Family Sharing: A Complete Guide

Is your family an Apple family?

If your family is fully stocked with iPhone, iPods, Macs, and Apple Watches then you should probably know about Family Sharing.

Family Sharing is great for a number of reasons. First, it’s useful literally just for sharing things. You can share iBooks, music, and App Store purchases amongst family members without having to share an account.

You can also save money by using Family Sharing. If you add a family member to your Apple Music Account, you can do so for $14.99 a month and share it with 5 other people for free. A single membership costs $9.99 a month, so it’s easy to see the money saved!

You can use Family Sharing to stay connected with the rest of your family by sharing a family calendar and even sharing photos.

Finally, you can pay for your kid’s purchases with one credit card, and approve your kid’s spending from your own device. It makes the whole process much easier.

All you need to do this with your family is an Apple ID that you use with iCloud and iTunes, and an iOS device running iOS 8 or later or a Mac running OSX Yosemite or later.

How To Start Sharing

Family Sharing works off family groups. Basically, one person, usually the adult, becomes the family organizer. They set up Family Sharing of the group and agree to pay for purchases initiated by group members.

To start the process, follow these steps:

1. Open up the Settings app. Tap on the iCloud section.

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2. Next, tap Set Up Family Sharing, and tap Get Started when prompted.

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3. This will take you through the set up process. You will need to confirm that you want to be the family organizer and that you are signing up on your own Apple ID. You may need to input a payment method. Apple accepts most credit card and some debit cards.

It’s just as easy to set this up from a Mac:

1. Under the System Preference app, select iCloud.

2. Simply click Set Up Family, and follow the instructions.

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In order for someone to be a part of your family group, they must first accept an invitation to be a part of said group.

You can invite anyone as long as they have an Apple ID and are running iOS 8 or later/OSX Yosemite or later. If you don’t know how to make an Apple ID, skip down to the next section, where we teach you how to make one!

To invite people on iOS, follow these steps:

1. Open up settings, and tap iCloud.

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2. Tap the Family section.

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3. And then tap Add Family Member.

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4. Then, enter your family member’s email address. If they are in your contacts, you should be able to simply enter their name.

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If you’re doing this same process on a Mac, follow these instructions. It’s a very similar process.

1. Open up System Preferences and enter the iCloud section.

2. Click on Manage Family.

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3. Then, in the column to the left, click the + button.

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You can now enter the email of your family member.

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Once you’ve sent the invitation, you can go back and look at the status of your invitation by clicking their name.

To do this, follow these steps:

Open up Settings or System Preferences. Enter the iCloud section as normal.

Then, on iOS device, tap Family. On a Mac, click Manage Family.

Click on the name of the person you’ve invited. You can see whether or not they’ve accepted your invitation. There is also a button to resend the invitation if you need to.

How To Join A Family Group

If you have an invitation pending, there are a few ways to accept the invitation and join the family group.

1. If you have a pending invitation on iOS, go to Settings, then iCloud, then tap Invitations. You should be able to accept from here.

2. If you’re on a mac, open up your System Preferences, and open the iCloud section. Then, under Manage Family, you’ll find the pending invitation, which you can then accept.

3. If you received an email inviting you to be a part of a Family Group, you can accept the invitation right from your email. It will walk you through the steps required to join the group.

The instructions you receive when you’re joining a Family Group are pretty straight forward, but here is an overview of what is expected from you:

1. You will need to confirm your Apple ID and Password. If you need to create an Apple ID for your child, read on, we cover that next.

2. You will need to decide whether or not you share you content (documents, pictures, etc.) and if so, which Apple ID the content will be shared from.

3. You will be asked whether or not you want to share your location with your family members. Should you choose to share your location, your location would show up in your Family Member’s Find My Friends app. More on this later.

If you are unable to join the family group, make sure that you are not already a part of an Apple family group. You are only allowed to be in one at a time.

How To Create An Apple ID For A Child

In order to be a part of a family group, you need to have an Apple ID. These days, many children have Apple products, however if you’re under 13 you’re not allowed to create an Apple ID on your own.

However, to get around this, a family organizer can give parental consent and create an Apple ID on their child’s behalf. You can also edit you child’s personal information such as date of birth, security questions, and more.

In order to prove you’re the parent, you’ll need to provide the CVV for your credit, a verification code sent via text message, or a security method from whatever form of payment you use.

Once you create the Apple ID for your child, your email will be used as the rescue email.

