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How to Restrict Apple TV Content and Purchases

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Mature podcasts are only rated as explicit. They do not have a fine-grained rating system. The only options for podcasts are “ask” and “allow”. Ask will require a passcode for explicit podcasts.

These restrictions go beyond Apple’s content. If you enable Restrictions on mature content, you will need to enter a passcode to access any content channel with adult content. When you launch Netflix, for example, you will need to enter the passcode. Some Apple TV channels have their own internal settings for mature content. Vevo, for example, has a setting to enable explicit content. Others have parental controls on their websites.

Making changes on the service’s website will usually reflect changes on the same account used on Apple TV. Netflix, for example, has parental controls on their website. If you set parental controls on the Netflix website, they will be enforced on Apple TV, however it is not integrated with Apple’s parental controls. If you set up Apple TV’s Restrictions, your Apple TV will require a passcode to open Netflix, even if you have set parental controls on the Netflix website.

Apple TV’s restrictions are not fine-grained when it comes to third-party channels, such as Netflix. For example, if you set up Apple TV’s Restrictions to only allow G-rated movies, it will prompt for a passcode when starting Netflix. Once Netflix is open, any movie can be played. The concerned parent really needs to implement both parental controls until Apple has improved integration of Restrictions with third-party channels.

Other Restrictions

There are a few other restrictions that may not be as useful in the typical household. Access to AirPlay functionality can be controlled with Restrictions. One can set the accessibility of AirPlay settings to “show”, “ask”, or “hide”.

If your Apple TV is in the conference room at work, it is also possible to restrict Conference Room Display to “allow” and “ask”. Setting it to “ask” will prompt users for a passcode to use Conference Room Display features. Conference Room Display allows anyone to beam content using AirPlay, without authenticating under Home Sharing (which requires your Apple ID). It’s a great way to allow multiple people to use AirPlay on an Apple TV, without having to share the same Apple ID or login under different Apple IDs. Beyond the conference room, it is a handy feature for the dorm room or for those who share a home with other tennants.

Apple TV Restrictions Need Improvement

Apple TV’s Restrictions clearly need some refinement. Although Apple is taking their set-top box more seriously, Apple TV is still a hobby in many ways. Restrictions really need to be improved to integrate with third-party channels. Furthermore, there are some edge-cases, which I consider to be defects, that need to be fixed. For example, if you set up Restrictions and allow any kind of movie or TV show, Apple TV will still ask for a passcode to access Netflix. This causes unwanted annoyance if the user just wants to restrict accidental purchases. These are not huge problems and they will likely be fixed in upcoming releases. I can’t complain too much about Apple TV. It is inexpensive and the upgrades and improvements have exceeded my expectations. The Restrictions do work, but in some ways they are cumbersome and unrefined.

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