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By default, Apple TV will allow anyone with access to the remote to purchase or watch any content. If children or roommates use your Apple TV, setting up Restrictions will prevent unauthorized iTunes purchases and access to mature content.
This article covers the 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TV models. If you own an Apple TV 4, please read “Apple TV 4: Restrictions and Parental Controls”.
Apple TV is an easy-to-use device. The ability to purchase content by pressing a few buttons on the remote makes it much easier to use. Imagine if you have to type in your Apple ID every time you purchase something on Apple TV? Unfortunately, this also makes it easy for anyone who lives in your house to buy content on your Apple TV, using your Apple ID account. Furthermore, young children can access just about anything on Apple TV. If other people have access to your Apple TV, setting up Restrictions is essential. Restrictions will allow you to set up a simple 4-digit passcode to authorize purchases and access mature content. It is also possible to hide content for sale, displaying only content that you own and disabling all purchases.
Apple TV’s Restrictions work, but they need some improvement. There are a few edge-cases that leave much room for improvement.
How to Turn on Restrictions
By default, Apple TV’s Restrictions are turned off. This makes it much easier to use. If you live alone or trust the people you live with, it is easier to just leave restrictions off. Turning Restrictions on will prevent any unauthorized iTunes purchases and prevent young children from watching mature content.
From the main menu, click on Settings > General > Restrictions. Next, turn on Restrictions. When you do this for the first time, you will be required to enter and confirm a 4-digit passcode. Make sure to remember this passcode. If you forget it, you will need to reset all Apple TV settings to turn off Restrictions.
Now that you have enabled Restrictions, it is possible to refine access to purchasing and content. First, let’s take a look at how to restrict purchasing.
How to Restrict Purchases on Apple TV
There are two ways to restrict purchases on Apple TV — hide them or ask for a passcode. Hiding purchasable content might be a good idea if you have young children. It may prevent pestering and begging to buy movies and TV shows. It’s also a good idea if you have installed an Apple TV in your company’s conference room. Restricting purchases can be an inconvenience, as you have to enter a passcode or turn off or adjust Restrictions to make a purchase. Keep in mind, you can always buy content on another device. Even if you restrict purchasing on your Apple TV, you can buy content on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or computer. As long as you buy it with the same Apple ID, it will be available on your Apple TV.
To hide procurable content, first go to the Restrictions menu (Settings > General > Restrictions). Next, select Purchase and Rental. If you are asked to input your passcode, do so now. Click the center select button on the remote to toggle “ask”, “hide”, or “allow”. “Ask” will prompt the user for the passcode whenever a purchase is made. “Hide” will only show purchased content. Content available for sale will not be displayed. “Allow” will enable anyone to buy content on your Apple TV. This is the default mode when Restrictions are turned off. While this is convenient, it also allows anyone with access to your remote to make purchases. Even if no one else has access to your Apple TV, purchase restrictions might be a good idea. It is possible to accidentally purchase content. By default, Apple TV asks for confirmation, but it’s easy to accidentally confirm a purchase. It is unlikely that you will enter a passcode unintentionally.
How to Restrict Access to Mature Content on Apple TV
If you have young, impressionable children, you might want to prevent them from accessing mature content. Fortunately, Apple TV’s Restrictions makes this easy. From the Restrictions menu, first make sure that “Ratings For” shows your correct locale. If this is incorrect, select the country you live in. This is usually configured when you set up your Apple TV for the first time. Next, set the appropriate restrictions for Movies, TV shows, and Podcasts. For Movies and TV shows, the restrictions are based on locale-specific ratings. In the U.S., for example, we have Movie ratings like R, PG, PG-17, etc. Set the appropriate ratings. If, for example, you set movies to PG and you want to watch an R-rated movie, you will be required to enter the passcode. Restrictions don’t completely block access to mature content. You simply have to enter the passcode. (continue…)