The Apple ID you create for your child can be used for any Apple device as they grow up.

To create an Apple ID on iOS, follow these steps:

1. Open up Settings, and tap on iCloud. Tap on Family, just as before.

2. Right at the bottom is the option to Create An Apple ID For A Child. Tap the blue text to continue.

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3. Firstly, you’ll need to enter your child’s birthday. Make sure to enter the right date, as it’s used for parental controls amongst other things.

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4. You’ll need to review the Parent Privacy Disclosure and Agree to it.

5. Next you’ll input the payment information discussed above. You need to have payment info on file for this to work.

6. Next, type in your child’s name and create their Apple ID. This will be username@icloud.com. Make sure to make it something reasonably professional, as they may keep the Apple ID for a long time.

7. You can then set up a password and security questions, in case your need to find a forgotten password. It’s best to make the questions easy to answer for both parent and child.

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On a Mac, you employ much the same directions, save for a few details.

1. Under System Preferences, enter iCloud, and click Manage Family.

2. Then, click the + button to add a family member. Select the Create An Apple ID For A Child bubble, and click Continue.

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3. Follow the same directions as above for iOS.

Managing your child’s account is made fairly intuitive by Apple in an effort to make their products more family orientated.

If the child is under 13, Ask To Buy is automatically on. This means that your children cannot make purchases without the parent/guardian’s approval.

To be honest, it’s not a bad idea to keep it on, but you can turn it on and off by tapping your child’s name in the Family/Manage Family sections of Setting/System Preferences.

To make another family member a parent/guardian, tap their name in the Family/Manage Family section.

You can then enable Parent/Guardian. Then, they too will be able to approve purchases.

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What Can You Share With Family Sharing?

As long as you have Share My Purchases turned on, you can share almost all the content your buy using your Apple ID. This means:

  • Movies and TV Shows from the iTunes Store
  • Books from iBooks Store.
  • Most apps from the App Store.
  • If you have Apple Music, you can pay $5 more per month to share your membership with up to six people.
  • Any music you download from iTunes can be shared.
  • Sometimes, the availability will vary depending on which country you’re residing in.

To find out whether or not an app is shareable, follow these steps:

1. Open the App Store on your iOS device.

2. Find the app you want to download and share.

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3. Under Information, you can find the Family Sharing details. If Family Sharing is enabled, it will simply say Yes beside Family Sharing.

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Things You Can’t Share

  • Songs that weren’t purchased through iTunes cannot be shared. However, you could probably just share the original copy, so that’s not a big deal.
  • Student Apple Music member cannot be shared, as they are already discounted.
    Ringtones cannot be shared.
  • You can also hide purchases from family members, so these purchases won’t be shared.

Sharing Your Location via Family Sharing

One of the features that Family Sharing has integrated is the ability to share locations with members of the family group. This has obvious uses for keeping tabs on children, however it can also be useful for finding each other in large places.

In order for this to work, your iCloud account needs to be part of a family, Find My Friends should be turned on, and Location Services need to be turned on.

To start sharing your location, follow these steps:

1. Open up the Settings App, and tap on iCloud, much as before.

2. Scroll down to find the Share My Location option under the Advanced tab.

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3. Then, slide the Share My Location slider to the right to turn it on.

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4. If you have multiple devices under the same Apple ID, tap the From button, and you can choose which device to share your location from.

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You location should now be shared with your family members through the Find My Friends app. In order to see the location of the your family members, open the Find My Friends app tap their names.

If you don’t see them, they may have chosen not to share their location at that time, if at all.
To turn off this feature, simply go back into the Family setting in iCloud and slide the slider to it’s Off position.

Cool Things You Can Do With Family Sharing

So far, we’ve only covered how to set up Family Sharing, but you may not know about all the great features the Family Sharing provides. Here are a few of our favourite features.

Shared Photo Albums

If you’ve ever been on a trip with you family, you’ll know what everybody take a thousand pictures. Have you ever wanted to compile all those pictures into one photo album? Family Sharing makes that easy!

Once Family Sharing is turned on and all the members are added, Photos automatically sets up a shared album on all family member’s iOS devices.

In the same way that you would add photos and videos to any album, you can add photos and videos to this shared album. Everyone gets notified when someone adds a photo, and everyone can comment on the pictures.

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Set Up Family Calendar

As soon as you start adding family members to your group, the Calendar app sets up a family calendar. It’spossibly one of the most useful features, as it is one of the most flexible and customizable.

