How to Set Parental Controls on Your MacBook

When an administrator creates or edits the account for a standard-level user, Mac OS X offers a number of levels of specific rights — Parental Controls — that can be assigned on an individual account basis. When an account has Parental Controls assigned, it becomes a managed account.

Parental Controls are available only for standard-level users; administrators aren’t affected by them because an administrator-level account already has access to everything covered by Parental Controls.

To display the controls for a standard account, click the account in the list and then click the Open Parental Controls button. Click the Enable Parental Controls button, and click the Lock icon in the lower-left corner to confirm your access (if necessary).

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Lion includes five different categories of controls:

  • Apps: These settings affect what the user can do within Lion as well as what the Finder itself looks like to that user.

  • Web: Lion offers three levels of control for websites:

    • Allow Unrestricted Access: Select this radio button to allow unfettered access for this user.

    • Try to Limit Access: You can allow Safari to automatically block websites it deems adult. To specify particular sites that the automatic adult figure should allow or deny, click the Customize button.

    • Allow Access to Only These Websites: Choose this radio button to specify which websites the user can view. To add a website, click the Add button (which bears a plus sign), and Lion prompts you for a title and the website address.

  • People: Click the Limit Mail and Limit iChat check boxes to specify the e-mail and instant messaging addresses that this user can communicate with. (Note that this affects only Apple Mail and iChat, so other mail clients, web-based mail, and instant messaging applications aren’t controlled.) To add an address that the user can e-mail or chat with, click the Add button, which bears the familiar plus sign.

    Do you want a notification if the user is attempting to send an e-mail to someone who’s not in the list? Click the Send Permission Requests To check box to select it and then type your e-mail address in the text box.

  • Time Limits: Parents, click the Time Limits button, and you’ll shout with pure joy. You can limit an account to a certain number of hours of usage per weekday (Weekday Time Limits), limit to a specified number of hours of usage per weekend day (Weekend Time Limits), and set a bedtime computer curfew time for both weekdays and weekend days.

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  • Other: These settings control the Dictionary and hardware devices such as your printer and DVD burner. They include:

    • Hide Profanity in Dictionary: With this check box selected, profane terms are hidden within the Dictionary for this user.

    • Limit Printer Administration: With this check box selected, the user cannot modify the printers and printer queues within the Print & Scan pane in System Preferences.

      If this option is enabled, the user can still print to the default printer and switch to other assigned printers but can’t add or delete printers or manage the Mac OS X print queue. (Of course, if the print job encounters a problem, that user has to bug you to fix things. Go figure.)

    • Limit CD and DVD Burning: Select this check box to prevent the user from recording CDs or DVDs via the built-in disc recording features in Mac OS X. (Note, however, that if you load a third-party recording program, such as Toast, the user can still record discs with it.)

    • *Disable Changing the Password: Select this check box to prevent the user from changing the account password.

    If you’re creating a single standard-level account for an entire group of people to use — for example, if you want to leave the machine in kiosk mode in one corner of the office or if everyone in a classroom will use the same account on the machine — disable the ability to change the account password.

    (Don’t create a system with just one admin-level account that everyone is supposed to use! Instead, keep your one admin-level account close to your bosom and create a standard-level account for the Unwashed Horde.)

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