How to Restrict iMessage

[Updated December 2012]

iMessage logo

You CAN restrict iMessage

Contrary to popular belief and contrary to my earlier version of this article, you CAN restrict iMessage on an iPod touch or iPad.  I did not find this documented on the Apple web site, or anywhere else on the internet.  I discovered this by accident after the most recent update to iOS 6.

Setting parental controls for iMessage is a 2-step process:

  1. Disable iMessage (Turn it off).
  2. Lock the ability to change account settings.  This is done under Restrictions settings. By doing this, your child cannot turn iMessage back on.  Only those with the Restrictions password (mom or dad) can do so.

Note that you will need iOS version 6 and possibly the updated iOS 6.0.1 for this to work on your child’s iPod touch or iPad.  You can check what version you have by going to SettingsGeneralAbout.

Turn Off iMessage

1. Go to SettingsMessages.

Messages icon circled in Settings

2. Turn iMessage off.

iMessage is turned off

Lock Ability to Change Account Settings in Restrictions

1. Go back to Settings and scroll up to Restrictions.

Restrictions under General Settings

If you’ve already set up restrictions, you’ll be prompted for the passcode.  If not, choose Enable Restrictions and enter a pass code.  Be sure to use a 4-digit passcode that you will remember and your kids will not guess.

2. Scroll down to Allow Changes: and click Accounts.

Set restrictions for Accounts under Allow Changes

3. Click Don’t Allow Changes.

Don't Allow Changes selected under Accounts

Confirm that iMessage is not allowed

Now navigate back to the Home screen.  You will still see the icon for Messages (on my daughter’s iPod it is down at the bottom).  When your offspring attempts to get in to the Messages app, they’ll see a warning.

iMessage on Home screen  Account Restriction - This iPod touch is restricted from creating iMessage accounts.

 

What happens if someone tries to iMessage my child?

When their iMessage is turned off, a message sent to them will not go through.

Why would I want to restrict iMessage?

This all depends on your reasons for giving your child an iDevice in the first place.  If the main intent is to listen to music and play games, or if your child is very young,  you may want to restrict messaging. If that’s the case you may also want to restrict installing apps, or allowing apps over a certain age rating.  Keep in mind that there are other messaging and chatting apps available on the App store.

I find it handy for my daughter to have iMessage.  We use it to communicate when I’m at work.  She only has it available when on Wi-Fi, such as at home.  Since she doesn’t have a cell phone (yet) this is convenient for us.  She chats with friends who have iPods (which is a growing number).  I review her messages on occasion, with her knowledge.  It has led to a few good conversations on what is okay to share and what isn’t, and how to handle some of the pre-teen drama that comes up from time to time.

So that’s the scoop.  You can disable iMessage on the iPod touch or iPad by preventing account changes.

 

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Comments

  1. Jean says

    That’s an interesting question. I tried it by logging off my Apple ID on my iPhone and then sent a message to my daughter’s iPod touch. It worked. Not sure if it would work from an iPad, etc. since the iPhone can work over celluar using my phone number. So you may want to give it a try, just be sure you know the password for your Apple ID which will make logging back in a bit easier!

    • Mark says

      Actually, there is another option and that is not to allow them to use Messages. My kids all have iPods and I set password-protected restrictions, including turning off Messages and Facetime (my personal preference).

  2. Jean says

    Hi Sonya, yes I realize that kids probably delete the messages before parents can see them. I’m guessing my daughter does this too and I only see some of her conversations. The only other option is not allow them to have the device.

  3. Kira says

    Thank you so much for posting how to do this! I got my son and iPad Mini for Christmas, and realized my text message sent via iMessage from my iPhone were streaming to HIS iPad!! I could NOT figure out how in the world to shut it off! This did the trick!

  4. Joran says

    I share my apple ID with my wife and I recently updated my 3Gs to iOS6. Now she is getting all of the texts I send people. Is this an iMessage issue? How do I turn if off?

    • Jean says

      Yes this is because iMessage is tied to the Apple ID. You can set up a new Apple ID for one of you so that you don’t receive each others iMessages (texts sent to other iOS users). You can go to Settings – Messages to either turn off iMessage or scroll down to Send and Receive to change the Apple ID or use an email address.

      • Alex says

        Actually, this is not true. iMessage will display texts for a given phone number or email associated with your Apple ID. My wife and I share an Apple ID and we don’t get each other’s texts.

        Go to, Settings, Messages, Send And Receive.

        Make sure only your number is checked. Then do the same for all the devices you are having this problem with.

      • Jean says

        Thanks Alex, that would be another method. Good for phones but not sure about iPads/iPods which would not have an associated phone number.

