How to: Corral Your Kid with Guided Access on iOS

Guided Access is a parent's best friend when your toddler wants to use your phone or tablet to play games or watch videos

Guided Access is a parent's best friend when your toddler wants to use your phone or tablet to play games or watch videos
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My toddler loves playing with my iPad, but he’s still learning the ropes when it comes to technology. Rather than worry about him deleting an important email or sending emails filled with gobbledygook, I’m able to let him play games without watching him. How? A little-known, but powerful feature called Guided Access.

Introduced with iOS 6, Guided Access allows you to lock down your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to a single app. You can even set specific areas of the screen that can be used.

Turning Guided Access On

By default, Guided Access is disabled in iOS 6. To enable it, you’ll need to go to the Settings app then to General. At the very bottom of the General settings, select the Accessibility section, then under Learning tap Guided Access to set it up.

Currently there are three settings you can configure: turning Guided Access itself on or off, setting a passcode for Guided Access, and enabling screen sleep.

My suggestion is to enable both Guided Access and screen sleep. The screen sleep feature may help save you some battery life. It will automatically dim your screen after a certain period of inactivity.

Don’t forget to set a memorable passcode (you’ll need it to escape Guided Access when your toddler is done playing). If you don’t set a passcode, then triple-tapping the Home button will escape Guided Access mode. (And trust me, my toddler was trying to do that after only a couple times watching me do it.)

Using Guided Access From An App

Okay, now that it’s turned on, how do you actually use it within a specific app? To activate it, simply press the Home button three times in succession (the Home button is the single button on the front “bottom” of the device in portrait orientation.) The app will zoom out and the Guided Access frame will appear around it to let you set it up.

From this screen, you have a few options:

You can select specific areas of the screen you want to disable. (For instance, if there are parts of the app that allow you to access the app’s settings or to make in-app purchases.) To select specific areas, simply drag your finger around them to create a basic shape. You can modify the shape or delete it afterwards if it isn’t quite what you wanted.
You can disable Touch actions altogether (great for turning it into a TV).
You can also disable the motion sensor separately.

Once you’ve got the settings you want (in many cases, you probably won’t need to change a thing), simply hit the Start button in the upper right to start Guided Access. (Or hit the Cancel button to … well, you get it.)

How Do I Get Out?

Once your toddler has grown bored of their game/book/video, you’ll obviously want to catch up on your Facebook feed. How do you get out of their app? Simply tap the Home button three times and whisper, “There’s no place like home…” Okay, maybe not that last bit – simply tap the Home button three times (in rapid succession) and enter the passcode. (You did set a passcode earlier, right?)

Your Mileage May Vary

In my experience, this system works great 97% of the time. In one or two rare cases, Guided Access would not unlock when I hit the Home button three times. In those cases, I had to do a hard reboot on the iPad (hold the Home and Power buttons simultaneously for 15 seconds).

That said, Guided Access is awesome – I can let my toddler play on the iPad without watching him every minute and feel safe that he won’t update my Facebook status with something really embarrassing.

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