One of the best new features that Apple introduced with iOS 8 is Family Sharing, a service that allows up to six people to share apps, music, movies, and other content across all of their devices. This isn’t Apple’s first foray into allowing users to share content of course, but Family Sharing has streamlined the process greatly, and provids better flexibility for families with multiple Apple products. The service also includes integrated parental controls that make it easier than ever to keep track of purchases, and approve appropriate content, as well as other perks like a shared family photo album and calendar. Here’s how you can set up Family Sharing , and begin using it today.
Why Use Family Sharing
Family Sharing is meant to replace the old Home Sharing system, which also allowed iOS and OS X users to share content. Home Sharing was a bit more restrictive however, as the service used a single Apple ID, and everyone signed into iTunes and the App Store with the same password. Home Sharing only allowed content to be accessed on up to five computers as well, although an unlimited number of iOS devices was supported. In contrast, Family Sharing gives everyone their own Apple ID and password, but unifies purchases on a single credit card. Parents have the ability to approve or deny any requests to download items from the App Store or iTunes, and once a purchase is confirmed, it is automatically installed on all devices that fall under the Family Sharing plan.
Additionally, Family Sharing automatically puts all of the iOS devices for the group into the Find My Friends and Find My iPhone apps, allowing parents to track their children – as well as their gadgets – at all times. This could come in vary handy for monitoring the whereabouts of a child, or trying to discover where they may have left a lost device too. And if that wasn’t enough, Family Sharing also creates a family photo album and shared calendar that everyone can contribute to as well. In short, it offers some nice tools to help keep you organized and in touch.
Setting Up Family Sharing
Setting up Family Sharing is actually a rather simple affair. The first time you start-up a device using iOS 8, it will ask you if you want to turn on the service. If you’re like most us, you probably said no to that prompt just so that you could move on with the process of setting up your device. You can turn on Family Sharing later by going to the Settings app and selecting “iCloud.” From there, you’ll see an option that says “Set Up Family Sharing…”
Tapping that selection will start the process of creating a Family Sharing account. The first step in that process is designating the “Family Organizer,” who is in a sense, the admin for the service. The Family Organizer has the ability to invite other people to join the group, and is the person who agrees to accept responsibility for paying for all of the purchases made under the Family Sharing plan.
In order to complete the set-up process, an Apple ID must first be entered, along with a valid method of payment if one is not already associated with that account. To proceed, type in the Apple ID that belongs to the Family Organizer, as well as an active credit card account. Once those steps are complete, the service will also ask if it is okay to share your location with the other members of the group. This will add GPS tracking to the Messages, Find My Friends, and Find My iPhone apps.
Invite the Family
Once the Family Sharing service has been activated it is time to invite other family members to join in on the fun. The Family Organizer will see the option to “Add Family Member,” which allows them to send invites to up to five other people to have them become a part of the group. Simply tap that option, and enter the name or email address for the person you would like to include in the Family Sharing plan. The service will than request the password to your iCloud account before it sends off the invite.
Anyone who is invited to join a Family Sharing group must first be using a device running iOS 8. They’ll then receive a notification on that device informing them that they have been asked to join the group. When they tap on the option to view the invitation, they’ll be taken to their iCloud settings to accept or deny the request. If they accept, they’ll automatically be added to the Family Sharing plan, and can immediately begin downloading music, apps, and other content purchased by others that are already in the group.
Whenever a Family Sharing invite is sent, Apple will also send the Family Organizer an email confirming that someone new has been asked to join the group. Once that person accepts, a notification will also appear on the Organizer’s iOS device informing them that they are now part of the service as well.
That is really all there is to setting up a Family Sharing group. The above process can be repeated up to four times to ask others to join, but otherwise the entire process is quick, easy, and painless.
Apple ID’s for Children Under 13
Having a unique Apple ID for each member of the group is at the core of what makes Family Sharing work, but Apple doesn’t typically allow children under the age of 13 to have their own account. Family Sharing does give the Organizer the ability to create accounts for younger members of the group however, and the option is listed under the Family Sharing admin controls. Setting up an Apple ID for a child is a simple affair and functions exactly like it does for everyone else. Before that account can be created however, the Family Organizer must first enter the security code of the credit card that is associated with the Family Sharing account. From there, it is simply a matter of filling out the basic Apple ID form.
Parental Controls and Restrictions
As mentioned, Family Sharing does have some built-in parental controls to prevent anyone from running up too large of a bill. Whenever a member of the group wants to purchase something from iTunes or the App Store, a notification is sent to the Family Organizer, who can then approve or deny the purchase directly from their device. This gives them the opportunity to investigate the content that is being requested, and decide if it is appropriate for the child.
Additionally, in-app purchases are not supported by Family Sharing either, which should help to prevent children from accidentally racking up massive credit card charges when they purchase things inside of a “free” app.
The Family Organizer has the ability to remove people from the Family Sharing plan, and can turn off the service at any time as well. Considering how useful this could be for parents however, it is likely to be an incredibly popular service.