  5. Sheila says

    I have deleted messages on iMessage but when I go to the search bar on home screen my old chats still show so even though I’ve deleted all message on iMessage. Is there a way to delete this?

  6. Jessica says

    My kids just got iPods and their iMessage is set to my phone number. How do I delete my phone number from their iPods?

    • Jean says

      On their iPod you can go to Settings – Messages – Send & Receive. If they have iPods then they are probably only using iMessage over WiFi which would not use a phone number. But this is where you can specify which accounts they’ll use for their iMessage.

  7. Michelle says

    I used to randomly get messages sent to and from the itouch to my iphone but now with the latest update, I get every one. My daughter gets every one sent to and from my iphone. I get everything she sends out too. Know how to stop this while still allowing imessaging?

  8. Denise says

    Hi, My issue is a little different. I needed to prove that I was being harassed by someone through texting in the month of november. When I looked on my bill under usage, his number wasn’t on there. It’s because of the new imessage. Is there a way I can get that information?

  9. Jean says

    Denise, yes if the messages were sent over WiFi using iMessage they wouldn’t show up on a cell phone bill. As noted by another commenter, even if those texts were deleted they might be found by Search – swipe to the left of your home screen to bring up search. Search for the person’s name and you might be able to find the old messages. Hope this works for you.

  10. Mac says

    Is it possible to see when your texts/e-mails have been viewed on your iPad, a log with a time of some sort? Curious if an iPad we use for sport stats had private text messages viewed by a stat keeper, Thanks for any help!

  11. Jean says

    Hi Mac, there isn’t anything like that on the iPad, at least not that I know of. You’d be able to view a history of pages viewed in Safari (unless it had been cleared by the user) but I don’t know of anything like that for text messages.

  12. Samantha says

    Hey guys. Great article. Unfortunately I have another question. My brother and I share my iPad and I was wondering if I had to turn off my IMessage when he has it…. When I turn it or log back into it… Would the messages my friends send to me come up?

    • Jean says

      I’m not sure but I think that if someone sends you a message while iMessage is turned off, the message won’t go through.

  13. Ian says

    Do you know of any way to restrict individual contacts on iMessage? My daughter is getting messages through from a group after there friend forwarded her contact details.

    • Jean says

      I don’t know of a way to do that. I do know that group iMessages can be a problem as there is no way to take yourself out of a group message. Believe me I’ve tried, and researched this problem because a similar issue happened with some classmates at my daughter’s school. The messages will only stop once everyone on the group message stops replying to it. (This will have to be a new article soon!)

  14. Carole says

    Doesn’t changing the password restrict other programs on the ipad. My grandson has some aps that the school endorsed and I am afraid it will keep him from being able to access them if I turn off iMessage and change the passcode. TYIA.

    • Jean says

      I think it really depends on how each app is set up. I don’t think turning of iMessage should affect them, but changing the Apple ID might.

  15. annoying banana says

    hi i have original ipad os 5.1.1 there seems no way to turn off imessage. no option to do so. am i correct? is there a way to upgrade to os 6.0? or is there an app to disable imessage for original ipad?

    thanks

    • Jean says

      Hi, sorry but I’m not sure about that, I would recommend the apple.com forums or Apple support to see if anyone has an answer for that.

  16. Gail says

    I want to be able to text people from my iPhone but do not want my conversations to show up on my iPad and iMac computer. How do I do that?

    • Jean says

      Hi Gail,
      Probably a few different ways to do that, but the easiest way would be to turn off iMessage on your iPad and iMac. You can do that from Settings – Messages.

  17. alyeut says

    I recently discovered that our 5th graders were using the iPod touches to send inappropriate messages. The message goes to all 30 iPods and even though each one has a unique name there is no way to tell which iPod (student) sent the message. How can I track the sender? If I turn off imessaging and restrict it with a password then everytime we want to use imessaging for a classroom discussion, all 30 iPods would need to be turned back on and have the password restriction removed. Is there any other way to do this?

    • Jean says

      Hi alyeut,
      I’m actually sitting here write now preparing a new post about Group iMessages! So check back later in the week for that. But in this scenario where it is a school setting, I am not sure about the best approach. To see who initiated the message, I believe you can simply scroll up in the conversation to the first message. However I’m sure the savvier kids know how to delete it from the message string. Even so a deleted message could still show up in a search on the iPod. But you would have 30 of them to go through. I’m not sure if there other apps available that might be suited to group conversations in a classroom setting. If I stumble upon anything like that, I will reply back here.

  18. rosemarie says

    my son has an iPad that is linked to my AppleID . i dont know when/how iMessage was set up on it, but now i want it disabled. If i follow your steps above will it disable iMessage on my iPhone as well.

