Guided Access on Your iPhone – The Answer to Handing Your Phone Over

Ever wish you could keep your little one from taking 100+ pictures of the floor, the wall, the inside of her nose, etc.? Or maybe stop them from deleting your email just because you handed your phone over for her to watch a movie or play a game so you could have a moment? If so, you need to enable Guided Access.

Guided Access is an under marketed feature on your iPhone that allows you an edge in the battle for your sanity otherwise known as your toddler vs. your [Apple] tech gadgets. It has been there for years. It is part of the iOS, so why not put it to work for you – and your sanity.

A few weeks ago I was watching my four year old from the mommy (and daddy) corral at gymnastics – otherwise known as the parents’ viewing area to anyone who hasn’t spent an hour confined there watching their preschooler play and exercise at gymnastics. My two year old was restless. Okay, she was like a whirling dervish in a small somewhat packed space, and I didn’t have my mommy bag of tricks – I know, party foul. I decided to resort to handing over my iPhone so she could watch  movie. Within 30 seconds, she was firing (screaming) warning shots and about to enter into full blown meltdown, because yet again she had pressed the Home button and her princess disappeared mid-song.

As I borrowed back my iPhone to return it to the movie and get her out of my email, another mom spoke up about locking her into the app. I told her that I didn’t think my phone did that sort of thing. She smiled back and enlightened me, setting it up on my phone within minutes.

Guided Access has become a stress reliever in those moments when my phone becomes potty training tool or a meltdown evasion tool. I also like to use it when letting my younger girls talk on Facetime. It is great for keeping my preschooler from wandering off her learning app and into apps or let’s face it, a cat video.

So to set it up, you open Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access and follow the prompts. (I made my Guided Access passcode the same as my regular one for simplicity’s sake.) Once you’ve enabled Guided Access, it is available whenever the need arises. Apple says that it is to help you stay focused on a task. Right. Well, maybe for some people. Guided Access is there to save your sanity from your child when you lend your phone to her, or protect your privacy when you lend your phone to someone for a task. So now that you’ve enabled it, you want to test it out and start using it. Enter the program that you want your phone to temporarily be restricted to. Click on the Home button (the round button on the bottom of your phone) three times in quick succession. The app display will shrink and a command bar will appear. Click “Start”. When you want out of Guide Access simply triple click the Home button again and select “End”.

There are other little nuances to the feature like time limits and turning off the touch screen. I have accidentally crashed Guided Access while opening it on the first screen of the Videos app, but my phone returned to normal after being rebooted (by holding down the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time for about 10-15 seconds).

The only downside I’ve noticed to having Apple’s Guide Access enabled is that my Home button seems to be less responsive to multiple clicks.

So even if you don’t have an iPhone this features is probably available on your phone or tablet, just under a different name. Android calls their version Restricted Profiles, which they advertise aptly as “Kid Mode.” Kindle has something similar. Apple’s Guide Access my not be fancy as other sanity savers out there, but it meets the bill, particularly if you are otherwise attached to your device.


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