How to lock down an iPhone

A how-to on adding strong restrictions to an iPhone running iOS 11.x

In this post, I will walk through the steps I take to effectively lock down an iPhone running iOS 11.x. This is a process to limit an iPhone’s functionality to only what is absolutely necessary. This does not turn a smartphone into a dumbphone.

A note about safety

The end goal is to make the phone safer. This is accomplished through two primary methods: Restriction of the phone’s capabilities to only what is needed and accountability. Like all things in recovery, these steps are only valuable if the owner of the device already has a desire to stop their behavior and a willingness to be honest with accountability. There are no restrictions that can effectively prevent a man from accessing pornography.

Nothing can fully prevent access to pornographic material. As with all things, locking down a smartphone is just another tool. If the tool does not work, then I must find another. If I am in such a state that I will simply find a way around the restrictions, then I probably do not need to have a smartphone at all. In such circumstances, I recommend purchasing a dumbphone (one without internet access).

Finally, I often get requests to make a phone “safe”. This is normally a question phrased in the following manner: “How can I have access to everything I want, like podcasts, news stations, and social media but keep everything else locked down?”. I have found that such half-measures are useless. Either the phone is locked down, or it is not. If it is not, then my reliance is on boundaries and accountability rather than restrictions. This is not the point of “locking down” a phone. If my boundaries are not working, then it is my responsibility to look at what I need to change.

Step 0: Preparation

Identify needs

In preparation, thoroughly identify all the needed Websites and Apps. In addition, determine which accountability browser (if any) will be used. I recommend Covenant Eyes, but there are other options.

As a rule of thumb: if I can function properly without the specific app, then I do not need it. The more apps and features left on the phone, the less locked down it is. Remember, there are no half measures.

As an example, I have yet to see a game that is a need.

Establish Accountability

Determine who will have the restriction passcode and who will receive the accountability reports. This person also needs to be someone that the owner can regularly interact with. If there is a need to adjust something (change an allowed website, download a new app, etc.), this is the person that will be contacted.

Note: I strongly encourage spouses to NOT play the role of accountability partner. It is vital that a trustworthy third party willing to play the role of strict accountability be the primary handler of accountability for the husband’s recovery.

Locking down the phone

Having prepared, take the following steps to fully lock down the iPhone.

Step 1. Make sure the phone is fully up-to-date.

Go to: Settings -> General -> Software Update and verify that the software is up to date. If not, update the software.

Step 2. Install Needed Apps

Install all the needed apps.

If navigational maps are needed, I recommend using Waze as it does not show promotional photos of locations (unlike Google Maps and Apple Maps) but is still a well-supported navigation application.

If a browser is needed, I recommend using Covenant Eyes, a subscription-based accountability software. It not only provides a safe browser, but also creates a VPN that tracks all outgoing network connections for the phone, making it easier to be accountable for other app usage.

Step 3. Setup Restrictions

Go to: Settings -> General -> Restrictions and click “Enable Restrictions”. You will be prompted for a passcode.

I recommend using a Restrictions passcode that is not your standard 4-digit passcode. In case the individual moves, I can provide their next accountability partner the passcode without compromising any of my personal devices. It is also a good idea to save the passcode somewhere secure, so it is not forgotten.

Step 3a. Disable “Allow” Settings

Under the “Allow” heading, disable the following apps:

  • Safari
  • Siri and Dictation
  • FaceTime
  • iTunes Store
  • Music Profiles & Posts
  • iBooks Store
  • Podcasts
  • Installing Apps
  • In-App Purchases

Step 3b. Disable “Allowed Content” Settings

Under “Allowed Content” heading, disable the following settings:

  • Music, Podcasts, News & iTunes U
  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Books
  • Siri

Step 3c. Disable “Allowed Content” Websites

Set the Allowed Websites to “Specific Websites Only” and delete all the default websites by swiping left and tapping “delete”. Then add all the specific websites already defined or leave the list empty.

These restrictions will apply to all in-app browsers and third-party browsers.

Step 3d. Disable “Game Center” Settings

At the bottom of the restrictions, under the “Game Center” heading, disable the following sections:

  • Multiplayer Games
  • Adding Friends
  • Screen Recording

Step 4. Delete Unused Apps

Having setup restrictions, many of the built-in apps will be disabled, but others need to be directly deleted.

Delete EVERYTHING that is not needed, normally this includes:

  • Podcasts
  • Music
  • iTunes U
  • Garage Band
  • iTunes Store
  • Stocks
  • iMovie
  • Maps (contains image search capability)

If in doubt, delete it. Remember, the goal is that the phone only has what is needed at the end of this process.

Note: These can all be reinstalled at a later time if desired.


I want to emphasize, the goal of locking down a phone is to make it a safe tool. It does not prevent access to inappropriate material, it merely makes it more difficult to do so. A determined mind will always find a way. This is only beneficial to the man seeking a heightened level of accountability and safety in regard to his smartphone. These steps mean nothing outside of a willingness to do the difficult work of recovery at the same time. Without dealing with the core issues, I will not change.

Did this work for you? Did it help? Did I miss anything? Please let us know by sending us a message.

Written by: Samuel Beecher (4/21/2018)