Lock your phone when handing to a child or someone else

We’ve all had those instances where you hand your phone to a child, or another adult. All of the passwords, settings, and notifications are theirs to review and modify.

There are a variety of reasons why you would do this. It could be you’re distracting a child while you wait for a meeting. You could hand your phone over to a friend to view a photo or video. You could also hand over your phone to someone to pay a bill, or scan a plane ticket.

In any of these instances, handing over an unlocked phone can be a recipe for danger.

Lucky for you, there are some simple ways to address this. Most mobile phone operating systems (iOS and Android) have guided access, or childproofing features built in.


On iOS, (iPhone & iPad) you can enable guided access.

  1. Go to Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Guided Access.
  2. Turn “Guided Access” and “Accessibility Shortcut” on.
  3. Open the app you’d like to make available to someone else and press the home button three times in a row. (For iPhone X, triple-click the side button instead.)
  4. The first time you do this, it will prompt you to enter a passcode to start the “guided access.”
  5. To exit guided access, hit the home button three times again and enter your passcode.


Android phone and tablets offer the same functionality, but it’s a different format. Android calls it screen pinning. Basically you identify a screen or app, and you lock, or pin the device to that screen. The phone then disables the Home, Back, and other multitasking controls until you hit the correct set of buttons to unpin the screen.

To enable screen pinning:

  1. Go to Settings –> Security & Location –> Advanced –> Screen pinning.
  2. Choose this option, and select the toggle to enable the feature.
  3. Once you enable this, you’ll notice a second option that asks what to request when someone tries to unpin a screen. This may include the passcode.
  4. To pin a screen, enter the multitasking menu using the recent apps button or the new swipe-up gesture. For the latter, swipe up from the home button. Swipe left to see all the apps you’ve previously opened on your device.
  5. Once you locate the app you wish to pin, tap the icon on the top of the app (in the center). A submenu will appear with the option “Pin.” Select this option, and when done correctly, a pop-up will emerge along the bottom informing you the screen is pinned.
  6. To unpin a screen, hold the back and home buttons. This will unpin the screen and return you the lock screen.

Protect your screens from errant fingers

These settings are helpful in situations where you hand your phone off to a child to placate them or show something. This may also be when someone asks to borrow your phone to make a call or send a text. No longer do you need to worry about a nosey individuals browsing throughout your phone when you lend it out.

Android and iOS devices both have parental controls, and these can be used to help safeguard your devices. Keep it mind it is not a foolproof system. But, it is an extra layer of security to add a few minutes to block web access, messaging, app purchases, and other features.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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