Computers and the Internet as a whole are simply amazing things. Never before has anyone had the wealth of information at his or her fingertips like we do today. This freedom gives us the ability to learn more, do more, and even find cat pictures better than ever before.

As a parent however, this freedom and ability to find anything in the world might not be the best thing for your kids. While you want them to have a fun and engaging experience online, what you don’t want is for them to find content you’d rather them not see or interact with applications or settings that you’d rather keep off limits.

Parental controls inside of OS X can help you manage, monitor, and control how your kids interact with your Mac. From controlling how much time they spend on the computer to what websites they visit and who they chat with; parental controls are the best way to keep your kids safe while giving them as much freedom as possible. Parental controls aren’t hard to set up, and we’ve outlined the details below.

Before Getting Started

Before getting into setting up parental controls in OS X, you first want to have user accounts set up for each member of your family. This way, you can easily control access settings on a per-user basis. This can be done by opening up System Preferences and clicking on Users & Groups.

Set up new accounts as Standard accounts, leaving yours as the admin. Once you have accounts set up, you can continue with parental controls.

Enable Parental Controls

To turn on parental controls, first open up System Preferences. From here click on Parental Controls.

From here you will need to click the lock icon in the lower left corner and enter your admin password. This unlocks the pane and allows you to edit. Once your password is entered, you should see this screen:

Click on the user you wish to edit in the left column and you should see a warning to Enable Parental Controls. You will see this warning for each account, as parental controls are enabled or disabled on a per-account basis.

Click Enable Parental Controls to continue. With this done, we can move on to configuring parental controls and setting restrictions.

Setting Restrictions

The restrictions you can set are split up into a few categories that show as tabs. From the tabbed interface you can fine-tune apps, web access, people, and time limits.

Parental Controls: Apps

Once parental controls have been enabled, you can set the restrictions wanted for each account. Select the user you want to set parental controls for and you should see a list of options and tabs.

Starting on the Apps tab, you can disable specific apps for the managed user. You can also turn on Simple Finder, which simplifies the Finder window for younger users or people that are new to OS X. To limit apps just check the Limit Applications box and choose the apps you want to allow to be run. You can also limit age settings by clicking the dropdown next to Allow App Store Apps.

Parental Controls: Web

Next, click the Web tab and you get the ability to limit web traffic in a few ways. First, you can turn on automatic adult-themed site filtering and customize it based on what you need. If you want to go even stronger, you can add allowed sites to the parental controls white list and restrict web traffic to only these sites.

Parental Controls: People

Clicking on the People tab shows you all the limitations you can impose on users in the way of email, Game Center, and Messages. This means you can limit the people the user can talk to via email and text as well as via multiplayer games. This is ideal for younger users, as you can limit contacts to a specific list.

Parental Controls: Time Limits

Possibly the most useful parental control available is found on the Time Limits tab. Here, you can limit when the account can be used. Meaning you can impose bedtimes and punishments while still allowing the computer to be used during school and homework hours.

You can set weekday hour limits, weekend limits, and bedtime for school nights and weekend nights, too. This means you can enforce the rules even when you’re not around to enforce them yourself.

Other Features

The Other tab is a collection of the miscellaneous features that can be enabled or disabled on a per-account basis. For example, you can stop users from using the built-in camera, stop them from changing their passwords, or even stop users from burning CDs.

Possibly the most interesting feature available is the Logs button. This button allows you to see websites visited including attempts at blocked sites, Applications used, and messages sent. You can view activity for just today or stretch it out a year or more to see trends. In short, you can easily and in a nice visual format see everything that goes on with the controlled account.

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