    • Jean says

      Hi rosemarie,
      No, you can disable iMessage on the iPad using the instructions here, which should not change your settings on your iPhone.

  19. Samantha says

    Can imessage be turned off or blocked from an ipod touch remotely? I gave my kid my old ipod touch which is linked to my apple id and she has it with her at my ex husbands house. I do not want him to be able to look at the imessages on the ipod touch since everyone I send on my phone shows up there too. I actually want imessage turned off completly on the ipod but I do not have it in my posession to do the steps I read above. Please advise. Thanks

    • Jean says

      I don’t know of a way to turn this off remotely, unfortunately. One idea is you could turn off iMessage on your iPhone, meaning that all your texts would be sent as regular text (SMS) messages. I don’t think that they would end up on your daughter’s iPod that way; but I haven’t tested this so can’t say for sure.

  20. Lynne says

    My daughter has an itouch with imessage through my Apple account/email. I want to monitor her messages. I have my email on her setup to receive them, However, I am not getting her messages. What am I doing wrong?

    • Jean says

      Well, they won’t be e-mailed to you, but if you have an iPhone/iPad and use the same Apple ID, then you should be able to monitor her messages on your own iMessage. But keep in mind that any you send, she could potentially see. There really isn’t any built in parental control for iMessage from Apple.

      • Danny says

        Hi Jean,
        My ex got a hold of my phone one night, and since then ive noticed that under her contact info it shows her linked to my icloud and exchange. Does that mean she was able to view my texts? I have never used my cloud. it still says 5.0 available and icloud backup is turned off.

  21. christina says

    Hi Jean. I have a problem. I have been writing a lot of messages to a friend of mine… Suddenly the “textmessage” change for “imessage” when Im writing the message, and then the bobble turn from green to blue… Now he can’t recieve my messages anymore…:o(
    Can you help me?
    Yours sincerely

    • Jean says

      The blue means it is using iMessage. The green means it’s a “normal” text message. So if its not working when it’s blue, maybe there is a configuration problem on the recipient’s iMessage settings. Hard to say. You could try just using the phone number instead of name out of Contacts. That’s all I can really think of.

  22. Kelly says

    Hey Jean,
    So my boyfriend is trying to imessage me from our ipad to my iphone and for some reason when he writes something from ipad to me it sends it to himself on the ipad and the same when I send a message to him from my iphone. Do you know how to get this to stop sending the messages to ourselves? It sends the messages to one another but just also sends it to ourselves.

  23. Ghe says

    Hi. My friend and I were using the same apple id, she is using iphone and i am using itouch. If she turns off imessage on her device will my imessage will turn off too? Or will she’ll be able to see my messages? Thanks!

    • Jean says

      If she turns off her iMessage, it won’t turn yours off, as yours is configured directly on your iPod Touch. I don’t think she would be able to see your messages if she has it turned off, but you could test that out to be sure.

  24. Ben says

    How would I restrict my iMessage to just using wifi? I don’t have enough data to let me use it all the time but when I am at uni I want to use it for better service..

    • Jean says

      I think you can remove your phone number from the settings for iMessage and then just use your Apple ID password. That would be similar to how people use it on an iPod touch, which is only over WiFi. Only different is you can only send text to others who have iMessage when it is set up that way.

  25. Cat says

    Hi! Me and my boyfriend were sharing same Apple ID. He has turned off his iMessage on his iPhone but I have it turned on using my iPad. Do the messages sent using iMessage will still go thru his iPhone even if it’s turned off? Or only on my iPad? And if I reply using imessage on my iPad, will it go thru his phone or not anymore ? His phone number is checked over the Send and Receive thing on the iMessage setting on my iPad This confused me! Thanks!

  26. Brenda says

    My husband and I got our 13 yr old an iPhone but do feel we need to monitor his text messages. How can we set it up to where they’ll also come to our iPad? That’d be easier and help us avoid the arguing that ensues by asking to see the phone (plus a kid could just delete the messages before we see them if there was something inappropriate on there).

  27. Nancy says

    this is great news and I can’t wait to try it…The nice thing about the iPad is ability to access educational websites and also download books to use as a Kindle…I wanted to be able to disable the iMessage simply to keep my daughter from being distracted during the time she is supposed to be dong school work. We also have the rule of knowing that we will be checking their messages….If something has been deleted, (we always seem to find out) the device is taken away…it’s simple.

  28. James says

    I know someone is receiving messages on an old device that they now have, how can I stop this without having to have the device right in front of me ???

