Set parental controls on your Mac

It's pretty easy these days to keep your kids out of anything nefarious on the Web or regulate their computer time: In fact, you don't even need an extra program for it—you can do it right from your Mac's System Preferences app. In this week's Macworld Video, we'll walk you through setting up an account with parental controls, and just what controls are available to you.

Download Macworld Video #187

• Format: MPEG-4/H.264

• Resolution: 480 x 272 (iPhone & iPod compatible)

• Size: 5.1 MB

• Length: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Show Notes

If you'd rather rely on text and pictures rather than a video tour of parental controls, our very own Chris Breen put together a nice walkthrough for setting up managed accounts last year.

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Show transcript

Whether your children use a central computer at home, or you’ve just given them their own machine, you want to make sure to keep them safe while they’re surfing and regulate their hours while they’re at home. Hi, I’m Serenity Caldwell with this week’s video tip; today we’re going to walk you through setting parental controls on your Mac.

In order to set parental controls, you’ll need an administrative user account for yourself—one that your child doesn’t know the password for—and an account for your child. If they’re using your home computer, chances are you’ve already set up an account for them through System -> Users & Groups. If you haven’t set up an account for them yet, just click the lock at the bottom of the pane, enter your password, then click the plus button to add a new account.

If you’re creating a new account for your child, choose the Managed with Parental Controls option. (You can also change a current account to this option, if your child already has a user on your machine.) Set an account name, password, and create the user.

After creating your child’s account, you can also add their Apple ID, if they’ve chosen to take advantage of iCloud. Make sure not to click “Allow user to administrate this computer,” however.

Once you’re finished tweaking your child’s new account, it’s time to open Parental Controls.

Parental Controls are divided up into five sections: Apps, Web, People, Time Limits, and Other.

In Apps, you can choose to simplify your child’s Finder, limit what kinds of applications they can open on your computer—by App Store age range and a customizable list—and whether they can modify the Dock. You’ll also find a Logs button at the bottom of each Parental Controls panel that keeps track of what websites your child visited, applications they opened, and any iChat conversations they had.

The Web pane allows you to place restrictions on web usage. You can either allow all access to websites, have the computer attempt to limit access automatically, or limit their access only to a specified list of websites.

People deals with who your child can chat and email with. You can limit them to chatting only with approved senders; if they’d like to send mail or chat with anyone else, you can have the computer automatically email you a permission request, which allows you to remotely approve the contact.

Time Limits is fairly self-explanatory: It deals with how long your child can use the computer each day. You can set limits for weekdays, weekends, and evenings, to keep them from browsing late into the night.

The Other pane deals with a few miscellaneous issues, like hiding profanity in the Dictionary, limiting what printer settings your child can adjust or if they can use a CD burner, and preventing them from changing their password.

And that’s it! After you’re finished your adjustments, you can log out and have your child log into their account.

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