Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Setting up Apple Family Share

As a follow up to my previous post on Setting Up an iPhone for Kids, some asked how to set up Apple Family Sharing. I stayed away from this in the previous post because it can be complex and confusing. Enough folks asked I thought I would write it up.

First up, you have some decisions to make. There are actually two places for your Apple ID - your iCloud account and your iTunes account. They are both Apple ID's but you CAN make them different or the same. First, what are they?

iCloud - This is the account listed on your phone under Settings - iCloud. This controls where and how you back up your phone and data. Think of it as your personal stuff that you create (picture you take, notes you write, your contacts, etc.)

iTunes - This is the account listed on your phone under Settings - iTunes & App Store. It is listed at the top. Chances are unless you are a techie it is the exact same account as your iCloud Account. Think of this as stuff you buy in the iTunes Store. Adele's new Album, Star Wars Movies, and anything else is tied to this account. What you buy on this account is yours.

Most people I've seen use one of three possible choices (I recommend #3 so if you want to skip there, feel free):

1. Create One Apple ID for the family and use it for both iCloud and iTunes on all devices. This is super easy to set up because one account and one password! The problem here is also one set of data you create and purchase, across the entire family. If Thing One buys Pretty Little Liars, it shows up on your phone, if Mama purchases another smutty book, it shows up on your phone. Same goes for their contacts and calendar entries, everything is shared! I'm a big believer in personal space so this isn't a valid option for our family.

2. Create One Apple ID for each family member. Use this different one for each iCloud account but use the SAME account for iTunes. We did this for a long time. Anything you create has a personal space but anything you buy is shared. This allowed us to avoid conflicting contacts and calendars but allowed one big account for purchases (App Store Games are only bought once!). We did this for years but eventually as the girls wanted their own accounts, this wasn't going to fly. For some reason our tastes in music are different...

3. Create One Apple ID for each family member. Use this different account for both iCloud and iTunes and create an iCloud Family Share.  While it can be complicated to setup, it is worth it. Since I already had an Apple account for each person in the family, I set myself as the Organizer and added everyone to iCloud Family Sharing and made sure their Apple ID was also used for iTunes. The Organizer can also share a payment method and purchases across the family. If your child is under 13, check this out for details on how to handle that and also how to do purchase approval for minors. It turns out since I already created my accounts before Family Sharing existed, they treat them like adults and not children. But, if you are starting out, take the time to set up your kids properly so you can take advantage of the extra payment approval options

NOTE: When you set up Apple Family Sharing, the default payment by the Organizer is the ONLY way to pay. At first I didn't like this because our oldest was actually managing her own account and payments and now she has to go through me. We have adjusted over time but know that BEFORE you decide to do it as that wasn't clear to me from Apple.

TIP: You can add gift cards or Apple Allowance to each child's account as well. It is even possible to pay them monthly or on a recurring basis this way. Apple iTunes credits apply before a purchase so that is good way to teach them responsibility as well (Thank Caroline McCrory for the tip!)

What if you are currently Option #1 or #2 and want to move to #3?

I was Sharing an iTunes Account (Option #2) but moved to Family Sharing (Option #3). It is possible but takes a little time and patience. If you still want to share purchases to everyone, this has to be enabled on each account. Right now none of us share our purchases but we are trying to talk Thing One into sharing hers because she has all the good music. To share your purchases with the family, go to Settings - iCloud - Family - (Touch on You) and enable Share My Purchases. There is no granularity here so ANYTHING you purchase will be shared with the family, you have been warned.

Anything not clear? Let me know...

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