Apple Family Sharing: Explained

6 Min Read

Apple’s Family Sharing is a way to make your apps, movies, subscriptions, and more available to all the people in your family. You can also use it to control the screen time or content restrictions for your children’s devices. Even better, it can even let you monitor the location of all your loved ones.

Here’s a complete guide that explain everything you need to know about setting up and using Apple’s Family Sharing service.
Let’s get started.
Apple family sharing, everything you need to know

What Is Family Sharing?

Family Sharing allows users to connect up to six different Apple ID accounts together. These accounts constitute your Family Sharing group, which you can use to save money by sharing a wide range of Apple purchases and services, such as:

  • Apps, movies, TV shows, songs, and books
  • Apple Music family plan subscriptions
  • Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and Apple TV channel subscriptions
  • iCloud storage

Because every user has their own account, you don’t need to share your password with anyone. You can also access content in your Family Sharing group from all devices you use with your Apple ID i.e. iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, as well as Windows PC.

Besides shared purchases and services, Family Sharing can automatically create a shared reminders list, shared calendar, and shared photo album for everyone in family sharing group to use. With permission, you can use Family sharing to see the location of everyone in your group, together with all their Apple devices.

Lastly, through Family Sharing, parents or guardians can even manage the Screen Time or Content & Privacy Restrictions for any child who is below 18 years in the group. With Ask to Buy feature enabled, they can also approve or deny App Store and iTunes purchases their children want to make.

You Can’t Share Everything

Unfortunately, you cannot share everything with family sharing. Before purchasing an app, scroll down to the Information section in the App Store to find out if it supports Family Sharing.

Keep in mind, you cannot share in-app purchases or subscriptions for non-Apple services.

How to Set Up Family Sharing

The person who creates the Family Sharing group becomes the Family Organizer. He/she chooses who is and isn’t allowed in the group, and also chooses which services or purchases you share with Family Sharing.

If the Family Organizer chooses to share App Store and iTunes purchases, they must also agree to pay for new purchases that anyone in the Family Sharing group makes.

Apple has made it pretty easy to set up Family Sharing from an iPhone running iOS 8 or later, or mac with OS X Yosemitey or later.

Set Up Family Sharing on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

  1. Start the Settings app and tap [Your Name] at the top of the screen. If you don’t see your name, choose to Sign in to your [device] using your Apple ID account.
  2. Now, tap on Set Up Family Sharing, then select Get Started and choose the first feature you want to use with Family Sharing. You may need to add a payment method to your Apple ID account if you haven’t already.
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions to finish the setup and Invite Family Members through iMessage or by requesting them to sign in on your device.
  4. After creating your group, the Family Sharing settings should show up next to your name. You can also tap Add Family Member to add more people to your family.

Set Up Family Sharing on a Mac

Launch the Apple menu and head over to System Preferences > Family Sharing.
Instructions to Set up Family Sharing will be available on this screen; click Next and follow the onscreen instructions to finish the setup. You may need to add a payment method to your Apple ID account if you haven’t already.
After you are done with the setup, click Add Family Member and type in the name, email address, or Game Center nickname of the first family member you want to add.
You can edit the various Family Sharing settings from the sidebar in System Preferences. Head over to Family to add more people to your Family Sharing group.

Set Up a Child’s Account in Family Sharing

Children below 13 years cannot create their own Apple ID accounts. Thankfully, with Family Sharing, the Family Organizer can create a child’s account for them. Apple limits the apps and media based on your child’s age and automatically turns on Ask to Buy. Consequently, they can’t download or purchase anything without permission, even if it’s free.

It’s easy to create a child’s account. Simply launch the Family Sharing settings on your device and follow the onscreen instructions to add a new family member. Choose the option to Create a Child Account. Then create an iCloud email address, a password, as well as security answers for your kid.

The Family Organizer i.e. parent/guardian in the Family Sharing group can remotely approve or deny App Store and iTunes purchases. Moreover, you can track your child’s Screen Time, or edit the Content & Privacy Restrictions for your child’s device.

