Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac

01
of 07

Parental Controls - Getting Started

Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
Parental Controls is part of the Systems group.

The Mac's Parental Controls feature is a method of controlling the applications and content a specific user may use or view. The Parental Controls feature also allows you to control incoming and outgoing email, as well as which iChat pals are allowed contact.

You can also use Parental Controls to set time limits on computer use, both in terms of the number of hours of use and which hours of the day the computer may be used. Finally, Parental Controls can maintain a log that will keep you informed about how your Mac is being used by any managed account user.

What You Need

  • OS X 10.5 - 10.6.x Parental Controls are available on older versions of OS X, but the setup procedure is a bit different. These instructions are specific to OS X 10.5 and 10.6. For OS X Lion and later, you will find "Setting Up Parental Controls With OS X Managed Users (OS X Lion and Later)" the guide to use.
  • One or more managed user accounts. If you need to create a managed account, please see the "Add Managed Accounts with Parental Controls to Your Mac" guide.
  • An administrator account. You will either need to log on as an administrator or provide an administrator password to set up and manage an account that uses Parental Controls.
  • About ten minutes of your time. Setting up Parental Controls is very straightforward.

Launch Parental Controls

  1. Open System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock, or by selecting 'System Preferences' from the Apple menu.
  2. In the 'System' section of System Preferences, click the 'Parental Controls' icon.
  3. The Parental Controls preferences window will open.
  4. Click the lock icon in the bottom left-hand corner. You will need to provide an administrator user name and password before you can continue.
  5. Enter the administrator name and password in the appropriate fields.
  6. Click the ‘OK’ button.
02
of 07

Parental Controls - System and Applications Setup

Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
Each managed account can have its own Parental Control settings.

The Parental Controls window is divided into two main areas. The left side houses an account pane that lists all of the managed accounts on your Mac.

Managing Access to System Functions and Applications

  1. Select the managed account you wish to set up with Parental Controls from the list pane on the left.
  2. Click the 'System' tab.
  3. Parental Controls lists the available options for controlling access to system functions and applications.
  • Use Simple Finder. Simple Finder is a Finder replacement that has a simplified user interface. The user is allowed to access a selected list of applications, and create and edit documents in their home folder, and prevented from accessing or modifying most system settings.
  • Only allow selected applications. This option allows you to select the applications the managed user can access. Parental Controls organizes the applications into the following groups: iLife, iWork, Internet, Widgets, Other, and Utility. You can expand each group by clicking the triangle next to its name. Once you expand a group, you can place a check mark next to the individual applications you want the user to be able to access.
  • Can administer printers. Allows the managed user to select a printer other than the default printer.
  • Can burn CDs and DVDs. Lets the user burn files to optical disks.
  • Can change password. Allows the user to change his/her password.
  • Can modify the Dock. Lets the user add applications to the Dock for easier access.
  • Make your selections by placing check marks next to the appropriate items.
  • 03
    of 07

    Parental Controls - Content

    Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
    You can restrict access to websites, and filter access to the dictionary.

    The 'Content' section of Parental Controls lets you control which web sites the managed user may visit. It also lets you place a filter on the included Dictionary application, to prevent access to profanity.

    Set Up Content Filters

    1. Click the 'Content' tab.
    2. Place a check mark next to ‘Hide profanity in Dictionary’ if you wish to filter the included Dictionary application.
    3. The following web site restrictions are available from Parental Controls:
    • Allow unrestricted access to web sites. This is the same type of access a standard user would have to the web.
    • Try to limit access to adult web sites automatically. Web sites containing adult content will be restricted according to a proprietary method that Apple uses. You can click the ‘Customize’ button to add specific web sites to 'allow' or 'never allow' lists.
    • Allow access to only these web sites. Selecting this option produces a pre-populated list of well-known kid-friendly sites. You can add sites to the list, as well as remove sites from the list.
  • Make your selections.
  • 04
    of 07

    Parental Controls - Mail and iChat

    Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
    You can limit who the managed account can interact with in Mail and iChat.

    Parental Controls gives you the ability to limit the use of Apple's Mail and iChat applications to a list of known, approved contacts.

