Back in the days of VHS tapes, and cable TV you could put your movie collection in a locked cabinet out of the hands of prying kids. On your cable box you could put a pass code on it to prevent kids from seeing content you didn’t want them exposed to.
In the age of the internet, streaming content, various streaming apps/channels and streaming boxes the ability to put restrictions and parental controls in place gets a lot more complicated and time consuming.
Can you put parental controls on the Apple TV? Yes, but be aware that most streaming apps have their own parental controls that are independently setup on that streaming app or the services website. The Apple TV has its own parental control settings under Restrictions in settings but they mostly only apply to Apple’s own apps. In this article we will review how Apple’s parental controls work and how the parental controls work on 15 of the most popular video streaming services.
What Parental Controls can be put on the Apple TV?
Apple calls these parental controls restrictions. To start Restrictions need to be turned on. To turn on Restrictions.
- Go to the Settings App from the home screen.
- Go to General, and then Restrictions.
- Select the Restrictions option to turn it on.
- Create a 4 digit code for the Restrictions and then enter it again to confirm.
What Content Restrictions can you put in place on the Apple TV?
With your Apple TV restrictions turn on you can go into restrictions and set content restrictions.
There are 3 main content restriction categories to be concerned with Movies, TV Shows and Apps. The Movie and TV show restrictions allow you to set a rating level at which the content will be locked by a passcode. The Apps restriction allows you to require a passcode to open all apps, or lock apps based on an age rating.
In the restrictions page there is a toggle for Music and Podcasts to only play clean content or explicit; and also a toggle for Siri to show or hide explicit language.
The Movies content category allows you to set restrictions based on ratings using the following scale.
- Don’t Allow Movies
- Allow All Movies
The TV Show content category allows you to set restrictions based on ratings using the following scale.
- Don’t Allow TV Shows
- Allow All TV Shows
Wherever you set the restriction will require a passcode for that level and above.
How do Apple TV App restrictions work?
The App restriction allows you to require a passcode to open apps based on a rating scale or require all apps to use a passcode to open with the Don’t Allow Apps setting.
- Don’t Allow Apps
- Allow All Apps
In my testing the Don’t Allow Apps level will require a passcode to open any app. This is a great security level if you have lots of apps on your Apple TV and are worried about kids getting into apps they shouldn’t and stumbling upon content despite your best efforts to set content ratings restrictions.
I tried researching what apps were blocked by using the the 4+ through 17+ ratings and found no information online. In my own testing I found that some apps respect those number ratings while others don’t. My best advice if you want to use a number rating on App restrictions then test it yourself using the apps you have installed on your Apple TV.
I set my Apple TV to 4+ and tried opening apps. The following apps required a passcode at the 4+ security level.
- Prime Video, Hulu, Starz, Vudu, Vimeo, HBO Go/Now, ABC, PBS, NBC, Youtube, Spectrum, Prime Video, Lifetime, TruTV, FX Now, AMC, History, Direct Now.
The following apps did not require a passcode at the 4+ security level, which is the lowest level.
- Netflix, CBS, FOXNOW, Movies, ESPN.
Apple TV Streaming Apps Parental Controls
The Apple TV content rating restrictions for Movies and TV shows appear to only apply to Apple first party apps. Most third party apps ignore Apple TV’s content restrictions for ratings and have their own settings for parental content controls. Below we will look at how to set parental controls on the following apps.
- Prime Video
- HBO Go/Now
- Directv Now
- Playstation Vue
Amazon Prime Video Parental Controls
Parental Controls are set on Amazon’s website. At the bottom of that page you can select which devices the parental controls settings apply. To setup go to the parental control settings then set your pin code at the top of the page.
Next you can set your content restriction level. The rating levels are G, 7, 13, 18. Whichever level you set the pin will be required for that rating content and above. Also unrated content will also require a pin.
The rating level descriptions are
- G – Videos suitable for General Audiences are available.
- 7 – Videos suitable for General Audiences and older children are available.
- 13 – Videos suitable for General Audiences, Family and Teens and Young Adults are available.
- 18 – All Videos, including those not rated or for mature audiences are available.
Spectrum Parental Controls
Spectrum parental controls are controlled inside of the app.
