When I put a computer in my daughters room, I soon realized I could no longer watch over her shoulder as she worked away at school games, Minecraft and of course Civilization (after all, that was my first game). So much as I wrote an article a long time ago about child-proofing an iPad, now I’m writing about child-proofing a Mac.
For me, I find that child-proofing is a bit like taking my kid to McDonald’s. I said never ever ever ever would I do this and then… Well, peer pressure, ya’ll… So if I have to do it, I figure someone else might. So here’s a quick and dirty guide to doing so. The gist of this guide is to continue using the same admin account that was created when you setup the computer initially. But to also create another account for the child, one that has some restrictions to keep them in a customized user experience. This might be to keep them out of things they try to do on purpose, keep them from accidentally finding some things they shouldn’t or maybe just to customize the user experience to make the computer easier to use (after all, if they can’t remove Minecraft from the Dock, they can’t come crying when they can’t find it.
Most of the work that needs to be done, can be done within the System Preferences. This is available under the Apple menu as System Preferences…
Once open, click on the Users & Groups System Preference.
At the Users & Groups System Preference pane, click on the plus sign (+).
At the new account screen, choose “Managed with Parental Controls” in the New Account field. Then provide the child’s name in the Full Name field and an Account Name will be automatically created (note that I shortened the name in this example to make it easier for the child to log in).
Assuming your child doesn’t have their own iCloud account, set the password to “Use separate password” and then type it in. Once you’re happy with these settings, create the new account, which can be managed with Parental Controls by clicking on the Create User button.
Once the account is created, click on the “Enable parental controls” checkbox and then on the Open Parental Controls… button.
At the Parental Controls System Preference pane, you’ll have a few options.
Next, click on the Web tab. Here, you’ll effectively have 3 options: don’t restrict any content, let Apple try and block inappropriate content and build a whitelist of allowed content (with all other content blocked). Now, it’s worth mentioning that there can be an annoying element here, which is that if a site needs to be opened up for access, a child might come bugging you. But I like that, so I’m configuring this.
Note: It’s worth mentioning that I discovered a few websites I’d of never tried to use in the allow list, so worth checking them out to see if your child will dig on some of these sites!
Once you’re satisfied with the options you’ve configured, click on the People tab.
At the People screen, you can configure who the person using the Managed Account can communicate with. Here, restrict access to Game Center, restrict who the account can send and receive mail with and of course, who the account can use the Messages app with.
The above options include the following:
Note: Apple rarely uses the word restrict. Instead, they prefer to allow things to happen by default and then let you disallow these features. Basically the same thing, but keep this in mind when you’re configuring accounts as sometimes you can accidentally click the wrong thing if you’re not accustomed to such double-negativery.
Once you have configured who the user of this account can communicate with, click on the Time Limits tab.
Time limits are used to restrict what times the user can use the computer as well as how long per day that the user can actually use the computer. The options available include:
Time limits are the only things that matter for some who like to physically sit with a child while they use a computer, as you might just want to keep the child from waking up in the middle of the night and accidentally seeing something that scares them. But for many, time limits won’t be enough, as kids might spend hours gaming or doing homework unmonitored.
Next, click the Other tab. Here, you’ve got the miscellaneous restrictions that really don’t fit anywhere else in Parental Controls. The options available include the following:
Note: I know I said earlier that Apple rarely says restrict or disable. They will get around to fixing this screen eventually… 😉
Once you have configured parental Controls, click on that Logs button in the lower right corner of the screen. Here, you’ll see the following:
And that’s what you can do with Parental Controls. But there’s more, which we’ll look at shortly. When you click out of a field, the settings are changed in a System Preference, so you should be able to just close the window and have your settings persist.
We’ve gone through creating a new account, restricting access to what that account can do and how and when to use these options. But there’s much, much more than we can cover in this article. There are tons of other restrictions that don’t fit into these basic options, accessed either through what are known as managed preferences or via profiles, which can easily be created by tools like Apple Configurator, Profile Manager and 3rd party mobile device management tools such as Bushel.
Ultimately, I can pretty much break out of about any managed environment you put me in. And in the age of YouTube, chances are that your child has many the same materials I’ve either presented, written or that others have written. So please don’t consider these options as much more than just a general guideline unless you’re using a Device Enrollment Program-enabled device.
Anyway, good luck, and you’re a good parent for caring.
krypted December 29th, 2014