Child-proofing your iPad/iPad mini/iPhone

We tech types put elaborate systems in place to prevent hackers from infiltrating out digital kingdoms, but we give little thought — or preparation — to what an innocent-looking toddler can do to our iPads, and the software and data they hold.

I've lost count of the number of horror stories that I've come across resulting from someone handing their iPad to a child. It seems that while children love iPads, they can also cause untold damage, including dropping the tablet onto a hard surface or down a toilet, deleting your apps and data, spending thousands of dollars on in-app purchases on "gold coins" and "smurfberries", and even using your precious tablet as a makeshift toboggan (yes, it has happened).

While we tech and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) types put elaborate systems in place to prevent hackers from infiltrating our digital kingdoms, it seems that we give little thought — or preparation — to what an innocent-looking toddler can do to your hardware, software, and data.

But what can you do to protect your digital empire against a child? Well, quite a lot, to be honest. Here's a rundown of what you can do to lock down your iPad, and prevent sticky fingers from causing you headaches.

Note that this advice applies to iPads and iPhones running iOS 6, and the iPad mini.

Get a robust case

Never hand an iPad to a child unless it is in a robust case (or you don't mind footing the bill for a new one). While most cases only protect a little more than half of the device — most leave the screen totally vulnerable — it is still a lot better than nothing.

I recommend something chunky and robust, such as the G-Form Xtreme. The case for the iPad is pricey, at $79, but it does offer excellent protection for the device.

Image: G-Form

Back up your data

Make sure your iPad is backed up, either synced with iTunes on a PC or Mac, or to iCloud.

Take no chances with your data.

iOS lockdown

Apple has included a lot of cool features to help you lock down iOS from snoopers and prying eyes, and many of these settings will also help protect your iPad from a child.

These tools are hidden away in Settings > General > Restrictions. The first thing you need to do on enabling restrictions is to set a passcode, which can be different from the PIN code you use to access your iPad.

Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

As a minimum, I recommend switching off Safari, and the ability to install and delete apps (deleting apps can also delete any associated data). I also suggest you switch off in-app purchasing, and set Require Password to "Immediately".

Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

You can also set age restrictions on things such as movies and music if you want.

Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Put the iPad into "single app mode"

iOS 6 introduced a new feature called Guided Access that allows the iPad to be locked into a "single app mode". Problem is, like most other things in iOS, this is buried in the Settings app.

You can find Guided Access in Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access.

Enable Guided Access and set a passcode, which can be different from the PIN code you use to access your iPad.

Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

To enable Guided Access, fire up the app you want to lock into single app mode and then triple press the Home button. This will allow you to lock the iPad's user to this single app.

Image: Screenshot by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

To exit Guided Access, triple press the Home button, and enter the PIN code you set earlier.

Locked-down browser

If you want to allow a child to browse the web using an iPad, then it is a good idea to make a browser available that keeps them focused.

A good app for the job is Sandbox Web Browser, which limits browsing to a predefined whitelist.

You can prevent a sneaky kid from switching browsers by either using the iOS restrictions to hide other browsers, or Guided Access to lock the iPad into a single app mode.

Image: Float Mobile Learning

The Sandbox Web Browser app is free for a limited period; it previously retailed for $2.99.

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