Keep your Child’s Location Private: How to turn off Location Services

I’m being asked a lot about Instagram and wrote about it recently. One recommendation I made was to turn off Location Services on your kid’s mobile device, to prevent Instagram from automatically tagging a photo with a geographic location.

Why turn off Location Services?

In a word, safety.  Location Services makes is easy for your child to broadcast their location.  This could happen unknowingly or on purpose.  If they have privacy settings set correctly in Instagram, Facebook, or other apps, this might not be too important as only friends will see their location.  However, many kids (and adults) don’t take the time or don’t understand the privacy settings (I’m trying to change this!) and so they may be revealing their location to strangers.  Unfortunately there are predators out there. And you don’t want to make it any easier for them to locate your children.

How to turn off Location Services on iPod touch, iPad or iPhone

You can turn off Location Services completely, or on an app-by-app basis.

** Location Services settings are now located under the Privacy option as of iOS 6.  **

1. Go to SettingsPrivacyLocation Services.

Privacy under General - Settings   Location Services under Privacy


2. Use the top slider to turn location services on or off for all apps.  If you choose to have Location Services on, as shown here, you can still turn them off for each app.   Notice that I have Camera set to “Off”.  This is to prevent geographical tagging of the photos my daughter takes with the iPod camera.

Location Services turned on with individual apps turned off

*Note that the options in this screenshot are greyed-out.  This is because I have set restrictions on the iPod to prevent changes to these settings.  More on that below.

When to keep Location Services on

Some apps require a location to function and be useful.   For example, the Google map app is going to need your location to give you accurate driving directions.  The Weather app can give you the forecast for your current location.

How to decide? I recommend turning most of them off to start.  Ask yourself, why does this app need a geographical location? If you can’t think of a reason, turn it off.   If you find an app becomes useless without location information, then turn it back on.

How can I prevent my child from changing the Location Services settings?

Let’s say you go through the steps above to prevent Instagram or other apps from using Location information.   You can then set a restriction to prevent changes to those settings.

1. Go to SettingsGeneralRestrictions.

Restrictions under General Settings

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

3. Scroll down to Privacy and click on Location Services.

4. Make any changes to Location settings for the apps listed.  Then, put a check mark next to Don’t Allow Changes.

Restricting Location Services - Don't Allow Changes

Now these settings are saved and locked.

I recommend taking a look at your child’s iPod or iPad from time to time to review the Location settings.  And as always talk with your kids about why you are doing this! They might not even realize the capabilities of the device and why it is important to keep this private.

More on Location Services and geotagging:

Location Services Safety tips from Yahoo Safely

Use location services more safely from Microsoft Safety & Security Center

GPS Tracking: Should Your Teens Use Location Services? from Common Sense Media

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

[This article was originally published July 2012, updated January 2013 to reflect changes in iOS 6, and updated January 2014.  As of January 2014, iOS7 is the current Apple version.  While these screenshots show iOS6, the instructions are the same for iOS7.]


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  1. denises says

    What about for finding my ipod? I went to turn off the location services and was prompted that this would not be available if I did.

    • Jean says

      They key is you want to leave location services ON but then turn it OFF on an app-by-app basis. That way it will still work for Find my iPod.

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