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The iPhone Hack Every Parent Needs to Know About

Photograph by Twenty20

You know the scenario: You're sitting at a restaurant or some other place with a long wait, and you see all the warning signs that your kid is quickly devolving into meltdown mode. You hand them your iPhone in desperation with a perfectly respectable (if not educational) episode of "Sesame Street" playing on the PBS Kids app. But toddlers don't just sit there and happily watch the screen. No, they always want to reach out and touch the damn thing. Before you know it, they've accidentally exited out of the app or pressed pause and the tears you were working so hard to avoid, begin—loudly.

Enter every parents' new best friend: Guided Access.

Haven't heard of it yet? Guided Access is an option on your iPhone (who knew?!) that allows you to basically lock the rest of the phone while an open app is being used. To turn it on go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access, and slide the switch so it looks green, and voila! Guided Access is turned on.

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You then set a passcode—which should be different from your main passcode because whether you know it or not, your kid probably already knows the code to unlock the phone. Alternatively, if you're like me and your brain can't stand to remember one more password, set it to unlock via Touch ID.

After you've set all this up, you simply triple-tap the Home button each time you want to turn the feature on (i.e., when you're about the hand your phone over to your kid) after opening the app you want it to stay in. Pretty genius, right?

The feature will even ask you to circle areas of the app you want disabled while in Guided Access. Parents will particularly want to pay attention to any Settings or Volume control icons your child may accidentally tap. Or, if you're in an app like YouTube, perhaps you wouldn't want them to be able to tap and play any of the suggested videos on side.

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Guided Access also has a time-limit feature which is handy if you're restricting how much screen time your kids get. You set the number of minutes the device stays on for, and once its reached that limit, your iPhone will automatically lock after a verbal warning of how much time is left a few minutes before. Since we now know that parents giving the two-minute warning doesn't help make the transition easier for many kids, this may help. ("I swear, it's the phone, not Mommy!")

And it's not just for kids. Perhaps you're handing your phone over to a coworker to show them some pictures, but don't want them to see your texts or the rest of your photo gallery. Just triple-tap the Home button before handing it over and you're safe!

See? Genius.

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