How to Kid-Proof Your iPhone

Jun 15, 2012
Outside
Outside Magazine

I’ve already sung the praises of digital distractions—in moderation—when traveling with young children. But even the best kids’ apps are useless if your toddler keeps pushing the home button and navigating away. Not only is it annoying, but it’s also dangerous for your data. The last thing you want is a rogue preschooler trolling through your email or photo files, accidentally trashing your stuff.

BubCap on iPhoneThis will save your life—or at least your data. Photo: BubCap

Now there's hope. The BubCap is a stiff, oblong rubber shield that adheres to the home button on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It’s rigid enough that little digits can’t depress it, but adults can. The BubCap comes in three “strengths:” Regular, Ultra, and Max. Regular is designed to be toddler-proof, while Max claims to be burly enough for older kids and devices with bigger buttons, like the iPad.

My iPhone has seen a lot of hard living. It’s permanently smudged and cracked in two places from a fall I took last summer, hiking a 14er with an 18-pound baby on my back and my phone in my shorts’ pocket (bad idea). But until now the damage was purely cosmetic: Miraculously, I haven’t lost any data, though I know I’m rolling the dice every time I surrender my phone to my 23-month-old daughter who, while freakishly savvy with the iPhone, is still spazzy enough to wreak havoc.

When the BubCap arrived in the mail last week, I put off putting it on. I worried that once I affixed it to my phone, the adhesive bond would cement to my phone and I’d be forced to use a toothpick to navigate through my apps. And I wasn’t sure if it would fit under (or over?) my rubber phone case. Maybe it was more trouble than it was worth. But then my three-year-old spent 15 minutes scrolling through emailed photos of her cousin’s sixth-grade graduation. She was so engrossed, she accidentally deleted the images. Time to brave the BubCap.

BubCap on iPhone

I made my husband do the job. He removed the clear screen protector and cleaned the screen as best he could. Then he trimmed off the bottom of a new plastic screen protector to leave room for the BubCap, and stuck it on with the BubCap on top. So far so good. My rubber case even fit over it. I waited 15 minutes for it to really stick, and then I pushed the home button. It was noticeably stiffer—it took two tries to activate it—but didn’t require brute strength.

The real test, of course, was when I turned it over to the girls. Three-year-old Pippa test drove it on a new episode of Madeline. When it came time for her to turn it off, she pressed the button and nothing happened. She shot me a confused look, but then it took her exactly two tries to figure out how much agro toddler force she needed to push the button to make it work. Bingo. Not Pippa proof, but then again, at nearly four, she’s almost more adept at navigating my iPhone than I.

Maisy, on the other hand, is the real threat, and she was stymied. I gave her the phone to watch Pocoyo while I took a shower. I assume she stayed on the movie the whole time because she never whined for help. Only once did she call to me, but by the time I got out, she’d gone back to Pocoyo. She must have accidentally hit pause and figured out how to turn press play again. Even better.

I may never break my girls of their movie habit when we’re traveling, but if the BubCap can safeguard my stuff while training them to watch responsibly, I’m all for it. Just to be safe, though, I’m going to upgrade to the Ultra.

BubCap six-pack (includes two each of the Regular, Ultra, and Max): $8.99; papercliprobot.com.

—Katie Arnold
@raisingrippers

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