Family Sharing Simplifies Sharing Purchases & Managing Your Kids

Family life is all about togetherness, but keeping track of who’s doing what when can be tough. Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it easy to share apps, media, and more within a family of up to six members, and it provides a few helpful digital housekeeping capabilities, such as locating your kid’s misplaced iPad. Here’s an overview of how Family Sharing can enhance your family’s everyday life, both online and in the real world.

Manage Your Kids’ Purchases

Every Family Sharing group has an organizer. That person (probably you) sets up the family on a Mac in System Preferences > iCloud and connects a credit card to the account to pay for all App Store, iTunes Store, and iBooks Store purchases of apps, music, TV shows, videos, and ebooks.

For any child under the age of 18 in the group, you can turn on Ask to Buy. This feature lets your kid shop for apps or media, but complete a purchase only if you approve it. Ask to Buy also applies to free downloads so you can maintain control over free games. You can give other adults in your family the ability to approve Ask to Buy requests.

Share Apps, Media, and More

To help you keep costs down, once someone in the family has purchased an app or media file, anyone else in the family can download it. Keep in mind that some apps don’t allow such sharing and in-app purchases can’t be shared. Helpfully, you can hide some or all purchases from other family members.

You can also buy a family subscription to Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service. At $14.99 per month for a family instead of $9.99 per person, it’s a good deal.

Family Sharing creates a few items that all group members can access on their Apple devices:

  • A shared Family album appears in the Photos app, making it easy to build a common set of photos. You can designate the Family album as a screensaver on your Mac or Apple TV.
  • A shared Family calendar in the Calendar app helps track those basketball games and piano recitals that everyone needs to know about.
  • A shared Family list in the Reminders app has many possible uses, such as a grocery list with location-based alerts or a chore list with timed alerts.

Find Your Children (and Their Devices)

Family Sharing simplifies the setup and usage of two key Apple services related to finding things.

All family members automatically become “friends” in Apple’s Find My Friends app. This bundled app shows where everyone is on a map (more specifically, it shows where their primary device is). We find this feature helpful for determining when someone is likely to be home for dinner or for a teenager to see that a parent is en route to a pickup. If you need privacy briefly, you can temporarily stop sharing your location.

You won’t need the Find My iPhone app—which shows the location of all your family’s Apple devices, including the tiny AirPods—on a daily basis. But when your tween isn’t sure whether he dropped his iPhone on the bus or in the museum, it’s a godsend. You can also use Find My iPhone to play a sound on a missing device (in case it’s in the couch), put a message on it, or even erase the device entirely.

Family Sharing may not do everything you’d want, like share entire Photos libraries or contact lists, but it’s a boon for any household whose members use a variety of Apple devices.

Share Photos via iCloud Photo Sharing

Thanks to the iPhone, everyone takes photos on vacation these days, and while you probably don’t want to share all of them, friends and relatives might like to see a Best Of collection. Or you might wish to share baby photos with your family or pictures of your new city with friends back home.

With iCloud, it’s easy to create a shared album, invite other iCloud users to subscribe to it (handy for viewing on an iOS device or Apple TV, in particular), and to create a public Web page of the photos that anyone can see, even if they don’t use any Apple devices.

First, some setup:

  • On an iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and turn on the iCloud Photo Sharing switch.
  • On a Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud, click the Options button next to Photos, select iCloud Photo Sharing, and click the Done button.iCloud-Photo-Sharing-switch

Next, follow these steps, which are similar regardless of the device you’re using:

  1. In the Photos app, select some photos or videos. In iOS, that involves tapping Select before tapping the items to select; on the Mac, just Command-click the items you want, or drag a selection rectangle around them.
  2. Hit the Share iCloud-Photo-Sharing-Share-button-144 button, and then pick iCloud Photo Sharing.
  3. Select an existing album or create a new shared album.
  4. For a new album, provide a name, enter the names or email addresses of any iCloud users with whom you want to share the album, and add an optional comment.
  5. When you’re done, tap Post in iOS or click Create on the Mac.iCloud-Photo-Sharing-new-album

To add more photos, repeat those steps to select photos and then add them to a shared album. Alternatively, start with the shared album, though the steps vary slightly between iOS and the Mac:

  • In Photos for iOS, if necessary, back out of the view until you see the Shared button in the toolbar. Tap Shared and select the shared album. Then tap the + button, select the items to add, tap Done, enter an optional comment, and tap Post.
  • In Photos for the Mac, in the sidebar, select the shared album in the Shared category. Then click “Add photos and videos,” select the items to add, and click the Add button.

It’s easy to tweak the options for your shared album or to create a public Web page for it. The process is again similar in both operating systems:

  • In Photos for iOS, tap Shared in the toolbar and select the shared album. Tap People to bring up a screen where you can share the album with more people, control whether subscribers can post their own photos, create a public Web page, enable notifications, and delete the album entirely. To share the URL to the public Web page, tap Share Link and select a sharing method.iCloud-Photo-Sharing-details
  • In Photos for the Mac, select the shared album in the sidebar, and then click the People iCloud-Photo-Sharing-People-button  button in the toolbar. From the popover that appears, you can do the same things as in iOS, although sharing the link is best done by either clicking it to visit it in a Web browser and then copying from there or Control-clicking it and choosing Copy Link from the contextual menu.

After practicing these steps a few times, you’ll be able to create shared albums in a flash, and share them easily.

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