How to Set Parental Controls on Your Mac

You set parental controls by clicking the Parental Controls button in the Users & Groups System Preferences pane on your Mac running Mountain Lion. Sometimes — especially with younger children, computer-phobic family members, or employees in a small business — you want to limit what users can access. For example, you might want to make certain programs off-limits.

  1. Choose Apple→System Preferences (or click the System Preferences icon in the Dock).

    The System Preferences window appears.

  2. In the System Preferences window, click the Users & Groups icon.

    The Users & Groups System Preferences pane appears.

  3. Click the user’s name to select it, click the Enable Parental Controls check box, and then click the Open Parental Controls button.

    Note that clicking the Open Parental Controls button without first selecting the Enable Parental Controls check box puts you in the Parental Controls preference pane with a button front and center for you to click to turn Parental Controls on. So either select the check box as instructed or click the Enable Parental Controls button here.

    To change any of these items, you must be logged in using an account that has administrator powers, and the account you’re modifying can’t have administrator powers.

    The Parental Controls System Preferences pane for that person appears with five tabs: Apps, Web, People, Time Limits, and Other.

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  4. Set the controls in each of the five tabs.

    • Apps: Determine which applications the user may access. Set whether she can modify the Dock. Also determine whether she’s restricted to a very limited and simplified Finder interface.

    • Web: Control access to websites.

    • People: Determine whether Mail or Messages (or both) communicants will be limited to a specified list. This option also lets you notify someone (usually yourself) when the user tries to exchange e-mail with a contact not in the approved list. You can also maintain a log of all Messages text conversations.

    • Time Limits: Set time limits for weekdays and weekends, and prevent access to this computer during specified hours on school nights and weekends. School night doesn’t take vacations or holidays into consideration.

    • Other: Determine whether profanity is hidden during Dictionary access, control whether the user can add or remove printers or modify printer settings, prevent (or allow) burning CDs and DVDs in the Finder, and control whether the user is allowed to change his password.

  5. Quit the System Preferences application or choose a different System Preferences pane.

    Your changes are saved when you leave the Parental Controls pane.

A quicker way to set or change Parental Controls for an already-existing account is to click the Parental Controls icon in the System Preferences application (instead of Users & Groups).

Last but not least, you can apply Parental Controls to the Guest Account, but you can’t apply them to any account that has administrator permissions.

To turn off Parental Controls for a Managed account, navigate to the Parental Controls System Preferences pane, select the account in the list on the left, click the Action menu at the bottom of the list (the one that looks like a gear), and choose Turn off Parental Controls for <username>.

If you want to apply the same Parental Controls settings to more than one user, set them as described above for the first user, and then select that account in the Accounts list in Parental Controls, click the Action menu, and choose Copy Settings. Then select the user you wish to have the same settings, click the Action menu, and choose Paste Settings.

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