    • Jean says

      Hi James,
      Hmm that’s a tough one. As far as I know you can’t remotely change the other device. I guess you could try changing your own Apple ID on your device, if its the same one that was being used on the old one. That way new messages would not show up on that other one.

  29. Mike says

    Thanks so much, this is perfect! My 9 year old was getting my text messages, so I disabled iMessages and FaceTime. Instructions were perfect.

  30. Penny says

    My son has an iPhone5. I don’t mind him being able to text, but I do not want him to receive/send, pictures, videos, or live chats. Through Verizon, I can remove the ability to do that, but because of the iMessage feature, he can get around that with other apple product users. If I turn off iMessage under restrictions, will my son still be able to text his friends?

    • Jean says

      Hi Penny, I think if you restrict iMessage he can still text other people who have phones and don’t rely only on iMessage. For example he could text another iPhone user (since that’s a phone) or any other type of cell phone, but not another iPod user (because that only uses iMessage, not SMS text messages).

  31. Tamara Smith says

    Is there a way to disable “delete” on iMessage? I want to make sure that whatever my daughter writes (and whatever she receives) I can see. As opposed to her deleting it before I can…

    Thank you!
    Tam

    • Jean says

      Hi Tamara,
      I don’t think that disabling “delete” is possible in iMessage. You might be able to see deleted messages though if you do a Search, which you can do from the Home screen if you swipe to the left. You’d have to know what you’re searching for, like search for a particular name to see if any messages to/from that person.

  32. Candy says

    My husband and I got our 12 yr old an iPhone but do feel we need to monitor her text messages. How can we set it up to where they’ll also come to our iPad? That’d be easier and help us avoid the arguing that ensues by asking to see the phone (plus a kid could just delete the messages before we see them if there was something inappropriate on there).

    • Jean says

      Hi Candy, you can try adding her account name (Apple ID e-mail address) to your iPad imessages account (as I believe you can have more than one) and then you should be able to see her messages too. If she deletes them though they may be deleted from your iPad (I can’t say for sure as I haven’t set it up this way). It’s worth a try!

    • Jean says

      You should still be able to get text messages from other iPhone users if they are using your phone number to text you, and not your Apple ID or e-mail.

  33. Lk says

    Hi Jean,
    My friend would like to borrow my iPad. Is there anyway that i can set a password so she won’t be able to see my imsg? or if i turn it off and put restriction would all the original messages still there if I turn it on again? thanks a lot.

    • Jean says

      If you follow the instructions here, your friend should not be able to see past iMessages. And when you turn it back on they should all still be there. At least that’s what happened when I tested this!

  34. Amy says

    HELP! I did the restriction thing back when she was 13 and need to unrestrict now – but I FORGOT MY PASSWORD and am extremely un computer smart. Please help!

    • Jean says

      Hi Amy,
      Unfortunately, if you have forgotten the restriction passcode there is no easy way to remove restrictions, you’ll have to reset the device. This means you’ll have to add back any apps, music, photos, etc. You don’t want to restore from a backup because the (forgotten) passcode will be part of the backup.

  35. suzanne says

    hi, is there a way that you can stop iMessages from being deleted for good? i understand that you can click the x to remove message but if you click on the more button and delete individual texts and they won’t reappear when you send the next message. How do i prevent that from happening? i want to be able to see all of my daughters text messages not just the ones that she wants us to see

    • Jean says

      Hi Suzanne,
      I don’t think there is a way to do that, unfortunately. There is a service called TeenSafe that I reviewed here, but even then the ability to recover deleted iMessages doesn’t work very well, at least when I tried it.

      • J Smith says

        I subscribed to teensafe and was not at all impressed.
        it did not deliver what it claimed.

  36. Shane says

    This is a great “how to” article. Thanks for the time and effort.

    While iMessage is great kids also know how to hide things from their parents as well. There is absolutely no way to find out if your kids deleted iMessages or not. A text message can be tracked by looking at your cell phone bill and data records at least.

    Again, thanks for the help!

  37. Brenda says

    My son continues to send/receive inappropriate imessages on his iphone 5. After reading the above comments, it appears that disabling imessages is the best route I can take. Do you have any suggestions to assure he doesn’t have a “loophole” I should disable as well?

    • Jean says

      Hi Brenda,
      For an iPhone (as opposed to iPod/iPad), this method won’t work 100%…while you can restrict iMessage (iOS to iOS messages over WiFi) this method won’t prevent regular SMS text messages over 3G. So you may also want to look at any services available through your carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc) that may be available to block/monitor text messages. You may be able to block specific people from sending/receiving, if these inappropriate messages are to/from the same person. Also be aware of any apps on the phone that can be used for messaging such as Kik, Oovoo, Tango, IM+, WhatsApp….

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