How Guided Access can protect your iPhone or iPad

Guided Access is one of those obscure accessibility controls that iOS specializes in, and it can make a big difference in how you — or selected others — use and control access to your iPhone or iPad.

Guided Access acts to limit your mobile device to a single app and control the features available to it, preventing you from switching to another program or accessing the home screen. Its purpose is to limit access to your entire slate of apps to protect your privacy, prevent accidental changes by a third party who may be using it (such as your kids), or simply to keep you focused on the task at hand. The timer function is especially convenient for placing limits on usage for specific tasks.

Useful for education, businesses, restaurants, museums, and other settings — it doesn’t matter which app you want to isolate. Guided Access focuses attention on only that app, whether it’s writing, drawing, music, email, notes, or whatever. We show you how to enable and use it. The procedure is nearly identical on both the iPhone and iPad.

Set up Guided Access

  • Go to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access.
  • Tap Passcode Settings, then tap Set Guided Access Passcode.
  • Enter a passcode, then re-enter it. Alternately, you can enable Face ID or Touch ID as a way to end a Guided Access session. The passcode is the key to protecting your phone because the user must know what it is to exit the designated app.
  • Toggle Accessibility Shortcut to On, which allows you to triple-click the home or side button and enter Guided Access mode at any time from within your chosen app.
guided access feature image

When you’re ready to concentrate on a single app, do the following:

  • Open the app that you want to concentrate on.
  • Triple-click the side button on an iPhone X or later. Triple-click the home button on an iPhone 8 or earlier.
  • If you want parts of your screen to stop responding to touch, use one finger to circle those areas. This is convenient when watching a video or reading so you cannot tap out of your task. You can move or resize the circle (or square) on screen, or tap the X to remove it.
  • Tap Guided Access, and tap the Start button at the upper right.

You can use Siri to make it easy to start a Guided Access session; simply launch the app that you want and tell Siri to Turn on Guided Access. It will not do anything until you have chosen the app you want to lock into.

Choose additional options

guided access options

The Options button within Guided Access lets you control access to several device features including the Sleep/wake button, Volume button, motion, keyboards, touch, dictionary lookup, and time limit.

  • To turn off features or set a time limit, triple-click the side or home button, then tap Options. If you don’t see Options, triple-click the side or home button again and enter your passcode.
  • Adjust the options according to your preferences, and tap Done.
guided access protected area

End Guided Access

There are several ways to terminate a Guided Access session. You can triple-click the side or home button, enter your Guided Access passcode and tap End, or if you turned on Touch ID or Face ID for the feature, double-click the side or home button.

iPad Guided Access interface

Once Guided Access is enabled, anyone trying to leave the specific app you’ve locked it to will receive a message telling them to triple-click the home or side button to exit. If they don’t know the passcode, they won’t be able to exit Guided Access and mess with any other apps or settings on your phone. Guided Access also disables notifications while in use. If you ever get stuck in Guided Access mode, by forgetting the access code you entered to enable it, just hard reboot your device to clear it out.

To completely disable Guided Access, go back into Settings and toggle off the button.

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