    Set Up Mail and iChat Contact Lists

    1. Limit Mail. Place a check mark to prevent the managed user from sending mail to or receiving mail from anyone who isn't on the approved list.
    2. Limit iChat. Place a check mark to prevent the managed user from exchanging messages with any iChat user who isn't on the approved list.
    3. If you placed a check mark next to either of the above items, the approved contact list will be highlighted. Use the plus (+) button to add an individual to the approved list, or the minus (-) button to remove an individual from the list.
    4. To add an entry to the approved list:
      1. Click the plus (+) button.
      2. Enter the first and last name of the individual.
      3. Enter the email address and/or iChat name of the individual.
      4. Use the dropdown menu to select the type of address you're entering (Email, AIM, or Jabber).
      5. If an individual has multiple accounts that you want to add to the list, click the plus (+) button at the end of the Allowed Accounts field to enter additional accounts.
      6. If you would like to include the individual in your personal Address Book, place a check mark next to 'Add person to my Address Book.'
      7. Click the ‘Add’ button.
      8. Repeat for each additional individual you wish to add.
    5. If you would like to receive a permission request each time the managed user wants to exchange messages with someone who isn't on the list, place a check mark next to 'Send permission requests to' and enter your email address.
    05
    of 07

    Parental Controls - Time Limits

    Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
    Limiting the time spent on the Mac is just a checkmark away.

    You can use the Mac's Parental Controls feature to control when your Mac will be available for use by anyone who has a managed user account, as well as how long they may use it.

    Set Up Weekday Time Limits

    In the Weekday Time Limits section

    1. Place a check mark in the 'Limit computer use to' box.
    2. Use the slider to set a time limit from 30 minutes to 8 hours of use in a single day.

    Set Up Weekend Time Limits

    In the Weekend Time Limits section:

    1. Place a check mark in the 'Limit computer use to' box.
    2. Use the slider to set a time limit from 30 minutes to 8 hours of use in a single day.

    Prevent Computer Use on School Nights

    You can prevent the computer from being used by a managed user during specified time periods on school nights.

    1. To control weekday use, place a check mark next to the 'School nights' box.
    2. Click the hours or minutes in the first time field, and either type in a time or use the up/down arrow to set the beginning of the time when the computer may not be used.
    3. Repeat the above step for the second time field to set the end of the time when the computer may not be used.

    Prevent Computer Use During Weekends

    You can prevent the computer from being used by a managed user during specified time periods on the weekend.

    1. To control weekend use, place a check mark next to the 'Weekend' box.
    2. Click the hours or minutes in the first time field, and either type in a time or use the up/down arrow to set the beginning of the time when the computer may not be used.
    3. Repeat the above step for the second time field to set the end of the time when the computer may not be used.
    06
    of 07

    Parental Controls - Logs

    Parental Controls - Set Up Parental Controls on Your Mac
    With Parental Control logs, you can keep track of websites visited, applications used, and iChat contacts.

    The Mac's Parental Controls feature maintains an activity log that can help you keep track of how a managed user is using the computer. You can see which web sites were visited, which web sites were blocked, and which applications were used, as well as view any instant messages that were exchanged.

    View Parental Controls Logs

    1. Click the 'Logs' tab.
    2. Use the 'Show activity for' dropdown menu to select a time frame to view. The choices are today, one week, one month, three months, six months, one year, or all.
    3. Use the 'Group by' dropdown menu to determine how the log entries will be displayed. You can view entries by application or by date.
    4. In the Log Collections pane, select the type of log you wish to view: Websites Visited, Websites Blocked, Applications, or iChat. The selected log will display in the Logs pane on the right.
    07
    of 07

    Parental Controls - Wrap Up

    The Parental Controls feature is fairly easy to set up, but it's up to you to manage its parameters. If you're using Parental Controls to filter web sites, don't assume that Apple knows what's best for your family. You need to diligently monitor the sites your family is visiting by reviewing the Parental Controls logs. You can then customize the web site filter to add sites that should have been blocked, or to remove sites that are acceptable for a family member to visit.

    The same holds true for the Mail and iChat access lists. Kids have an ever-changing circle of friends, so the contact lists must be updated in order for the filtering to be effective. The 'send permission request' option can help strike a balance between giving kids a little freedom and keeping on top of their activities.