How to prevent kids from sharing their location from iPhone

By , Apr 4, 2016

iOS 9 Settings Restrictions Shre My Location iPhone screenshot 002

iOS has unassuming little switches in Messages and Find My Friends for permitting friends and family to see your current geographical location or receive continually updated location as you move about with an iPhone in your pocket.

It’s a really great feature for power users but also a privacy nightmare for parents. You don’t want your kids to walk around with a probe in their pocket, no?

Responsible parents will weigh pros and cons of location sharing and restrict the feature so that kids cannot share their location with a stranger, intentionally or not.

This tutorial will teach you how to leverage restricted features and other switches in iOS to stop built-in location sharing in Messages and Find My Friends, and disallow apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Viber to access iOS’s Location Services.

Share My Location vs. Send My Current Location

Share My Location feature should not be confused with sending your current location.

The latter sends your current location, as determined by iOS’s Location Services right when you tap that option. The former turns on continuous location sharing as you move about until the feature times out or you manually stop sharing.

iOS 9 Messages Share My Location iPhone screenshot 001

You can also have another iOS device update Share My Location under Settings → iCloud → Share My Location → From. Now tap an iOS device that’s tied to your iCloud account and its geolocation will be used for Share My Location in Messages and Find My Friends going forward.

iOS 9 Share Location From iPhone screenshot 002

In Messages, locations can be shares for 1 hour, until the end of the day or indefinitely.

Preventing your kids from sharing locations from their iPhone is a multi-step procedure that involves adjusting the following settings on their device:

  • Disable Share My Location
  • Restrict changes to Share My Location
  • Disable iOS’s Location Services for messaging apps
  • Lock down Location Services settings

Here we go…

How to disable sharing of your location on iPhone and iPad

1) Go to Settings → iCloud → Share My Location and slide the Share My Location toggle to the OFF position. This shall turn off iOS’s Share My Location feature in Messages and Find My Friends.

iOS 9 Settings iCloud Share My Location iPhone screenshot 001

For example, if you tap Share My Location on Messages’ Details screen, iOS tells you to enable Location Services for Messages in order to share your location in the app.

iOS 9 Messages Share My Location iPhone screenshot 004

Next, we’re going to lock Share My Location settings.

This will ensure that no one can re-enable Share My Location in Settings.

2) Go to Settings → General → Restrictions on your device.

3) Type your restrictions passcode to access the section.

enter passcode enable restrictions

Those who haven’t used Restrictions before must tap Enable Restrictions at the top in order to create a restrictions passcode used to adjust restricted settings on this device.

Tip: Choose a restrictions passcode different from the passcode for your iOS device.

4) Tap Share My Location underneath the Privacy heading.

5) Tap Don’t Allow Changes.

iOS 9 Settings Restrictions Shre My Location iPhone screenshot 001

“Disallowing changes locks the current settings for location sharing in Messages and Find My Friends,” reads the description—and that’s precisely what we set out to do.

Conveniently enough, disallowing changes to Share My Location grays out the Add button in Find My Friends, meaning your junior won’t be permitted to add new people to share their location with.

iOS 9 Find My Friends Share My Location iPhone screenshot 002

Additionally, they won’t be able to tap Details → Share My Location in Messages chats, as shown below, because that option too is now restricted (grayed out), too.

iOS 9 Settings iCloud Share My Location iPhone screenshot 002

On the flip side, the Send My Current Location option is still available in Messages.

But don’t worry, you only need to take a few additional steps to completely turn location sharing off in Messages and other messaging apps installed on the device.

6) Go to Settings → Privacy → Location Services → Messages and tap Never.

This completely kills the ability to send one’s current location to another party via Messages. Don’t forget to set other messaging apps on this device to Never: the usual suspects include Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Facebook Paper, WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, Foursquare and Swarm, to name a few.

But the problem is, iOS puts up a prompt upon attempting to share location in an app which is not permitted to use Location Services. Though that dialog differs from one app to another, it typically includes a shortcut button for Location Services settings.

iOS 9 Messages Share My Location iPhone screenshot 005

This is problematic because now your kid can simply tap that button to be taken to that app’s Location Services settings. There, they can grant the app access to their location with a single tap.

Once again, Restrictions come to the rescue.

7) Go to Settings → General → Restrictions, type in your restrictions passcode, tap Location Services under the Privacy heading and then hit Don’t Allow Changes.

iOS 9 Restrictions Location Services iPhone screenshot 001

This shall lock Location Services settings for apps on this device.

From now on, adjusting Location Services will be impossible without a restrictions passcode. As a bonus, locking down Location Services settings will prevent newly installed apps on this device from using its geographical location.

That’s tremendously useful: no longer will you need to degrade your junior’s experience by turning off the ability to install new location-sharing apps from the App Store.

Restrictions tips and tricks

Much like Parental Controls on OS X and iTunes, the Restrictions feature on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad makes it simple to prevent certain features on your device from being used or exposed to the user.

If you’re a parent or just need to restrict some features on an iOS device, use Restrictions to prevent deleting apps on your device, disable In-App Purchases, set content restrictionsprevent explicit music from appearing in playlists, block certain websites, filter mature language for Siri and Dictation, prevent sharing of photos and videos to specific apps, disallow changes to certain settings such as the volume limit, prohibit the use of certain apps like FaceTime and much, much more.

Need help? Ask iDB!

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  • Rodney Coleman

    Great topics recently. You all should make a setup for parents to take advantage of iOS exist stem to keep track of their kids. I use find my iPhone often for remote use.

  • shar

    one thing I recently learned about iOS that terrified me, is that my location can be shared with a 3rd party “indefinitely” with absolute ease (just send a message with location sharing and then delete that message), and if you are not fully aware of location sharing or if you forget to check it once in a while, this could go one for a while.
    what terrified me was that unlike “Find my iPhone”, this can be done without requiring any username and password whatsoever and “the only way” to prevent it is to turn on restrictions (and disable the feature all together).

    I just never expected that the “default” Apple protection on location privacy would be so lax.

    so next you borrow your friend’s phone for whatever reason, you can see it is very likely (I think 90% chance) that this setting is not restricted and you can send yourself their location (then remove that conversation), and then there is a very good chance (probably 50%) they might never find out.

    so after reading this, go and check under your “iCloud -> Share My Location”, someone might be tracking you already and you may not know it.

    I usually upgrade without paying too much attention to new features that come with iOS, I just never expected that Apple would add something like this that could be used with such ease and no password (by default). After all, this is not a feature that exists in every phone or everyone uses it all the time, so that they would know and are familiar with it that they should watch out if it is restricted or not.