Can You Block a Specific Website on an iPhone?
Cyberbullying, identity theft, and exposure to explicit language or mature content might be some of the things keeping you awake at night as a digital parent.[*]
Recent iOS 16 updates dangle a respite, allowing you to manage demands for more screen time through iMessages. However, tech-savvy kids can still find their way around your well-meaning restrictions.
This is where dedicated parental control apps can be training wheels to help enforce better tech habits for children. Free parental controls baked into iPhones and iPads let you block websites or limit screen time. But there are other (more universal) tools that you can use to set up age-gated content.
1. Using Apple’s Screen Time
This past September, Apple introduced a host of Screen Time updates that include more intuitive parental controls and website-blocking features inside iOS 16 and iPad OS 16.[*]
- Age-based default settings: Previous versions of Screen Time required you to meander through at least 30 steps to set up age-based restrictions for various iOS apps, TV shows, movies, music, and books. These filters are now auto-selected when parents add children on Family Sharing.
- Quick start setup: When you bring any new iOS device near another one already connected to your network, a quick start menu appears. The new iPad or iPhone automatically mirrors the parental controls of the authorizing device.
- Screen Time requests: When children reach screen limits on their devices, they can send iMessages to parents to ask for more time. Parents can quickly approve or deny these requests within iMessage without having to take their child's iPhone and manually adjust settings.
- Family Checklist: Family Checklist offers practical tips about parental controls, location sharing, subscriptions, and other Family Sharing features. Parental controls that were once sprinkled in the far corners of the Settings app, Content & Privacy Restrictions, Medical ID, and other features now live in one place.
To turn on content restrictions on your iOS device:
- From your home screen, go to Settings.
- Scroll down to select Screen Time.
- Navigate to Content → Privacy Restrictions → Content Restrictions.
- Tap Web Content to see three options:
- Unrestricted: Enables free browsing across all websites without any oversight.
- Limit Adult Websites: Blocks the private browsing mode and restricts access to explicit content.
- Allowed Websites: Permits access to a limited list of family-friendly websites, which you can modify — for example, Disney, Funbrain, and PBS Kids.
These restriction settings work in all browsers across all devices, not just on Safari. However, these settings won’t apply to certain apps, such as Facebook and YouTube. To set time limits and other restrictions on specific apps, navigate to Screen Time in the Settings app.
2. Using Free Website-blocking Apps
Parents aren't the only ones who know how to block websites on iPhones; your kids can also reconfigure these settings. Even if you keep your Screen Time passcode a secret, precocious children may still find a way in.
The App Store has many free website-blocking apps — like BlockSite — that can tighten restrictions. A blocker is an effective tool, whether you want to protect a young child from adult sites that contain unsavory content and explicit language, or keep your teenager focused on school.
BlockSite’s free browser extension works on Chrome and Firefox, and is available for download as both iOS and Android apps.
With apps like BlockSite, you can:
- Block websites by category — limit adult content, and social media or gaming apps.
- Block a list of individual websites that you manually select.
- Sync restrictions across mobiles, desktops, and tablets.
- Analyze usage reports on how your family uses devices.
Setting up BlockSite on your iOS device
After you install the mobile app or browser extension, the setup process for website blocking apps is similar across the board.
On the browser extension:
- Select the BlockSite toolbar icon.
- Select the settings/gear icon.
- On the left-hand menu, select the Block Sites tab.
- On the bar on the right, add the websites that you wish to block.
- Confirm your blocklist by selecting Enter.
On the mobile app:
- Select the bottom left shield icon called Block List.
- Tap the green circle on the bottom right.
- Add websites to your block list by entering the website address, keyword, or category.
- Confirm your blocklist by selecting Done at the top, right-hand corner.
Is BlockSite free forever?
BlockSite has a free-forever version. However, it’s limited — only allowing you to block a maximum of three websites at a time.
The freemium version also lacks key features, including custom block pages and password protection.
To access more features like unlimited blocks and their bulk-blocking tool, BlockSite charges $9/month.
