Parental Controls in Mac OS X

July 20, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re keen to take full advantage of your Mac’s functionality to stay in control of what information is access by which users, you should be aware of the Parental Controls feature, a useful set of tools that can be used to restrict access on a user-by-user basis to the web, specific programs and even the computer itself.

To get started using this feature you need to establish separate user accounts for all members of your family, leaving yourself to use the Administrator account. This might mean changing the admin account password as well as copying data into individual Home directories, but the effort will be worth it once you get the parental tools up and running.

Parental Controls in Mac OS X

When you’re ready to start applying restrictions, head to System Preferences > Parental Controls and click the lock to allow changes. You can then begin applying restrictions on a user-by-user basis.

Restricting Users to Specific Apps

With a user selected in the left-hand pane, select the Apps tab to begin the process of child-proofing your Mac. You might opt to check the Use Simple Finder box to make the desktop a little friendlier to youngsters, while the Limit Applications option can be used to assign allowed applications to the selected user. Age restrictions on app store software can also be put in place.

The next stage is to click the Web tab and investigate the options available here. Put simply, you can control access to websites based on content, specific URL and domain name, allowing you some peace of mind that your children are not viewing websites they shouldn’t or attempting to spend money that they don’t have!

Similarly, the People tab allows you to restrict who your other users can talk to while online. This might prove to be one of the most useful options on your Mac, as you can protect your family from any online personal safety threats by simply blocking users.

Controlling Time Limits in Mac OS X

Probably the most impressive option, and potentially the most powerful, is Time Limits, a set of tools that make it possible for you to control when and how your users access the family Mac.

Essentially, this feature makes the Mac off-limits when children are supposed to be taking a bath or helping in the garden, and allows you to limit usage to as little as 30 minutes per weekday and weekend day as well as preventing access to the computer completely during a specified period – perhaps 7pm through to 12pm the next day.

While you might have reservations that applying these settings can seem heavy-handed, doing so will allow you to sit back and relax while your children use the family computer, safe in the knowledge that it will be very tough for them to get into any sort of mischief or witness content that is designed for adults.

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