To Manage Spectrum Parental Controls, go to
- Select Parental Controls
Inside the Parental controls section of the Spectrum App you can set movie ratings, TV show ratings, block channels and change your pin code. Be aware that when you turn on Parental controls for spectrum, if you go to watch content that is blocked and enter your passcode that will turn off parental controls. To re-enable parental controls you will need to go back into settings and enable parental controls.
HBO Go/Now Parental Controls
Parental controls for HBO are set on HBO’s website and rating that is locked will not be watchable on the app.
HBO allows you to set a maximum allowed rating for movies and TV shows. HBO’s parental controls work a little differently than most other apps. Instead of being allowed to enter a passcode to watch blocked content, you cannot watch blocked content at all. If the content you are trying to watch is locked by rating in the parental controls then that content cannot be watched unless the content rating block is adjusted or turned off on HBO’s website.
HBO also allows you to set separate parental controls for the main account and for sub accounts.
Netflix Parental Controls
Netflix parental controls are set on the Netflix website. Netflix allows for 2 different types of parental controls. You can set either account level security or profile level security.
Account level security is a 4 digit pin code that is required to unlock content. Account level security allows you to set a rating level restriction that will require the pass code at that level and above. The account level security also allows you to pass code protect specific shows so that those shows will not be watchable without the pin.
The profile level security is where you choose a content level restriction, the options are below and only shows that fall in and below that chosen rating level will be watchable. All shows above that rating level will be blocked.
- For Little Kids Only
- For Older Kids and below
- For Teens and below
- All Maturity levels
For more information and directions on how to set these you can check out Netflix help guide at https://help.netflix.com/en/node/264
Hulu Parental Controls
Hulu’s parental controls are setup on Hulu’s website. These parental controls are very simple the only form of parental controls they offer is to create a kids profile that only has access to kid friendly content.
The Networks ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX Parental Controls
The apps for NBC and ABC have no parental controls capabilities at all. You can watch any show on the app. The FOXNOW app will lock shows based on the Apple TV restriction settings. The CBS app is only accessible if you have a subscription to CBS All Access but surprisingly it does not have any parental control options either. FOX is the only app of the network tv channels that has parental controls.
YouTube Parental Controls
The nature of YouTube being a user generated platform. Anyone can upload a video to YouTube so the content is not rated in the traditional sense. YouTube has what is called Restricted Mode. If this is turned on restricted videos will not be hidden on the YouTube app. Restricted Mode was created for libraries, schools and public institutions. The Restricted Mode can be very restrictive going so far as blocking content YouTube merely doesn’t like and not upon the traditional rating categories of language, nudity/sex, and violence. To turn on restricted mode on the Apple TV app.
- Select the Gear icon in the bottom left corner of the window.
- Select Restricted mode from the menu
- Check On in the right side.
Starz Parental Controls
The Starz app will look at both parental controls set on Starz website as well as the restrictions on the Apple TV. The Starz App will apply the most restrictive settings based on the Apple TV and Starz website.
You can view the current Parental Control settings on the Starz App by going to the gear icon in the top right menu then selecting Parental Controls.
When the Apple TV restrictions apply to the Starz App because they are the most restrictive then the show or movie will not be watchable and it will not ask for a passcode to bypass the block. However if the Starz website restrictions apply because they are the most restrictive then it will give you the option to enter a passcode to bypass the block and still watch the show or movie.
DIRECTV NOW Parental Controls
DIRECTV NOW has parental controls that are device specific. This means that you set the parental controls on each device and each device can have its own level of parental controls.
To set the parental controls on the DIRECTV NOW app for the Apple TV. go to Settings and then Parental Controls.
The DIRECTV NOW app will allow you to create a 4 digit pin code and set restrictions by rating on TV shows and Movies.
Sling TV Parental Controls
Sling TV has parental controls that are set on the Sling TV website. The parental controls are pretty straightforward you set a pin code and then set a restriction level. The TV and Movie ratings are combined in the same option levels so you set the level you want and it will show the Movie and TV rating restriction at that level. Then when you want to watch a restricted TV show or movie you can enter your pin code to watch.
Playstation Vue Parental Controls
Unfortunately Playstation Vue does not have any parental controls.
SHOWTIME Parental Controls
Showtime parental controls are set on the Showtime website. You select the picture of a persons profile in the top right and then click on Viewing Preferences. In this page you can set maximum allowed content ratings for Movies and TV shows independently. Movies or TV shows that go above the allowed content rating will not allow you to watch and will require you to go back to the website and change the content rating.