iCloud Family Sharing – Part 1

Maybe you’re one of the many people who know about iCloud Family Sharing, but if you’re not, well, I can’t wait to share with you how insanely great it is at keeping your digital family together!
📸 Apple

If you’re taking advantage of many of Apple’s service offerings, then you have likely encountered some frustrating moments when it comes to music or TV shows and movies purchased on iTunes, apps that you swear by that cost a few bucks (where you wanted your spouse to have the same app and he/she had to pay for it a second time). I’ve been there, too, and I know how confusing it can be to get your head around how it all fits together. Let’s take a look at what iCloud Family Sharing is first, and then we’ll unpack it in greater detail.

What is Family Sharing?

Family Sharing is an iCloud service provided by Apple as a FREE way for you to manage everything that happens with your devices and AppleID account(s) under one roof. Family Sharing allows up to six people (family members) to share:

  • iCloud purchases from:
    • iTunes Store
    • App Store
    • iBooks Store
  • Photos
  • Family Calendar
  • Reminders
  • & more!

I hear horror stories of families who have a few iPhones and/or iPads and use the same AppleID on each, which can work in very rare circumstances, but it’s not something I would advise you do even if you are in that rare group. By using the same AppleID on different devices (unless you’re the only one to use those devices), you will have your text messages, phone calls, and other personal information fed to all devices registered to that AppleID.

With that said, each person in your family should create their own AppleID account. With Family Sharing, one person (the “Organizer”) manages the activity within the family and controls payments and restrictions/access on certain devices.

Now that you have a better idea of what Family Sharing is,

there’s some people I want you to meet!


iCloud Family Sharing explained
📸 Apple
Meet the Parker family!

The Parker family is a made-up family, created by Apple for their website, so we’re going to use them in our examples. Derek is the dad and he just got a HUGE bonus at work, so he bought himself and his whole family a bunch of Apple devices. Derek, Emily (Derek’s wife), Meg and Jimmy each got a brand new iPhone 7 and sweet little Olivia got an iPod touch with Beats headphones. In addition, Derek and Emily got themselves an iPad Pro and bought an iPad Air 2 for Meg and Jimmy, while letting Olivia pick out a Gold iPad mini. To sync all of these devices, he rationalized that they had to buy a 21.5″ iMac! There was still a few bucks left over from his bonus check, so he also picked up a 32GB Apple TV and a couple of 42mm Series 2 Apple Watches for he and Emily!*

Now that the Parker family is equipped with the latest and greatest tools, they are ready to get fully connected with Family Sharing.

It’s important to understand that, with Family Sharing on your Apple devices, you will have one adult in your family (like Derek in our example) who will begin the setup, thus making him the “Organizer” for Family Sharing. Before Derek starts the setup, he sees an introduction screen giving him a brief overview of what he can expect to do with Family Sharing, like what we discussed in the beginning of this post.


First, Derek is going to be asked to add a photo which will be used to visually identify him within the Family Sharing screens you encounter. This is completely optional, but take it from me: It’s so much better to see faces in iMessages on your devices or in emails, etc, when you take the extra sixty seconds to find and add a picture to their contact info. It’s so much more visually appealing than those grey silhouette “mystery person” icons. I don’t add a contact or family member to my address book or account without having a picture of them. Yes, if I’m not friends with them on social media or have a picture of them already in my phone, I find one. (OCD).




📸 Apple

In the next screen, Derek is going to be asked to authorize future members in his “family” to make purchases using the card he’ll set up in the next step.

Now, Derek can begin to “invite” up to five additional members of his family. In doing this, he is authorizing these users and their future purchases of iTunes music, iBooks, and app purchases (including In-App Purchases made within free apps). When Emily, Meg, Jimmy, and Olivia accept the Family Sharing invitations they received, their devices will automatically be set up to begin using the features.


A great tool for keeping track of the whereabouts of Derek’s children is “Location Sharing,” which he will enable in this next step:

Once Location Sharing is enabled, Derek can now begin to add family members.

📸 Apple

Derek will be able to search his Contacts or type the email/phone number of the person he’d like to add (if they’re not in his Contacts). Apple will ask him to enter the Security code on the card used for Family Sharing purchases to verify that he is the Organizer. He will then repeat this step until he has added each member of his family, and then he’s done!

Each family member will receive an email and a “push” notification on their device alerting them that they have been added to a “family.” At this point, each of the family members’ activity will be linked to the Organizer’s account and all purchases made going forward will be charged to the Organizer’s credit card on file. Any purchases made going forward, as well, will be visible and available for download by other family members at no additional charge!

Next week, we will take a deeper look at what content sharing looks like among family members and how to manage Purchase permissions for younger children.

As usual, if you need further clarification about any of the steps we’ve addressed, please feel free to leave a comment here and I will reply within an hour!


*In case you’re like me and wanted to do the math, here’s how much the Parker family spent at the Apple Store:



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