls that give you plenty of options to make your own family plan. Aura has detailed content filters, screen time clocks, internet controls for each child, and  Safe Gaming features that alert you to cyberbullying. Aura parental controls allow your kids to explore the wide world of the internet, with boundaries that keep them safe and give you peace of mind.

Aura’s Time Online dashboard helps you to see what your kid is doing online and adjust your controls accordingly. 

Aura has one of the highest ratings on the third-party review site Trustpilot, making it one of the best parental control apps for iPhones and other devices.

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