Anyone can change events, appointments and even get alerts when something has been change. Anyone can add events and anyone can delete them.

To use the Calendar, simply add events as normal but then choose to share them with family. For example:

1. Try adding an event to your Calendar.

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2. Click the small button in the top right corner of the event bubble, and select Family. This adds it to the family calendar, and anyone in your family group will be able to see it.

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If you want to change the time, date or name, just go ahead and do it and it will be updated automatically.

Set Up Reminders For The Whole Family

Again, this is so useful! There should have been a way to do this long ago.

If you don’t use Apple’s Reminders app, you should give it a try. They’ve made great improvements to it and it works very well with Siri.

It also works seamlessly with Family Sharing. To set up a family reminder, follow these steps.

1. Open up Reminders. On the left hand side are the different categories of Reminders, one of them should be Family. Click the Family button.

2. Add a reminder as you normally would.

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3. The reminder will now show up as a notification on everybody’s phone! Anyone can change it or mark it as Done.

Help A Family Member Find Their Lost Device

Find My iPhone is great, but it’s not nearly as great if you’ve lost your only Apple device. Thankfully, Family Sharing makes this much easier.

If you have Find My iPhone turned on (which you should) and are part of a family group where other family members have agreed to share their location, you can track down another member’s missing device.

The devices appear in list form in the Find My iPhone app.

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You Can Hide Media From Family Members

It’s probably obvious that not everything needs to be shared all the time. Could be a book or even some music that you don’t want to share for whatever reason. That is well within your rights, and Apple has included the ability to hide purchases and media.

To hide a purchase follow these steps.

1. Tap the App Store app on your iOS device. Tap the Updates menu in the bottom right corner.

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2. Then, tap the Purchased section at the top of the page.

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3. Tap My Purchases.

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4. Here, you’ll see a list of every app you’ve ever purchased. Swipe left until the Hide button appears.

5. Tap the Hide button. This will hide the purchase from family members forever.

You can do the same thing with a specific album, song and book. Just go to Purchased and hide the media.

Sometimes, you’ll need to unhide an app. For instance, if you had deleted a hidden app, you would need to unhide in order to re-download it.

Follow these steps to unhide a purchase:

1. Open iTunes on a desktop or laptop computer.

2. In the toolbar, click on Account. Click on View My Account.

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3. Scroll down to iTunes in the Cloud. Click on Manage beside the Hidden Purchases section.

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4. This will take you to a screen with all of your hidden apps. Simply click Unhide to unhide an app. You can also click Unhide All in the bottom right hand corner to do all of them at once.

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5. You can switch between Music, Movies, Tv Shows, Apps, and Audiobook and unhide any one of them.

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Tips For Using Family Sharing

There are a few things you should know before you start Family Sharing, some might be obvious, and others are a little more tricky.

  • Media bought by another family member is not usually streamed

This one would have taken you a while to figure out. While it would make sense to be able to stream music that somebody else has bought, you need to actually download the tracks to listen to them. It’s not really a big deal, but it would be mildly inconvenient if you didn’t know about it.

  • You can change a normal Apple ID to children’s Apple ID

This one is a bit of a workaround, but if your child created their own Apple ID, or you created one for them without doing it through the child orientated Apple ID setup, you may want to change their account back to that of a child.

  • This way, you can turn on Ask To Buy.

Basically, what you’ll want to do, is go to applied.apple.com, and sign in with your child’s Apple ID. Then, change their birthdate to make them a teenager, but not under 13. This way they can retain their Apple ID, but you can retain some parental control.

  • Purchased are made by one credit card

This is especially important to realize if you’re sharing with a friend instead of a family member. You could suddenly be racking up hundreds of Candy Crush charges, even though you’ve never played the game.

Just something to consider and have a conversation about when you are setting up Family Sharing.

  • In-app purchases are not shared

While app store purchases are often shared, in-app purchases are not. I suppose the game developers just want you to play the game fairly!

  • Anybody in your family group can wipe anyone’s device at any time

One of the annoying things about Family Sharing, is that everyone can do whatever they want on Find My iPhone. It’s completely possible that somebody could accidentally wipe a device they didn’t mean to.

This article originally appeared in our monthly subscription newsletter, iExpertnews.

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January 18, 2017
  • Emmanuel Eshun

    I want to import my data from my iPhone to this computer and download to another phone

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