Disabling the Home button (and other Guided Access Tricks)

31 May

Have you ever been frustrated by children clicking that oh-so-easily accessible home button and leaving the app you wanted them to be using? Have you ever wanted to disable buttons on the screen so that your child doesn’t keep going to menus, options and other screens?  Then read on, as the answer is already in your iPad settings.

Sadly, you can’t do this on the original iPad as you need iOS 6 or above.  If you have an original iPad and wish to disable the home button, you can try Bubcaps, which are protective covers for the home button.

What is Guided Access

Guided Access is a feature built into iOS 6  that allows you to temporarily disable the home button on your iPad or iPhone so an app cannot be closed, and to disable some functions in that app.  It also has options to prevent the home screen from fading, and motion control.

Setting Up

Guided access is very simple to set up and use.

  • Open your Settings> General.
  • Scroll down the right side of the screen and select Accessibility
  • Scroll down the Accessibility page and select Guided Access (under Learning)
  • Turn Guided Access on. You will need to put in a 4-digit password to use. (Don’t tell the kids!)
  • You can also choose to turn screen sleep on or off. I find it handy to leave it off (default) as sometimes my child might take a while to make a choice.

That’s it: Guided Access is ready to use.

Using Guided Access

After you open an app, press the home button 3 times to show the Guided Access screen. You can then choose to disable parts of the screen (see below) or can press the Start button at the top right to start guided access.

Disabling the Home Button

My toddler loves to read stories with me, both in “real book” and eBook formats. His big thing now is pressing buttons, so when we are sharing a story on the iPad, he can’t resist the urge to press the home button. When the story disappears, he gets upset, but still persists in tapping that oh-so-easily-accessible home button. With Guided Access on, all I have to do is open the app, tap the home button three times, and press Start. He can press that home button all he wants, but he can’t leave the app until I press it three times and enter my password.

You can use this trick to keep your children on task and out of the apps you don’t want them to use. One of my friends wanted to be sure that her children were using the iPad in their homework time for the real homework, and not playing games, so we set up Guided Access on the family iPad.  She now negotiates the app they are going to use, opens it, and then uses Guided Access to disable the home button.  Once the work is completed, Guided Access is turned off and they can have access to their other apps.

This feature might also be handy for people with motor control issues who accidentally hit the home button at inappropriate times. Guided Access means they have to deliberately tap the button in a defined way (three quick taps) plus enter that password, so no more accidental app closures.

Disabling parts of the screen

When you enter an app and turn on Guided Access, you can highlight sections of the screen to disable areas of the screen before you press Start. You do this by simply tracing around the area you want deactivated with your finger.

My toddler’s current favourite iPad storybook is The Adventures of Puppup:  Lost at the Zoo. On each page, a small home button with Puppup’s face is on either the left or right of the screen. Mr Cheeky loves to tap that button, as he has an unbridled passion for all things puppy, so he is always leaving the story and ending up on the home page again. I navigated to the first page of the story and traced my finger around that button, and the place it would appear on the other side of the page. Now, as we read the story, he can tap the cute puppy button and nothing happens. The great thing is that you only have to do this once, and the disabled areas will still be there each time you open the app. You can remove them any time.

This function works best with apps that have consistent placement of buttons, i.e. they are usually found in the same place, such as with our Puppup app. Some uses include:

  • covering up social media links or other external links.
  • keeping children in the main part of an app and on-task.
  • disabling access to mini-games and other activities.
  • disabling the “easy” levels of an activity that the child has already mastered.

Removing these areas takes seconds.  Enter the Guided Access screen and you’ll see a small x on the edge of each disabled area.  Tap that x and the disabled area will disappear.

Sadly, you can’t take screen shots of the Guided Access screens, and my camera is playing up at the moment, so I was reduced to holding my iPad up to the computer’s camera and taking some photos that way.  While I won’t win any photography awards, they should be enough to show how to create those disabled areas.

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The main limitation to this feature is that the disabled areas remain disabled for all screens. An area you disable in one screen might be needed in an activity on another screen. Many years ago I used to set up “Hotspots” on computer screens (for use with switch interfaces and other alternative access devices) using ClickIt! by IntelliTools (no longer available). This program would let me create several sets of hotspots that would change as the screen changed. ClickIt! would watch a tiny section of the screen, changing the hotspot sets to match what appeared in that section. It is a bit difficult to describe in a couple of sentences, but I hope future iOS versions might use this kind of idea so that we disable specific areas on specific screens in each app.

Other Guided Access Settings

There are two other options that appear at the bottom of the Guided Access window when you start it up.

  • Touch – this is set by default to On, which means the user will be able to touch all areas of the screen except for those specifically disabled as outlined above. If you set it to Off, no areas of the screen will respond to touch. This could be useful if you are using a storybook app in Autoplay mode, or watching a video.
  • Motion – this is also set by default to On, but if you turn it off, the iPad will no longer react to motion. This could be a very handy setting where the child tends to move or shake the device.

Guided Access has a lot to offer parents when it comes to child-proofing your iOS devices, or setting them up for use with children who have special needs or very young children.  The great thing is that it is quick and easy to do.  Have a play with it and save yourself some frustration and grey hairs.

6 Responses to “Disabling the Home button (and other Guided Access Tricks)”

  1. Julianne Bachmann 31/05/2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Hi Sarah, Do you know if you can disable parts of the homescreen. As I would love to disable the settings icon, when children are playing on the ipad. Thanks Julianne


    • Sarah DeBellis 31/05/2013 at 12:12 pm #

      Sadly not. I would love to see that as another iOS feature. I’d also like to create lockable folders.

  2. Reblogged this on OT's with Apps and commented:
    Sarah provide information on disabling the home button to help control what and where your iDevice user does on the iPad.
    Thanks to On Sarah’s iPad for providing this review of this important iOS 6 feature.


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