How to allow access only to specific websites on iPhone and iPad

Safari restrict websites on iPhone

If you’re a parent whose kids frequently play with your iPhone, or your iOS device is used by other people in your household, you might want to restrict certain websites in order to increase your privacy.

Allowing access only to certain websites on iPhone, iPod touch or iPad isn’t as user-facing a feature as it should have been. Regardless, you can make it work like a charm assuming you don’t mind poking around in the options within the stock Settings app.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to restrict Safari and other WebKit-based browser in a way that will prohibit anyone from visiting websites on your device that you haven’t whitelisted specifically.

How to only allow certain websites on iPhone and iPad

1) Launch Settings on your iOS device.

2) Tap General → Restrictions.

General Restrictions Websites on iPhone

3) If Restrictions are already on, you must type your Restrictions passcode before you are allowed to poke around this section. Don’t confuse the Restrictions passcode with your iOS device’s passcode set in Settings → Passcode.

enter passcode to enable restrictions

If you haven’t used Restrictions before, tap Enable Restrictions at the top and choose a four-digit Restrictions passcode.

4) Now tap Websites, just below the Allowed Content heading.

Allowed websites in Safari

5) Hit the Specific Websites Only option to reveal websites this device is allowed to open, as listed underneath the Only Allow These Websites heading. iOS’s Internet content filter will block any website which is not whitelisted here.

6) To add a website to the list, scroll to the bottom of the list and tap Add a Website.

Add a website

In the Title field, type a name for the website as you’d like it to appear on your whitelist. In the URL field, type the website’s address, and then hit the Websites button in the upper left corner to get back to the previous screen.

7) To remove any allowed website, which will instantly blacklist it so it’s unavailable on this device, swipe the entry to reveal the hidden Delete button, or tap Edit and then hit the red minus sign next to the site you wish to remove.

Remove website restriction

Also, make sure that the Safari switch underneath the Allowed heading is set to the ON position. Otherwise, no one will be permitted to use Safari on your device.

8) Quit the Settings app. You may need to force-quite Safari for changes to take effect.

The other two options in Settings → General → Restrictions → Websites also allow you to block adult websites only (Limit Adult Content). To switch back to showing all websites indiscriminately, tap the All Websites option.

How website blocking works

Website blocking on iOS is realized through the system-wide Internet content filter, which analyzes data provided by Apple’s WebKit rendering framework.

iOS’ Internet content filter affects all browsers, not just Safari, because third-party App Store browsers such as iCab, Opera mini, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and many others are required to use Apple’s WebKit engine.

For most websites, the Internet content filter considers the domain name but not the path. For example, if is whitelisted then, and all other sub-domains and site links will be whitelisted as well.

Whitelisting blocked websites

Attempting to visit any blacklisted website—including those stored in Safari’s Reading List or your Shared Links—will present a blocking page and the Allow Website link.

Just tap the link to quickly whitelist the blocked website.

Allow website

Third-party web browsers might instead display a generic error webpage.

Where did my bookmarks go?

iOS’s Internet content filter also removes blocked websites from Safari’s bookmarks. But don’t you worry, this is only on a temporary basis—once website restrictions are disabled, all your bookmarks will automagically re-appear in Safari.

Another thing happens when website access is restricted: a special Allowed Sites bookmarks folder appears in Safari with all your whitelisted websites. In addition, bookmarks for any blacklisted website is temporarily removed from Safari’s bookmarks.

Safari bookmark folder Allowed Sites

Because the Internet content filter cannot manage saved bookmarks in third-party browsers, it only appears in Safari, not in Chrome, Firefox, etc.

Website blocking and HTTPS

Any website which uses secure SSL encryption must be explicitly whitelisted because iOS’s Internet content filter cannot examine the encrypted “https” content. Encrypted websites that are not on the Only Allow These Websites list will be blocked automatically by iOS’s Internet content filter.

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