Block Specific Web Sites in Safari for iOS with a “Never Allow” List

Feb 10, 2014 - 3 Comments

Blocking specific websites in iOS The optional iOS Restrictions settings provides a way to limit access to adult themed websites from Safari on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but for some purposes those default restrictions may not go far enough. For those looking to gain additional control over web access, users will find that individual websites can be added to a “Never Allow” list, thereby blocking access to those sites completely. For example, Facebook.com is typically allowed in the broader iOS Restrictions filters, but by using this additional block list, you could prevent web access to sites like Facebook.com, or any other URL, from the iPhone, iPod itouch, or iPad.

This site-specific blocking feature is an extension of using filtering for preventing adult content in Safari on iOS devices, and is thereby customizable from within the same Restrictions panel:

  1. Open “Settings” and then go to the “General” section
  2. Choose “Restrictions”, then enter the device passcode when asked
  3. Navigate down and tap on the “Websites” option
  4. Choose the ‘Limit Adult Content’ option, this also enables Apple’s own web filters to prevent adult themed material from being accessible in Safari
  5. Look under the “NEVER ALLOW” list, and tap on “Add a Website…”
  6. never-allow-specific-website-ios-safari

  7. Enter the website URL for the site you wish to block access to, for example, blocking Facebook would be done by entering “Facebook.com” in this list
  8. Tap “Done” and add more websites to block, or exit out of Settings to set the change in effect

Block a specific website in Safari for iOS

Sites that are specifically blocked through the “Never Allow” list will become immediately inaccessible, you can confirm this by launching Safari on the iOS device and trying to go to the URL in question.

Attempting to access a blocked website through Safari shows a largely blank page with a message, stating “You cannot browse ‘[URL]’ because it is restricted.”

Accessing a Blocked website in Safari looks like this

Users will find there’s an override option at this same screen to ‘Allow Website’, which requires the device restriction passcode to be entered manually in order to allow that site.

As of now, iOS requires the “Limit Adult Content” option to be enabled in order to block specific websites, and the resulting action is limited to access through the default Safari browser. This is markedly different from OS X, where you can block any website in any and all web browsers through a modification of the system hosts file. Because there is no means of modifying Hosts on the iOS side, this means users who want to block URL’s in other browsers would need to adjust them manually, or simply prevent third party browsers from being installed or run on an iOS device by using wider parental controls for the entire device. Because it would be more educator and parent friendly, it’s reasonably possible that content filtering may arrive at an enhanced level in future releases of iOS, but for the time being the methods outlined above will have to make do.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

3 Comments

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  1. Rob says:

    Is it possible to block say google-analytics and maybe some other tracking and advertising sites with this method? I miss on iOS the possibility to restrict outgoing and incoming traffic (for all apps) – on my MacBook Pro I use Little Snitch. I do NOT use pirated software, I want to make sure I know which app is sending data and where.

    • Paul says:

      No this won’t block advertising, but you can use a different feature to block third party cookies in Safari, try modifying the “From third parties and advertisers” setting as described here:

      http://osxdaily.com/2014/01/17/block-cookies-safari-ios/

      For what it’s worth, we use Google Analytics (as does almost every other web site) and it just keeps anonymous usage data for a site, providing statistics for things like what type of browser is being used, where the geographical interest is, and what’s popular.

  2. Jim says:

    I wish Google would implement blocking on a per-video basis. It’s rare that I come across an entire site I want blocked from my son on his iPad, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube that appear to be kid friendly, but are actually laced with foul language.

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