Use the Mac’s Parental Controls to Restrict Computer Use

by Sarah Dobson on November 04, 2019

Regulating your kid’s computer use can be an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, the Mac’s built-in parental controls can help you limit screen time, limit access to certain apps or Web sites, keep your child from messing up the system, and more.

Here are the limitations you can set up in System Preferences > Parental Controls—click each button at the top to follow along.

Apps

The first three options in Apps control who your child may encounter online or what they might do together.

No camera means no selfies. No multiplayer Game Center games makes it impossible for your child to play games (or chat within a game) with either friends or strangers in Apple’s Game Center.

You can also limit from whom your child can receive email in Apple Mail, so you can let Grandma in while blocking dubious email related to that contest to win a pony.

The final option lets you set exactly which apps your child can use.

Web

Use the controls on this pane to prevent Miniclip gaming marathons, keep Facebook off limits, or block other Web sites in Safari.

You have two options:

  • Blacklist bad sites: Apple automatically blocks certain undesirable sites, and you can add more. Select “Try to limit access to adult websites” and then click Customize to block more sites or to add a site that Apple is blocking.
  • Whitelist good sites: Apple provides a customizable list of approved sites, including Discovery Kids and Disney. Select “Allow access to only these websites” and then, if you like, go ahead and add and remove sites from the list.

Stores

Handy checkboxes control what sort of media your child can buy from Apple.

You can block access to the iTunes Store (music, TV shows, videos, and apps) as well as to the iBooks Store (ebooks) or nix inappropriate content.

With music and books, you can restrict items with explicit content. And with movies, TV shows, and games, you get to allow only content that’s appropriate for the age-based rating you choose.

Time

This is our favorite pane, because it lets the Mac be the bad cop when it comes to arguments about screen time. Come here to control when the computer may be used, or for how many hours it may be used, both on school nights and non-school nights.

The Mac puts up a warning when your child has 15 minutes left, letting them save work or ask you to add more time (an admin password is required).

Privacy

Options here control whether apps can access your child’s location, contacts, and more. If you worry about this sort of thing, turn off these checkboxes!

Selecting a checkbox doesn’t necessarily mean that apps can access this information. Instead, your child will be allowed to grant permission or not when the question arises, just like in any normal Mac account.

 

Other

Use this potpourri of checkboxes to stop kids from looking up naughty words in the dictionary, prevent them from messing with printer software, turn off Siri voice commands, and more.

If you’ve gone to the effort of placing allowed apps in the Dock to make them easier to open, select “Prevent the Dock from being modified.”

For a preschooler, try selecting Use Simple Finder (shown below). Simple Finder removes many Finder features, puts key folders in the Dock for easy access to apps and files, and hides system-related files. For best results, restart the Mac after enabling Simple Finder.

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