Here’s the scenario – you’re sitting in the bleachers at your daughter’s basketball game. Her younger sister is sitting next to you and says “Mommy, I’m bored. Can I play a game on your phone?” You hand over your iPhone and the little one starts happily playing Angry Birds. You go back to watching the game. Next thing you know, she’s closed out of Angry Birds, scrolling through your camera roll, and all your apps are rearranged. Argh!
Did you know there is a feature on your iPhone that lets you prevent this scenario from happening? You can use Guided Access to temporarily lock down your iPhone to one app. Guided access also disables the hardware buttons (the “Home” button) so your child can’t return to the Home screen. No more deleting mommy’s apps!
Guided Access is one of the Accessibility options on iPhones, iPads and iPod touch. It can be used as a temporary parental control tool. I wouldn’t recommend using it on your child’s own iPod or device – if you’ve trusted them enough to give them the device you shouldn’t need to lock it down to this extent. But Guided Access can be handy for these one-off situations.
[This post was originally published in 2013 after Guided Access was first introduced in iOS6 – these are updated instructions and screenshots.]
Using Guided Access is a three-step process:
- Enable Guided Access on your phone.
- Start a Guided Access session when needed with a triple-click.
- End the Guided Access session with a triple-click and passcode or Touch ID to return to normal device usage.
How to Enable Guided Access to lock down your iPhone
1. Go to Settings> General > Accessibility.
2. Scroll down to Learning and select Guided Access.
3. Turn Guided Access from Off to On.
4. Tap Passcode Settings. This is the passcode you will use to get out of a Guided Access session. *It is very important that you remember this passcode!*
For example when ‘lil sis tires of Angry Birds she’ll give you back your iPhone and you’ll use this passcode to return to normal iPhone behavior. You could use the same passcode you’ve used if you set restrictions, to keep things simple. Just make sure to choose a 4-digit number that you’ll remember and your child won’t guess.
If your device is Touch ID-enabled, you can also use your fingerprint to end Guided Access.
5. Go back to the Guided Access screen and tap Time Limits. Decide what sound to play when the Guided Access session is about to end (if you enable that feature, which I’ll explain below). You can choose a sound to play, or have the remaining time spoken out loud, or both. (Sorry, the “Hello” sound is not sung by Adele!)
Now you’re ready to use guided access.
How to use Guided Access to restrict your phone to one app
Now that you’ve enabled Guided Access your device (and by the way this works on iPad, and iPod touch as well as iPhone) you can start guided access when needed. Here’s how to safely hand over your device to the little one.
1. Open the app you want to run. I’m opening Colorfy, a coloring book app.
2. Now triple-click the Home button. This will bring up the Guided Access screen.
3. With your finger circle any areas on the screen you’d like to disable. This would come in handy if you’d like to prevent your child from some of the functionality of an app. For example you could disable just the menu options if you don’t want your child to navigate or save anything within an app.
4. Click Options. You have the following options:
- Lock down the sleep/wake button.
- Disable volume controls.
- Disable motion (for example in games where you might change the orientation of the screen).
- Disable keyboards.
- Disable touch – this could be handy if you are sharing an app that plays video, and you don’t want your kiddo to touch the screen and navigate to another video.
- Set time limit – set a time limit for how long the app can be used.
5. Then click Start in the upper-right of the screen.
How to get out of Guided Access
1. If you’ve set a time limit, you will see a warning (and hear a sound, if you set one) about 30 seconds before time’s up. Once time is up, you’ll see a screen like this:
2. As instructed, triple-click the Home button, then enter the passcode you set up for Guided Access.
You can choose to end the session any time before the time is up, by triple-clicking the home button. You can supposedly use Touch ID to end the session as well, but this did not work consistently for me.
I also notice that once you use Guided Access for an app, the next time you use it, you may not be presented with the options. For example, if you let junior watch YouTube for 5 minutes, and then time is up so you open Angry Birds, you may not have the option to set a different time limit. I found that the only way to do that, was to go back to Accessibility settings, turn Guided Access OFF, and then turn it on again. Kind of annoying if you ask me, I’d like to be able to set a different time limit each time without having to visit the main Settings.
3. Select End in the top-left of the screen. Or, select Resume to allow your child continue.
And that’s it! You can now use Guided Access to lock down your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch as an occasional boredom buster without fear of little fingers wreaking havoc.
More about Guided Access: