How to Keep your Child from Exiting an App on your iPhone or iPad

This is a chapter taken from our book The Parent’s Guide to the iPhone and iPad.

This recipe will teach you how to prevent your child from intentionally or accidentally leaving the app you want them to stay in. This is one of our favorite features for our younger children who somehow love to find a way to hit the Home Button (Round button at the bottom of the screen) and then finding a way to get into our email to send very meaningful messages to our bosses. We’ve all been there right? Apple has been kind enough to give us a feature called Guided Access that allows us to stop this madness. Apple describes it as:

Guided Access helps you to stay focused on a task while using your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Guided Access limits your device to a single app and lets you control which app features are available.

To us that reads as: “Guided Access was a gift to parents so that they don’t have to continually help their wonderful children get back into the app they just left.”

What else can Guided Access do?

Guided Access is very useful and flexible. Besides temporarily locking your device into one app it can also be used to set up untouchable areas on the screen and can even be used to set a timer on an app so that your child can only use it for however long you choose. You can also disable the Sleep/Wake Button at the top of the phone, disable the Volume Buttons, disable the ability for the device to detect Motion (For example some games detect the movement of the iPhone as a part of the game play), disable the Keyboard, or if you for some reason felt the need you can disable Touch altogether.

Enabling Guided Access

Guided Access is tucked away under the Accessibility settings. Begin by tapping on the Settings icon on your Home Screen then tap on General and then tap Accessibility. Scroll down until you see Guide Access, tap on it.

Turn Guided Access on then tap on Passcode Settings. This will allow you to set the 4 or 6 digit Guided Access Passcode which will prevent your child from being able to exit Guided Access.

Enter your 4 or 6 digit Guided Access Passcode (Remember, a good practice is to make this different from your Device Passcode!) and confirm it.

You can enable Touch ID here if it is available on your device. We love it. You may have noticed the Time Limits option and that Accessibility Shortcut is enabled by default. For now don’t worry about these options. The only thing Time Limits does in this menu is allow you to change the sound that gets played when a time limit is reached.

Using Guided Access

Now that you have Guided Access set up and ready to go it is time to use it! Starting Guided Access can be a little tricky at first but you will get used to it I promise. The first step is to go to your Home Screen and find an app that you want your child to stay in. Tap on the app’s icon. Now, in order to access Guided Access you must triple tap on the Home Button. If you hit those taps just right you should see something that looks like this.

If you accidentally did a double tap instead of a triple tap you will see the App Switcher view which will look something like this. Not to fear, just tap on the icon for the app you want and try again.

Once you get the triple click down you should see a zoomed out version of the app you were in.

From this view you can Start Guided Access by tapping the Start button. If you want to check to see if it worked just try tapping the Home Button one time to go back to the Home Screen. You shouldn’t be able to! And should see a banner at the top of the screen telling you that Guided Access in enabled.

Now that you have figured out how to Enable Guided Access, let’s try Ending it.

To do this, triple click the Home Button again then type in your Guided Access Passcode and you will be brought back to the zoomed out screen. Tap the End Button to end Guided Access.

Additional Ways to use Guided Access

As we mentioned earlier there are a few other things you can accomplish with Guided Access. One of the most useful is the ability to block off certain parts of the screen that you might not want your child to touch like advertisements or buttons that take them out of the gameplay. You can also do things like disabling the Sleep/Wake Button so that the phone can’t be put to sleep accidentally with an errant bump. Similarly you can disable the Volume Buttons so that the volume of an app cannot be changed. Other things that you can disable are the detection of Motion, Keyboards and any Touch on the screen. This last one is not something you would really need to disable as it is intended for when the device is being used as a demo unit. You can see the Options view below.

Disabling Areas on the Screen

The other options are just toggle switches but this option requires a little more than that. In order to create areas that are disabled on a screen you will need to be in the zoomed out view. The first step is to use your finger to draw an outline around the area you would like to disable. Make sure that you connect the lines you draw or else they will not stay. If you successfully draw an outline you will see a grayed out area with an X Button (Close) and a series of dots around the edges. You can use the dots to resize the area by tapping and dragging on them. You can also shift the area around.

Once you are satisfied you can then tap Start or Resume depending on whether you have already started Guided Access and then you should see the area you disabled shown and you shouldn’t be able to tap on it anymore. Sometimes in children’s games the touchable area is actually larger than the outline of the button and so it is a good idea to make the disabled area larger than the button itself to ensure that you have indeed disabled it.

Whew that was a lot of Guided Access and triple tapping! Now you can go back to preparing dinner and not worry about your little one being frustrated or getting into apps they shouldn’t.

Thanks for reading this, if you enjoyed this chapter please check out the full book on Amazon and send us a note at