Apple’s Family Sharing Features Explained

Once you create your Family Sharing group, various features and services you can choose to use with it will become available. At first, these options can appear a bit confusing, therefore, we’ve explained every Family Sharing feature below.

Purchase Sharing

For you to share apps, movies, TV shows, songs, and books in your Family Sharing group, you need to turn on Purchase Sharing. For this to work, the Family Organizer must agree to pay for any future purchases people in your Family Sharing group make.

Family members will continue to keep their purchases after leaving the Family Sharing group, even if the payment was made by the Family Organizer.

If you want to see another person’s purchases, simply launch the App Store or iTunes Store app and head over to the Purchases section. You should see each of your family members’ names; tap one to view or download their purchases.

Purchase Sharing allows your family to access everything you’ve ever purchased or downloaded, even if you did so before joining the Family Sharing group. You can also hide a specific purchase from your family. To do so, simply swipe on that purchase and choose to Hide it.

iCloud Storage

Apple offers everybody 5GB of free storage upon creating a newApple ID account. Individual family member can choose toupgrade their iCloud storage plan for a small monthly fee, or you can opt to share a single storage plan across your Family Sharing group.

If you want to share iCloud storage with Family Sharing, you are limited to either 200GB or 2TB plan. When a family member decides to share iCloud storage, Apple doesn’t add their free 5GB to the shared plan.

Location Sharing

If you turn on Location Sharing in Family Sharing, you can use the Find My app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to check the location of your other family members. In addition, you can use Find My to locate your family members’ missing Apple devices.
Individual family member can choose to share their location from the Family Sharing settings on their device or not.

Note: When Location Sharing is turned on, members in your Family Sharing group can easily use the Find My app to mark your devices as lost or remotely erase them. Read also: How To Track a Lost iPhone, iPad, or Mac With Find My

Screen Time

If you turn on Screen Time, you’ll be able to monitor any child in your Family Sharing group under 18 years. There are options to set App Limits, Communication Limits, Downtime, and Content & Privacy Restrictions on your children’s devices.

Family Sharing also provides you with regular usage reports so you can keep track of how much time your children spend on their devices.

Apple Music, TV Channels, Apple Arcade, and Apple News+

Apple now offers multiple subscription services. And apart fromApple Music (which requires a family plan), you can easily share any of these subscriptions with your Family Sharing group at no additional cost.

For instance, if you subscribe to Apple Arcade, all the members of your Family Sharing group can also access Apple Arcade games without having to sign up for their own subscription.

If you want to share Apple Music, you need to pay a few extra bucks to get a Family Sharing plan. Ideally, it’s far much cheaper than paying individually.

How to share Apple Music

For each person in the family to have access to the Apple Music library on a single subscription — while keeping their own private account with personal music library — family Organizer needs to do the following:

  • Either sign up for Apple Music family subscription, if new to Apple Music, or
  • Change their individual subscription to a family one — then each person in the family sharing group will automatically gain access to Apple Music as well

To change individual subscription to a family Apple Music subscription, simply follow these steps:

  1. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap your name at the top of the screen.
  3. Tap Subscriptions.
  4. Tap Apple Music subscription
  5. Change your subscription to family.
  1. On your Mac, head over to System Preferences and click Family Sharing
  2. Click Apple Music
  3. Change your subscription to Family.

how to use Apple’s Family Sharing service? Now you know

We trust this post has helped you to set up and use the Family Sharing feature on your Apple devices. With Family Sharing enabled, you can share Apple Books, and App Store purchases, an Apple Music family plan, and an iCloud storage plan with up to 5 family members. Your family can also locate each other’s missing devices using Find My App.
If you have any question or comment, we would love to hear in the comments section below. We also have plenty of other articles that I suggest you check right now.

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GeeksModo Staff is a team of iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch experts led by Moses Johnson. We're passionate about all things Apple!
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