Last weekend we had some friends over to dinner. The children went upstairs to play, and the rest of us settled around the kitchen table to enjoy a bottle of wine and some much needed adult company. The conversation turned to parenting tactics and the admission by all of us that, despite noble intentions to limit screen time for our kids, we had all at one time or another distracted our preschoolers with a smartphone or tablet. Someone noted the potential for disaster in giving a five year old unfettered access to a device that also has easy access to work email, calendars, documents, etc. We wondered if the excuse, "My child accidentally deleted all of my email!" would fly if you missed a deadline at work. I laughed, but said that unfortunately it couldn't happen for me because when I give my kids my iPad without being right there with them, I turn on Guided Access.
Guided Access is a feature of iOS that can limit your iPhone or iPad to using a single application, or even limit interaction to certain areas of the display. With it, you can disable hardware buttons, motion, or even the screen itself. Ever wonder how the demo units at the Apple Store prevent you from doing whatever you like? Now you know.
However, Guided Access is useful for more than locking down a demo iPhone or preventing your preschooler from exiting Toca Nature and wreaking havoc in your email or code repository. It also can set a time limit on access, which I've found useful both when I say to my sons, "You can play for 15 minutes," as well as when I tell myself, "I need to stop checking Facebook and Google+ every few minutes and focus on writing for the next hour." Sometimes locking myself into Drafts is as useful as locking my sons out.
To enable Guided Access:
- Open the Settings app on your iOS device.
- Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. From here, you will be able to turn Guided Access on or off, as well as set various options.
To use Guided Access:
- Start the application you wish to use.
- Triple-click the Home button. You will see the screen appear to zoom out slightly, and buttons to start, end, and change options will appear along the top and bottom of the screen.
- If you wish to disable parts of the display from being used -- for example, disabling certain controls in the app -- draw a circle around that area with your finger. iOS will attempt to snap to controls intelligently, but you can also resize, move, or delete the region as needed.
- Tap the Options button at the bottom of the screen to enable or disable the various hardware buttons, motion sensors, keyboards, or set a time limit.
- Tap Start at the top of the screen to begin. You will be prompted to enter and confirm a four digit passcode.
- Enter and confirm a passcode. You will see the display zoom back to normal, and a brief message will display confirming that Guided Access has started. Any regions of the app you chose to disable will be shown with a grey mask.
- To end Guided Access, triple-click the Home button and enter your passcode.
So, the next time you need to distract your kid while waiting at the dentist's office, you can do so knowing that your next contract or the great American novel you've been writing is protected from accidental damage by the curious fingers of young children. Unless, of course, your son or daughter drops the device -- but that's what backups are for, right?
For more information, see the Apple support article at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202612. If you have any other clever uses for Guided Access, or other ways to prevent trouble when children and iOS devices interact, let me know in the comments!