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How to Change Parental Controls on Your Child’s Mac from the Couch

Children can enjoy lots of great activities on the Mac—video chats with grandparents, multimedia math lessons, silly photo editing, and lots more—but they can also spend too much time staring at the screen or to get in over their heads with inappropriate apps or activities. With the Parental Controls feature in macOS, you can limit and monitor a child’s Mac use, shutting down naughty words in the Dictionary app and adult content in the iTunes Store, enforcing screen time, monitoring app use, and more.

If you aren’t using parental controls already, read two other Simply Mac articles to get started. Begin with How to Keep Your Kids from Running Amok on Your Mac, where you’ll learn how to set up a Managed account and start applying parental controls. We offer more details about the Parental Controls settings in Use the Mac’s Parental Controls to Restrict Computer Use.

Once you’ve set up parental controls, you’ll probably want to adjust them as you see what works and what doesn’t. The most common reason for making changes is that the time needs to be tweaked. For example, the time settings might normally prevent your middle schooler from using their Mac after 8 PM but need to go later on nights when they get home late from a soccer game and still needs to do their homework. Or, you might allow more screen time on sick days. You may also want to allow a new Web site that is required for school, add additional email correspondents from your child’s dance class, or loosen the media restrictions for movies to allow a special rental for a slumber party.

Now, imagine the scenario where your child is making a strong case for more time while you’re on the couch, working on your own MacBook. Wouldn’t it be nice to adjust the settings from your MacBook without getting up? Here’s how:

  1. This one-time step happens on your child’s Mac. Go to System Preferences > Parental Controls, click the lock icon in the lower-left corner of the preference pane, and sign in with your administrator password. Now, click the gear icon just above the lock icon and choose Allow Remote Setup so a check mark appears next to it.

     

  2. Make sure your Mac is on the same local network as your child’s Mac. It could be a wired network, but more likely it’s a Wi-Fi network. If your house has two Wi-Fi networks (which might be true if you’ve turned on a guest network), both Macs need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. You can check which network a Mac is using by looking in the Wi-Fi  menu on the menu bar. Also, the child’s Mac must be awake. 
  3. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Parental Controls, click the lock icon in the lower-left corner, and sign in. An Other Computers heading appears in the list of accounts at the left. 
  4. Beneath the Other Computers heading, select your child’s Mac. 
  5. In the dialog that appears, enter your administrator account name and password on your child’s Mac. If you don’t want to enter the password next time, select “Remember password in keychain.” Click OK.

     

  6. If the child’s Mac has more than one Managed account (as might be the case if you have three kids sharing one iMac), select the account you want to adjust in the list at the left.

The controls for your child’s account now appear at the right, and you can adjust them just as though you were sitting at your child’s Mac.

Note that you can change the Parental Controls settings remotely without your child knowing that you’ve done so. For a younger child who isn’t time-aware, this lets you appear consistent even when adjusting time limits. For example, if you know your child is playing a game and has only a few minutes left, but you need to finish an important email message, you could add another 10 minutes to avoid the interruption.

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