At mac-fusion we believe all parents and guardians should be in charge of how children in their care interact with, and use technology. By putting restrictions in place, we can assure that children, of all ages, are not subjected to content that exceeds their understanding or appropriateness for their age. The restrictions also assist with enforcing time limits of usage and access to specific websites.

Besides the obvious benefits for the younger demographic this guide and the associated settings can also be used by businesses when deploying Apple computers in the workplace, or by the adult end user that would like to restrict the way in which their device is connected to the outside world. Due to this diversity, this guide will reference all users that are not the administrator of the computer as end users.

When you setup a new user account for the first time, you will be prompted to select various parental restrictions. This guide assumes that you haven’t setup any restrictions during the initial setup phase and therefore this article will detail all the options available within the System Preferences area.

To access the Parental Controls area, simply proceed to System Preferences > Parental Controls.

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Figure 1: Parental Controls Locked.

You will notice from Figure 1, that you will need to click on the lock in order to create additional controls for various accounts. When you have entered your administrator password correctly you will be given access to these preferences. It is important to note that as the administrator you will not be able to assign settings that restict functionality to the administrator account.

It is also important to note that you can create a new Managed With Parental Controls user account from within this area by clicking on the plus icon, at the bottom of the lefthand side panel.

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Figure 2: Create A New Managed With Parental Controls User Account

This functionality performs in a similar way to that found in System Preferences > Users & Groups, however you don’t have the options for setting up an Administrator, Standard, Sharing Only, or Group Account via this method. These options are exclusive to the Users & Groups System Preferences.

Please note that while setting up a username and password, within the Parental Control preferences area, you will be unable to use the Password Assistant for help with creating stronger passwords. It is with this limitation in mind that we strongly recommend you use the Users & Groups System Preferences area to setup the account and then proceed to the Parental Controls area.

While we are still looking at user accounts, you may notice that the Guest account is available and can be used with Parental Controls. Please note that when end users Log Out, Restart, or Shut Down the Mac, the Guest account will delete any content that has been stored in the home folder. Content saved on external drives, such as a USB drive, will not be effected by the Guest Home Folder deletion process. The Guest account should always be considered a temporary user account and we advise that it should primarily be used for testing purposes, or for the odd case when someone may require access to the computer for a short period of time.

Before we take a look at the options available for Apps, you will likely notice the Logs button in the bottom right hand corner of the Parental Controls window.

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Figure 3: Log Files Showing Applications Used.

This option presents a record of activity within a user’s account that includes the Websites Visited, Websites Blocked, Applications Used, and a history of communication within the Messages Application. Administrators are able to show activity as recently as within the past day and as far back as a year or longer.

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Figure 4: Showing Log Of Websites Visited.

This area is especially important because it showcases what is being accessed by the end user. As the administrator you can select a website from the list and open it to view the contents prior to restricting the user’s access to the site if you deem it inappropriate. It is recommended that you check this area on a regular basis to ensure that the end user is staying within the sandbox you have created. Please note that some of the sites that are listed may not have intentionally been visited. The Internet is overflowing with sites that present links and autoloading pages to any number of questionable websites and subsequently a user can be unintentionally taken away from the assigned safe sites. In Part 2 of our guide we will look closer at the options available for limiting access to websites.

Let’s now proceed to look at the available settings within the Apps tab as shown in Figure 5.

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Figure 5: Parental Controls – App Tab.

Use Simple Finder

Simple Finder is perfect for new, or inexperienced, users to the Mac. It allows for a very basic set of options and functionality. All apps and files created within the Simple Finder will launch with a single click, rather than the traditional double click of the mouse.

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Figure 6: Simple Finder Window And Dock.

As you can see from Figure 6, the dock is simplfied into three simple folders that include Applications, Documents and a Shared folder. The Shared folder directory for all users is located at Macintosh HD > Users > Shared. This folder will be backed up as part of the Time Machine process, as will all user accounts that have been created. Please make sure that Time Machine is set to backup the Administrator’s entire hard drive. We also recommend individual users backup their own content to ensure their information is protected from possible loss.

It is also important to note that access to external drives, such as a USB thumb drive, will be disabled when using Simple Finder unless the end user is opening, or saving, files to the drive from within an application.

Equally important to note is an administrator can allow the end user to run the full Finder experience by proceeding to Finder > Run Full Finder, as shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 7: Run Full Finder Option In The Menu Bar.

Upon making this request, the Administrator Username and Password will need to be entered to allow full functionality. Once correctly entered the Full Finder will be active until the end user Logs Out, Restarts, or Shuts Down the Mac. Administrators can easily turn this functionality off by proceeding to Finder > Return to Simple Finder, as shown in Figure 8, in the Menu Bar.

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Figure 8: Return To Simple Finder In The Menu Bar.

The Administor Password and Username are not required to Return to Simple Finder.

Limit Applications

If the Limit Applications option is deselected, the end user will have access to all applications. By selecting this area you are able to limit the applications that the end user can have access to. You will notice when this setting is first selected that the popup Menu option for Allow App Store Apps becomes available for customisation. When you click on this Menu, as shown in Figure 9, you can limit access to applications by age group, or choose to disallow access to any applications purchased from the Mac App Store by selecting Don’t Allow.

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Figure 9: Limit Application Usage By Age Groups.

Any applications obtained outside of the Mac App Store will be unsigned by Apple and subsequently do not have this age group option. Despite this, you are still able to select applications individually in the Allowed Apps area as shown in Figure 10.

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Figure 10: Manage Apps That An End User Can Have Access To.

You will notice that applications that have not come from the Mac App Store will be presented under the Other Apps banner. All you need to do now is select the applications that the end user can have access to, while deselecting the applications you don’t wish them to have access to.

The final option to consider in the Apps area for Parental Controls is Prevent The Dock From Being Modified. If you have chosen to Use Simple Finder on the end user account then this option will be unavailable as Simple Finder automatically prevents Dock modification. If you are not using Simple Finder then you will be able to select and deslect this functionality. We recommend that it would be best, for most end users, to ensure Dock modification is turned off in order to prevent any accidental modifications that can result in user confusion.

This has been Part 1 of our guide to Parental Controls In OS X. Make sure you follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be automatically notified when Part 2 is released along with other special deals and information pertaining to our group learning classes.

If you have any questions, please drop into our store and our knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to help you.