You tell the kids to share, but does your tech let you? Everyone in your family has an iPhone or iPad, maybe even a Mac, but you don't want to buy multiple copies of Fantastic Mr. Fox to keep the kids occupied during a long drive. Or what about this: Your wife takes the family photos, and you'd like to see snapshots from the recent vacation without her emailing them to you.

Apple's Family Sharing can help. You can share iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases among your family members, as well as share photos and a family calendar. You can even keep track of what your kids want to buy.

Get started with Family Sharing

With Family Sharing, you can share iTunes, iBooks, and App Store items among six family members and approve purchases for anyone under 18.

To take part, each family member needs an Apple ID, and their devices should be running iOS 8 or later or OS X Yosemite or later.

Anyone over 13 can set up an Apple ID, but you need to create one for kids under 13. On an iOS device, go to Settings, iCloud, Family and tap Create an Apple ID for a child to get started. On OS X, choose Apple menu, System Preferences, iCloud, Manage Family and click the add button (+) to get going.

Once family members are ready to go, you -- as the family organizer -- can set up the group, either on an iOS device or a Mac.

From an iOS device:

    1. Go to Settings and iCloud.
    2. Tap Set Up Family Sharing and then tap Get Started.
    3. Confirm that you want to be the family organizer and that you're signed in with your personal Apple ID.
    4. Follow the onscreen instructions.

    From a Mac:

    1. Open System Preferences, and then click iCloud.
    2. Click Set Up Family.
    3. Follow the onscreen directions.

    Once set up, send family members invitations to join, which they accept on their devices. You can resend invitations to family laggards.


    Ask to Buy

    Everyone in the group can download and share content with other family members. Purchases are tied to the organizer's credit card -- which might give you pause -- but you can turn on Ask to Buy for kids' accounts, so that they send you a purchase request, letting you accept or decline purchases before the transaction takes place.


    To turn on Ask to Buy from an iOS device:

    1. Tap Settings, iCloud, Family and then tap your family member's name.
    2. Tap Ask to Buy.

    From a Mac:

    1. Open System Preferences, iCloud.
    2. Click Manage Family and select the family member's name.
    3. Turn on the check box next to Ask to Buy.

    You can designate another adult in family to approve purchases.

    Share photos

    Family members can also share snapshots, via iOS and OS X Photos apps. When you set up Family Sharing, it automatically sets up a shared album in the Photos app on each family member's device. You add photos to the shared album and will be notified when someone added a photo to the shared album.


    Share a calendar

    When you set up Family Sharing, it creates a Family calendar in the Calendar app and includes everyone's accounts. Events and reminders you and other family members add to the Family calendar appear on everyone else's calendar.


    Keep track of everybody ... and every device

    When you join Family Sharing, you'll have the opportunity to share your location with other members. By turning on location sharing, family members can track everyone's locations via the Find My Friends app. A handy perk to having location tracking turned is you can also use Find My iPhone to location a missing device or use Lost Mode to lock it.

    Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.