Several months ago for one of our CyberNotes, we talked about Vista’s Parental Controls and how it’s one of Vista’s shining points. It gives parents control over nearly every aspect of their child’s computer use. Parental Controls help parents do their job of protecting their children from harm while allowing them to experience all that a computer can offer. Since we have already covered Vista’s parental controls, we thought we should take a look at the parental controls that are offered if you are using Mac OS X.
How to enable Parental Controls
- Open System Preferences
- Under “System” click Parental Controls
- Choose the accounts you would like to attach parental controls to
- Begin configuring the options
Manage Parental Controls from another Computer
If you would like to manage the parental controls from another computer (for example, if your child has their own computer), you can check a box that will allow you to do so. Just note that the computer has to be on the local network in order to be able to use this feature.
Setting Up Parental Controls
Below is a screenshot of the interface you’ll see when you are configuring parental controls. Notice that to the left will be the list of accounts on the computer set-up with parent controls and on the right are all of your options. Configuration options include:
- Mail & iChat
- Time Limits
Under system controls, you can determine whether you want your child to be able to access printers, or be able to burn CDs and DVDs. You can also deny them the option to change their password or modify the Dock.
If there are only certain applications you want your child to be able to access, you can select them. For those applications that they aren’t supposed to have access to, it’ll take an administrator’s password to open it. You can also choose to have your child view a simplified Finder which is great for younger kids.
There’s not a whole lot you can configure under the content section, but the important thing here is going to be Website Restrictions. These days there are all kinds of inappropriate websites that children could easily come across so this is an important feature. You can either allow your children to have full access of any website, or click the option to try and limit access to adult websites. You can also create a customized list of sites that are always allowed, and sites that are never allowed.
Mail and iChat
If you would like to have control over who your children are emailing and chatting with, you can do so under the “Mail and iChat” section. They give you the option to limit either mail or iChat, or both. Once you decide what you want to limit, you begin by adding names, email and instant message addresses.
Should the child attempt to email someone who is not on the list, you can enter in an email address and you’ll be notified so that you can determine whether to give permission or not. You’ll also receive a message if someone tries to contact the child, who is not on the approved list.
For some kids, if their parents didn’t set limitations on how long they could be on the computer, they’d be on it all day. The time limits section allows you to specify how many hours you want your child on the computer each day, and you can also prevent access to the computer during specific hours.
For this particular section, Vista’s configuration options are better because you can choose multiple times during the day that you’d want blocked. Using the Mac OS X controls, you can only choose a starting time and an ending time, although you can have two different time blocks, one for school nights, and one for the weekend.
This is where you’ll want to go to see what your children have been up to. It’s a collection of logs which shows you the websites your child has visited, and which applications they’ve used, among other things. You can show activity for one day, one week, one months, three months, six months, or one year.
Wrapping it up
It’s nice to see operating systems incorporate parental controls so that parents can feel more at ease with their children using the Internet. Like Vista’s parental controls, Mac OS X’s are great too and give parents control over nearly every aspect of their child’s computer experience.