When you hand over your iPhone or iPad to your kid (or someone else’s), make sure it’s safe for both of you. Children should be able to play games and watch videos, but not accidentally wipe out all your emails or land on a site with adult content.
There are a few settings inside iOS that let you lock down your device so that a curious kid (or a naughty friend) can’t poke around apps that contain sensitive data. Additionally, there are some settings that block adult content without restricting access to the entire device, which are useful for older kids who might deserve a little more freedom to surf and play.
Lastly, you may want to protect your device physically, as well, with a good case and screen protector. I’ll recommend a few options below.
How to Lock iPad or iPhone Content From Kids (Using Guided Access)
My favorite iOS feature for parents is called Guided Access. It’s not exactly a one-touch setting, but it’s the best one to learn to use because it goes the furthest toward locking down your device before you let a child borrow it. Here’s how to use it.
1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access. It’s way down at the bottom. Why it’s not under Privacy is beyond me. Remembering that it’s an Accessibility feature is the first tricky bit to commit to memory.
2. Turn on Guided Access.
3. Set a passcode or TouchID fingerprint to turn Guided Access on and off. You’ll also see an option for Time Limit. I’ll talk about that in Step 9. It’s not exactly straightforward.
4. Turn on the Accessibility Shortcut. This setting allows you to turn on the restrictions by triple-tapping the Home Button.
5. Open the app you want to let your kid use.
6. Triple-tap the Home Button.
7. You’ll see Guided Access enabled. You’ll also see instructions to circle the areas of the screen you want to disable. Circle or draw a rectangle around any on-screen Buttons that might get the kid into trouble. For example, in Instagram, you might disable the icons that let the user search, post photos, and send direct messages. As you draw those circles and rectangles, the areas of the screen that will be restricted are grayed out. Guided Access will remember those areas for the app the next time you use the feature.
8. Now press Options in the bottom left. Here you can disable physical Buttons, such as the Volume and the Sleep/Wake Button. You can also set a time limit.
9. For the time limit, decide how long you want the child to use the device. When the time limit runs out, the device locks. Back in the main settings for Guided Access (Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access), you can enable an audio notification that will alert you about 30 seconds before the phone locks. It will lock on a screen that says Time Expired. Then you’ll have to triple-tap the Home Button and enter the passcode or TouchID to get back to the normal phone settings.
How to Prevent Access to Sensitive Online Content
There are more settings you can enable to restrict content on an iPad or iPhone. Here’s how to adjust them.
1. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions.
2. Tap Enable Restrictions, and when prompted, create a passcode.
3. The first section lets you disable certain apps and functions, such as Safari, the camera, and the ability to delete apps. Choose any apps and features you want to disable.
4. Scroll down to Allowed Content. Each option, such as Movies and Websites, lets you set kid-friendly restrictions. You can restrict the movies that play to be only G rated, for example, and you can make sure that adult-content websites aren’t accessible. You can also disable access to specific URLs, if you know your kids have a penchant for going to particular sites.
5. Farther down the Restrictions page are more options for limiting what can and cannot be changed. You might want to lock down your Reminders, Photos, Bluetooth Sharing, and other features and apps. When you restrict them, a small lock icon appears next to them.
6. Once restrictions are in place, you must enter the passcode to disable them again.
If you need even more control, consider installing some parental control software on your device.
Recommended Cases and Screen Protectors
A good case and screen protector is invaluable not only when you let children handle your mobile devices—but always. It’s easy to get caught up looking for a good case and forget about the screen protector. A screen protector goes a long way toward preventing cracks and scratches on your phone, and fixing a broken screen is expensive and a pain in the ass. Don’t skimp on the screen protector!
When it comes to cases, PCMag has recommendations for the best iPad Air 2 cases and best iPhone 6s and 6 cases. Here are a few of my personal picks: The Griffin Survivor All-Terrain is an extremely rugged case for iPad Air 2. Gumdrop makes a few cases with colorful kid-friendly looks. For iPhones, we like the Evolutive Rhinoshield Crash Guard, a lightweight option that promises to protect phones from drops up to 20 feet.