3. Using Router-level Restrictions
Most Wi-Fi routers include parental control features. However, routers don't gatekeep your internet activity like device security software does; they record website traffic and list IP addresses.
That said, you can use most modern routers to block specific websites by their URLs. For example, some popular routers with built-in website blocking features include NETGEAR and Nest Wifi.
To block websites through your router:
- Open a web browser on your device, and type in your router’s IP address. You can find this unique identifier on a sticker on the back of your router.
- Log in to access your router’s settings.
- Navigate to the website blocking tool.
- Enter the specific website URLs that you wish to block. Depending on your router, you may also be able to block entire categories, such as games or social media.
- Save all changes.
- Restart your router. Doing this will ensure that your changes kick in right away.
NETGEAR Armor, for example, automatically blocks suspicious URLs so that you don’t chance upon malicious and potentially inappropriate content.
If an outgoing Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) or HTTP request matches NETGEAR’s list of blocked URLs, that website will not load.[*]
However, not all routers have similar built-in parental controls or up-to-date website filtering databases. And for those that do, you may need a paid subscription to access age-based filters and profiles.
When does a router-level block work over an app?
Website blocking apps do the job, but their restrictions are limited to each device. If you have several children, you may wind up juggling apps and limits on multiple smartphones, iPads, and gaming consoles.
One of the biggest benefits of creating router-level blocks is that the restrictions will impact all devices on the network. Even if your children know how to block (and unblock) websites on iPhones, they can’t careen around your router-level controls.
Websites blocked on a router’s network will remain inaccessible, regardless of the browser or operating system on your child’s device.
4. Using Aura Parental Controls
Growing children with broader access to technology can quickly outgrow any siloed efforts to set up parental controls. This is where a full-family online safety tool like Aura Parental Controls comes in.
The Aura Family Plan gives you access to several features that keep your kids safe online and offer higher levels of security, including the following:
- Individual profiles for each family member: Create profiles for everyone in the house, and apply time limits or restrictions for specific apps, websites, and streaming services. For example, you can limit your teen’s gaming time to an hour per day on school days.
- Custom content filters: Determine what type of content your child can (or can’t) view online. With this feature, you can rest easy knowing your young children won’t be exposed to graphic images, language, or violence.
- View blocked activity: Add specific sites to which you wish to never allow access, and review permissions daily.
- Time limits: Set daily screen time limits for each profile, preventing kids from overusing certain apps or sites. Once your children reach the screen time limit, the app or website will instantly become unavailable.
- Time online: Keep tabs on how much time your child spends on individual apps or categories of apps.
- Parent and child notifications: Receive instant updates when your child reaches preset time limits.
- Dashboards for kids: Let your children see their designated time limits and content filters so they understand what they can do online.
Aura Family Plans Now Include Parental Controls
Left unchecked, your child’s unbridled use of social media, gaming apps, and mature websites could open the door to negative interactions online, cyberbullying, or even identity theft. In the long run, this can take its toll on your child’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Studies prove that surplus screen time without sufficient physical activity can be harmful for young children.[*] As digital natives, your children need guidance and boundaries to find a healthy balance between screen time and movement away from their devices.
Unless you remove all internet-connected devices from your children’s lives, there’s no way to guarantee that they won’t stumble upon harmful people or content online. So, it’s up to parents to have open conversations with their children about using technology responsibly.
But the internet can catch anyone off-guard. To keep your entire family safe online, remember to:
- Enforce formal or informal household rules for daily internet and device usage so that children feel safe under your thoughtful oversight.
- Set up content filters to make sure the websites, apps, games, and streaming services on household devices are appropriate for children.
- Default to “Friends or contacts only” settings on social media to prevent unknown users from interacting with your content.
- Install an antivirus software to protect devices against malware, spyware, and ransomware threats — especially when you download apps. Also be sure to turn on automatic software updates on all family devices.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) when you’re surfing the internet so that malicious websites or threat actors can’t steal your data.
- Research family identity theft protection services that continuously monitor your family’s identity, online accounts, and finances.