Keep a child on task with Guided Access for the iPad/iPhone

So you found a really great educational app for your child and can't wait to see it in action. Unfortunately little Billy would rather play Angry Birds and knows how to quickly switch to the app he would rather be playing. Sound Familiar?

The good news is you don't have to delete all the other apps on your iPad to limit distractions when it is time to learn with the iPad. Guided Access is a feature built into the iPad that allows you to lock a single app in place, essentially locking out the home button. Not only that you can even lock out portions of the screen to prevent them from tapping certain buttons or ads.

To use Guided Access you will need an iPad or iPhone with iOS 6 or higher.

Turning on Guided Access

Before you can active Guided Access you need to turn the feature on and set a password. Once it is turned on you can activate it in any app you wish to lock into place.

1. Go to the Settings App -> Tap on General.

2. Scroll down to the bottom of General -> Tap on Accessibility.

3. Tap on Guided Access.

4. Switch Guided Access on and set a passcode.

Once you have turned Guided Access "ON" in this menu you'll be able to activate and deactivate it with the home button. Make sure to set a passcode you won't forget. Guided Access is designed to be difficult to get around. Even turning the iPad off and on again won't unlock an app that has locked in place.

Activating Guided Access

Now that you have turned on Guided Access in Settings it is ready to activate in whichever app you like.

1. Open an app you would like to restrict.

2. Tap the Home button three times in a row.

If it doesn't work the first time try again but make sure do it very quickly. When it works the app will shrink down in size and a new set of buttons will appear above and below the app. With these new buttons we can customize how Guided Access will work.

Guided Access Window

3. Optional: Draw boxes around sections of the app you would like to disable touch on.

You can draw circles, squares, and all kinds of shapes on top of the app. Each of these shapes will represent an area on the screen where touch will be disabled. Once you draw a shape you can tap and drag it to move it around, drag the white circles to resize it, and tap the "X" to delete the shape entirely.

Important Note: If you use this feature it's not a bad idea to turn the Motion setting at the bottom to "OFF" first. In apps that support both portrait and Landscape mode the buttons will change location when the orientation changes and you will need to create separate restrictions for each orientation. Although you can do that by turning Guided Access on in landscape mode, then repeating the steps in Landscape mode, it is often easier to just restrict the app to a single orientation.

Guided Access screen with a box drawn around a button at the top left corner of the screen. Motion button set to off.

4. Tap the Start Button.

Now that Guided Access is activated the home button will be disabled and you app is locked in place. The only way to leave the app is the press the home button three times again and enter your passcode. If the child keeps pressing the home button and guessing wrong it will even lock out the triple click home button feature for a short period of time.

Guided Access blocking the home button

5. Tap the Home button three times to Deactivate Guided Access.

You will be asked for the passcode and when you enter it you will be returned to the Guided Access menu where you can tap End to exit the app and resume normal function on the device.

Extra Credit

Guided Access can be used in several additional scenarios.

  • Locking an iPad for a presentation or booth.
  • Locking a students iPad during test taking.
  • Prevent your friends from cheating during an intense Scrabble game.