How To Set Parental Controls On Your Mac

Giving your children access to the internet via smartphone, tablet or computer can help equip them with important digital skills. It can open their eyes to great new books and enriching entertainment, but it can also open children up to a world of risk.

Parents can use Apple’s parental controls for the Mac to make sure that their children aren’t exposed to adult content, sketchy sites, or worse. While it’s important to arm your children with digital literacy, it’s even more important to keep them safe.

How to enable Mac parental controls

The following steps will take you through the most common parental control options.

Set up an account for your child

The first step is making sure your child has his or her very own account when signing into their Mac. This way, you can set parameters on what your child is allowed to have access to.

Creating a separate account for a kid is simple:

  • Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen.
  • Click on System preferences and choose Users and Groups.
  • If you’ve already set yourself up as an Administrator, click the plus sign to add another user and add your child’s name.
  • Click on the child’s name and select Enable Parental Controls.

Restrict access using Mac parental controls

While in the Users and Groups menu, click the name of your child’s account and click the Open Parent Controls icon. From here, you can go through several tabs to choose what your child can and can’t see. Here are your choices: Apps, Web, Stores, Time, Privacy and Other. Here’s what you can control under each tab:

Apps tab

  • Allow or disallow the use of a camera. If you don’t want your child chatting with anyone or making any use of the computer camera, leave the box unchecked.
  • Allow joining Game Center multiplayer games. If you do not want your child talking with any other users on game sites, you can limit the contact by keeping this box unchecked.
  • Limit mail to allowed contacts. If you would like your child to have free reign to email anyone, you can leave this box unchecked. If you would like to make sure your child only sends and receives emails from people he or she knows, you can check the box and manually add those contacts.
  • Limit applications. You can essentially hide any apps you don’t want your child to use by clicking this box. Then you can add apps that you want your child to see in the box to tailor the experience yourself.

Web tab

  • If you are comfortable having your child surf the web without any restrictions, you can click Allow unrestricted access to websites.
  • If you want your child to have freedom surfing the web, but would like the browser to limit access to adult websites, click on “Try to limit access to adult websites.”
  • Finally, if you want to make sure your child only visits particular websites, you can click on “Allow access to only these websites.” Then, you add the website addresses to the box below. Your child will only be able to navigate to these sites on a browser.

Stores tab

  • If you would like your child to have full access to iTunes and iBook store, you don’t have to check any boxes.
  • If you do not want your child to have access to iTunes, iBook, or iTunesU, just click the Disable button next to each store.
  • If you don’t mind your child going into the stores, but want to limit any inappropriate titles, you can limit the type of content your child sees. Simply click the button to restrict music with explicit content. You can limit your child to viewing only PG-rated movies and television shows along with age limits on apps. You can even filter out books with sexually explicit content with the parental controls.

Time tab

The time tab allows you to set up the times in which your child can have access to the computer.

  • You can limit weekday use anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours per day by clicking the box and toggling through to the number of hours per day you want your child online.
  • You can do the same with weekend time limits by clicking on the corresponding box and sliding down to the number of hours your child is allowed to be on the computer on weekends.
  • Finally, you can prevent access to the computer itself based on certain times of the day. Just click on the weekend or weekday box under Bedtime, and input the start and end times during either weekdays or weekends.

Privacy tab

With this part of Mac parental controls, you can limit what type of information apps request from your child’s user profile, including location and contacts. You can either set these privacy options as a whole for your child’s entire account, or click into each and every app on your child’s profile and limit access based on each app.

Other tab

There are other ways you can personalize your child’s experience using a Mac under this tab, including:

  • Disable Siri or dictation.
  • Block CD or DVD burning.
  • Restrict explicit language in the dictionary.
  • Use Simple Finder, which simplifies the desktop for a younger child to only click on apps approved by you.

Once you’re done with all of these Mac parental controls, click the lock at the bottom of the window to make sure they can’t be changed. Any time you or anyone else tries to change these settings, the Administrator will have to type in a password first.

What is remote management?

If you have multiple Macs in the household and you’d like to make sure you can change Mac parental control settings no matter what computer you are on, make sure to enable remote management. In your System Preferences pane, click on Parental Controls and click the box next to Manage Parental Controls from a different computer. Make sure to click the lock screen again.

Now, if you’re on another Mac and want to change parental controls on this computer, you’ll be able to do that remotely, giving you full control over the device, even if it’s not in your hand.

Duplicating settings for other children

Now that you’ve set all your preferences for one child, chances are you probably don’t feel like going through all the choices again and creating new settings for another child. Luckily, there’s a simple way to duplicate settings onto another account to save you time.

  • In the Parental Controls pane, click on the restricted account you’ve already created.
  • Click on the options button directly next to the + and – button.
  • Choose Copy Settings for Guest User.
  • Click on the new user you want to apply these settings to. Click the same options wheel and select Paste Settings to Guest User.

Don’t forget to secure your Wi-Fi settings

Now that you’ve gone through all your Mac parental controls on your device, make sure that your Wi-Fi is also secure. Make sure to have a complex password that no one can guess.

Using Mac’s parental controls matters: Here’s why.

Law enforcement officials estimate there are 50,000 sexual predators online right now and that’s a pretty good reason for parents to take their child’s computer and online safety into their own hands. Taking simple precautions like setting up Mac parental controls can make a huge difference when it comes to who your children have access to online.

Parents also have options to limit screen time along with the types of content kids can download and access on their internet browsers. Knowing how to use Mac parental controls will give your child the best chance of having a safe online experience.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.

Officer James Banta

Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.