I‘d like to create separate Apple IDs for my kids, but does this mean I can’t download apps I’ve already purchased on my own iPad onto their used iPads? Do separate Apple IDs mean separate iTunes accounts and that I have to repurchase all the same apps for each device? – Kristen, from Facebook

It can definitely get¬†confusing when you start adding more iTunes users into the mix, and no one wants to have to buy four copies of Starwalk 2¬†just so all your kids can enjoy it. So¬†you’ll be happy to know that with the recent¬†iOS 8 update, there’s a neat feature called Family Sharing¬†that answers that¬†exact question and¬†enables you to share any and all iTunes purchases in a family share circle.

Family Sharing lets¬†up to six family members pass content from iTunes to each other, whether it’s apps, movies, iBooks, TV shows, or music. Such a fantastic (and overdue!)¬†benefit for families like mine, in which¬†my husband and I have made many an app purchase for our kids on each of our separate devices.


How to set up Family Sharing

Fortunately, it’s¬†very simple to get started. After you have downloaded the newest version of iOS 8 (now¬†that all those¬†initial bugs¬†have been ironed out), go to Settings –> iCloud and you’ll see Set Up Family Sharing.

All you need are the email addresses of everyone you’d like to include and they’ll receive an invite. However please¬†note that if you act as the administrator or “Family Organizer,” your own¬†credit card that’s linked to your account will be the one used for future purchases made by anyone in your circle. So you’re taking responsibility for them too.


How to set up Family Sharing so the whole family can use the same apps, no extra purchase

But fear not!¬†There’s an¬†Ask to Buy¬†feature that requires kids’ purchases to be approved before your credit card gets charged–possibly over and over again–for the newest Fruit Ninja, or¬†Minecraft upgrade. A great benefit is that this feature is set as the default for¬†kids under the age of 13, but¬†you can also set it up for kids up to 18.


Adding separate Apple IDs for kids

It’s nice that you can now set up Apple IDs for anyone under the age of 13¬†as well, giving them the autonomy to explore their iOS devices, but still giving parents the security in knowing they aren’t wracking up charges. And you can designate your spouse or someone else responsible in the circle to receive alerts and make approvals on purchases, so you’re not the only one having to decline¬†some Candy Crush in-app purchase right in the middle of a meeting.


Sharing calendars: One of the benefits of the new iOS8  Family Sharing

More Apple Family Sharing Benefits

As a secondary convenience of Family Sharing, you can also share photos and calendars. In my family, we live and breathe by our shared Google calendar, but having the built-in calendar function on our iPhones is very helpful for managing the increasing number of after school activities.

For those of you with older kids who are more independent and find their own way to their after school activities, you may take comfort in the shared GPS functionality that lets you see where everyone in your circle currently is.


There have been some complaints about all purchases being made with a single credit card, but those seem to be minor rumblings for me. (You are getting to share those apps for free, after all.) But of course the benefits of Family Sharing really depend on who you include. Your circle can just be you and your younger kids, for the main purpose of being able to swap content across devices, approve purchases and keep everything contained on one credit card. Or consider it as a smart option for those (like my own parents) who are not avid downloaders, but want to see all the recent kid photos in the shared photo album or want a particular paid app just to communicate with the kids.

Of course if you have an app-happy aunt who likes to try¬†every¬†new app and and¬†flick on iTunes, then ¬†maybe it’s best to share photos separately and have her continue to fund¬†her own mobile¬†media¬†habit.


The bottom line is the ease in which iOS 8 Family Sharing allows people to spread the love when it comes to favorite content. And if it eliminates the hassles of juggling different Apple IDs and devices, then all the more reason for trying it out.

Check out the Apple website for more information on the iOS 8 Family Sharing feature. 

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