locking down iPad for kids/special needs

[Note: combine these instructions below for how to lock down AirPlay on an iPad with an app called Volume Sanity and peace will descend upon your house!]

We use Airplay for music throughout the many rooms and audio systems in our house. Our youngest son likes to watch YouTube videos of buses and trucks all day long. In doing so he fiddles around with the settings a lot on his iPad and this inevitably leads to him broadcasting the trucks/busses audio to one of our home’s HiFi’s. This sucks. Especially early in the morning when you awake to the sound of heavy equipment roaring through a not insubstantial sub-woofer in the living room.

Besides the transmission of Airplay audio from his iPad to our home audio, no matter what I do to lock down his iPad under “Restrictions” he’s always finding ways to add events to our Family Calendar and albums full of no pictures to our family shared photo albums.

I wanted to lock down his iPad and disable AirPlay entirely. This turned out to be WAAYYYY more difficult that I thought. After a bit of a rabbit hole I ended up discovering an enterprise deployment tool called Apple Configurator 2. This tool is typically used by large businesses to roll out iPhone or iPads to their employees.

But it also does a really good job at locking down the iPad for our son. Note that following these steps requires wiping out the iPad entirely and starting from scratch so that it can be prepared as a “Supervised” drive. The process is tedious though. If you’ve used Active Directory or any other enterprise profile-type tool you can figure out. Here are some notes though.

Apple Configurator 2 to lock down iPad for child

  • download the app from the App Store onto your mac
  • launch the app and go to “Preferences”
    • create a new organization (i just use our family last name)
    • IMPORTANT: Skip enrolling in the Device Enrollment Program
  • ERASE THE iPAD:  Plug in the iPad and click “Prepare”
    • select “Manual Configuration”
    • check Supervise Devices (you can only apply restrictive Profiles to supervised devices)
    • I checked “Allow devices to pair with other computers.” your needs may vary.
    • on the next screen select “Do Not Enroll in MDM”
    • The rest of the screens are pretty self explanatory
  • Once the device is prepared and appears as a “Supervised” device
    • click the App button to install the apps you want on the iPad
    • you will need to jump through some hoops to install apps once you apply the restrictive profile so pay attention and install all the apps you want the first time to save yourself some grief.
  • Go to File, New Profile
    • Fill out the General section
    • Fill out the Restrictions section (i mostly unchecked EVERYTHING on this tab
    • I also went to the AirPlay section and added a fake MAC address to the whitelist section, ostensibly only allowing my son’s iPad to connect to a device that doesn’t exist. I used for the MAC 00:00:00:00:00:00
    • save the profile with a name like “restricted profile”
  • click the green “add +” button in the toolbar and add that profile to the iPad.
  • You should be all set at this point with an iPad that has working apps and has whatever restrictions you set in the profile

 

two notes

  1. if you want to install apps after you do this but have disabled the installation of apps in the restricted profile, simply create a new profile that has no restrictions, save it as “unrestricted profile.” Plug in the iPad, delete the restricted profile from it and apply the unrestricted one. Install the apps and then put the restricted profile back on the devices.
  2. I tweaked the settings in the profile multiple times and just get removing and re-applying it until i got it right.