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How to Set Up Free Parental Controls On the Mac

I’m an avid Apple and Macintosh fan. I find them to be the most intuitive for kids to use and since most computers within Elementary school and Middle school are Macs, it’s good to have consistency at school and at home. Most school environments have their access very locked down in terms of the sites that kids can visit and what they can see.

But as soon as your kids get home, it’s usually a very different story. Protection can range from no access whatsoever to the Internet to no monitory and completely unfettered Internet with no restrictions.

In Part 2 of my series about Parental Controls at home in order to provide more protection for your children when they access the Internet, we are going to look at the Macintosh side of the equation. Built into the recent versions of Mac OS X are parental controls that for the most part, provide adequate protection. I do always, however, recommend additional protections like anti-virus and anti-malware as well as a good firewall solution.

For starters, it’s important to set up “named” accounts for each kid so that you can have restrictions specific to that child. After that, you can proceed with setting up the controls.

Macintosh Parental Controls cover the basics:

  • Applications – You can limit the number of applications that your kids can use or even present a very simplified Finder window (which is great for smaller children).
  • Web Access – You can allow completely unrestricted access, or limit/allow access to a pre-defined list of sites. You can set up logging of that access as well to see what sites your child has visited or tried to visit.
  • People – You can specify if you want to limit iChat and/or eMail to particular contacts that are defined by you and are in your Address Book. If someone tries to email your child and they are not on this access list, you get an email notification, with a copy of the email, prompting you to either allow or block that particular user.
  • Time Limits – Probably one of the most important settings, you can specify the amount of time that they can use the computer during the week, as well as on the weekend. You can also define the number of times that they can have access to the computer.
  • Other Controls – You can hide profanity in the Dictionary, as well as limit other admin items like Password, Printers and DVD burning.

You will find that most of the controls here are good enough for smaller aged kids. But, as your kids grow up, they will find other ways to get to the content that they want or to chat with their friends outside of the hours that you designate.  It’s at that point when you need to start letting go of the technology grip on them, and just work on the relationship and education side of the equation. You will probably get a lot further that way than trying to impose software restrictions.


  • Application Control 1 of 5
    Application Control
    You can limit applications that kids can use or even present a very simplified Finder window (which is great for smaller children)
  • Mail & iChat Control 2 of 5
    Mail & iChat Control
    Here you can specify if you want to limit iChat and/or eMail to particular contacts that are defined by you and are in the Address Book. The best thing is, if someone tries to email your child who is not on this access list, you get an email notification, with a copy of the email, prompting you to either allow or block that particular user.
  • Other Controls 3 of 5
    Other Controls
    You can hide profanity in the Dictionary, as well as limit other admin items like Password, Printers and DVD burning
  • Set Up Time Limits 4 of 5
    Set Up Time Limits
    Probably one of the most important settings in here, you can specify the amount of time they can use the computer during the week as well as on the weekend, and also define the times when they can have access to the computer
  • Limit Web Access 5 of 5
    Limit Web Access
    You can all completely unrestricted access, or limit or allow access to a pre-defined list of sites. You can set up logging of that access as well to see what sites your child has visited or tried to visit

I have encountered some odd idiosyncrasies with the Mac Parental Control software. In order to get the notifications with a Parental “Allow” or “Deny” email to your inbox, you have to be on a Mac AND use the Mail app. Otherwise, you don’t have the ability to “manage” your kids emails. Also, I have had occasions where the Time Limits would kick in at odd times and lock my daughter out very easily.

You can remotely administer your kids’ account from your own Macintosh, quite easily. The only thing is, they have to be on the same network as you are and you have to be doing it from another Mac.

Kids are a lot smarter than we are as well, when it comes to technology. My parents ask me how do fix their computers and I have a feeling that my kids will start lecturing me someday about not doing regular backups or not using a particular application correctly. To that end, remember that you kids may have found out your Parental Control password and just with that, they can surf away to their little heart’s content.

But, until they are older and living on their own, I have the ability to impose Time, People, Web and Application Limits on their Internet activities. And the Mac is one of the best computers to learn on, because of it’s ease of use, simple design and general lack of virus and malware - making is a clear choice for a home with younger kids.

Up next – Free Parental Controls from Windows

Read more of Michael’s writing at HighTechDad.com.
And don’t miss a post! Follow Michael on Twitter (@HighTechDad)!

 

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