Lock the iPad to just one app

Learn how to use Apple's Guided Access feature in iOS to temporarily limit the use of your child's iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone to a single app.

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
3 min read

Watch this: Lock the iPad to a single app

The first time I handed an iPad to my kid, I felt a little guilty, but not for the reasons you might think. The way I figured, with such an awesome tool in his tiny hands -- with the collected knowledge of mankind literally at his fingertips -- my child had an unfair advantage over his peers and a fast track to an Ivy League education.

But minutes later, when I had to pry Angry Birds from him like a T-bone from a tiger, I quickly realized that the iPad, for all its potential, was a tool that needed some serious limits placed on it.

Apple must know this too. From the outset, Apple has empowered parents with tools to limit iPods and iOS devices to a restricted set of features that parents can tailor to their child. You can find these Parental Restriction settings by navigating to Settings > General > Restrictions. A video demonstration of how to work these settings can be seen here.

But if you've ever handed an educational math app over to your kid, only to come back and find them playing Need for Speed, then you may want to give Guided Access a try. If you can't see our video tutorial above, try this direct link.

Introduced in iOS 6, Apple's Guided Access feature allows parents, teachers, and people with disabilities, to temporarily restrict the entire device to a single app. The home button is disabled, along with multitasking, allowing users to work within a single app without distraction.

You'll find Guided Access by going to Settings, General, Accessibility, and then scroll down to Guided Access. To get started, flip the switch and tap Set Passcode to create a four-digit passcode, ideally one that your kid won't be able to guess.

Next, find the app you want to lock into Guided Access mode and launch it. Once it's up and running, quickly tap the home button three times.

Apple Guided Access
The road to Guided Access mode on an Apple iPhone. Click for larger image. Donald Bell/CNET

Now, because apps may contain settings menus or in-app purchase options that you don't want meddled with, Guided Access gives you a chance to mark out any areas on the screen that you want to disable. To do that, simply circle those areas on the screen with your finger.

You also have an options button down across the bottom, giving you a separate menu for disabling the sleep/wake button, volume buttons, touch control, and motion control. By default, sleep and volume are disabled, but touch and motion are left on.

When you're read to lock in the app, press the Start button in the top right. If you disabled any areas of the screen, you'll see those as slightly grayed out. You'll also notice that if you hit the Home Button, a little banner rolls in from the top reminding you that you're in Guided Access mode.

When it's time to put it back to normal, all you have to do is triple-click the home button again, enter that four-digit password you created, and you're free again to use the iPad however you wish.

If you want to set a new app in Guided Access, there's no need to return to the Settings menu. Simply open up the new app and triple-click to turn Guided Access on again.

I hope you find that helpful, though I'm sure you're children will find it infuriating. You can find more iOS tips over at CNET How To.