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How to set up & use Parental Controls in Mac OS X El Capitan

Lucy Hattersley | June 23, 2016
Parental Controls can help you keep an eye on your child's computer activity. Here's how to make a Mac child-friendly and protect your kids online

How to set up Parental Controls on Mac

In Yosemite and earlier versions of Mac OS X, the process for placing age restrictions on Mac apps is slightly different:

  1. Select the child's name in the sidebar and select the Apps tab.
  2. Place a tick in Limit Applications.
  3. Use the Allow App Store Apps option to select an age range for apps.
  4. Click the small reveal arrow next to App Store in the Allowed Apps section to view which apps are available. You can see the age range next to each app on the right-hand side.
  5. Use the reveal arrow next to Other Apps to view apps that were included in Mac OS X (like Safari). These will not have age ratings.
  6. Remove the tick next to any app to prevent it from running.

Set age range for apps in Mac OS X Parental Accounts

How to use Parental Controls: Limit access to websites

The internet is one of the largest concerns when it comes to Parental Controls. Apple has you covered with three distinct ways your child can access the web. Open Parental Controls and click on the Web tab: here you will see three options:

  • 'Allow unrestricted access to web sites'. Normally this is only for older children, and is not selected by default.
  • 'Try to limit access to adult websites'. (In Yosemite and earlier it adds the word 'automatically'). This is the default option. Apple maintains a comprehensive list of websites that are appropriate and inappropriate for kids. Click Customize to add and remove websites (that your child may require, or that you don't want them to use).
  • 'Allow access to only these websites'. This is an option for younger children. It blocks web access apart from just sites you add. A bunch of kid-friendly sites, including Discovery Kids, National Geographic, and Disney, are added to start you off. Use the add ('+') button underneath the websites to add more to the allowed list, or select one and hit the minus button ('-') to remove it.

How to set up Parental Controls on Mac: Restrict websites

Click the Logs button (at the bottom) to view the websites your child has visited or tried to visit.

How to use Parental Controls: Time limits

Go to the Time tab. You can specific specific time limits (such as 3 hours a day) of access to the Mac for weekdays or weekends, and you can use the Bedtime setting to prevent access during specified hours.

How to set up Parental Controls on Mac: Time limits

In Yosemite and earlier the Time tab is labelled as Time Limits, and there's an additional tab called People where you can control contacts made through Game Center, Mail and Messages. (These things are covered under the Apps tab in El Capitan.) Create a list of Allowed Contacts to limit your child's interaction.


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