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In Leopard Essential Training we looked briefly at parental controls. As it's one of Leopard's marquee features I would like to revisit the subject and look at parental controls in a little more depth and we do that by going into system preferences and we are going to start this by creating an account. When we last looked at accounts we had just a couple of accounts I have created a few more for members of my family and friends who will be using this Mac. I want to create one more now with parental controls. In order to do so we first unlock this so that we can create accounts, administrator's password and click the plus button to create a new account.
Under the New Account pop-up menu I will choose Managed with Parental Controls. This will be for my child so I will call it Kid- I kid you not. And a password. And create account. You will notice that Allow user to administer this computer is turned off because when you have parental controls you really don't want that person able to install software and do things with it that end administrator can do.
However if you want to you can turn this on again makes no sense to me why you would but you certainly have that option. Next thing to do is to click the Open Parental Controls button and bring this up. Now that we have done that we simply select the account, we would like to configure. Now you will see 5 separate tabs. The first is System. This provides a number of options. The first is Use Simple Finder. When you enable this and switch over to an account that has parental controls imposed upon it this is what it's going to look like.
It will have 4 Finder menus, you will have the Apple menu, Finder, File and Help. The dock will contain only icons of the running applications. It will have the My Applications folder a Documents folder and Shared folders and of course it will have the trash as well. There is no hard drive icon on the desktop there is no side bar in Open Finder windows and you will see no contextual menus when you control click on the desktop. Inside the applications, documents and shared folders items are displayed in icon view only and they can't be moved.
To make things easier kids can launch items to these folders with a single click. The Apple menu offers sleep and logout commands but there is no option for restarting or shutting down the Mac. The next option is to only allow selected applications. This way you can control what this user is going to do. So for example perhaps I would like to allow my child to use iMovie, but not iDVD or GarageBand. iPhoto yes iWeb perhaps not and maybe I want to limit all access to the Internet simply by switching off all Internet applications by unchecking that box.
Also at the bottom of this window you are going to see some other kinds of modifications that you can perform. For example, can this administrator deal with printers? In this case no I don't want my child to touching printers. How about burning CDs and DVDs? Nope, I am going to turn that off too. Can change password? Absolutely not, I want total control of this Mac. I will turn that off too, put these options back on. Next we go to the Content tab. In the Content tab you can do a couple of things with the content that this user will be able to view.
The first is Hide profanity in Dictionary. What this does is hides any sort of raw language. Now somebody can go into the dictionary and they can enter the clinical terms for body parts and sexual congress but they may not use their four letter word equivalants. If they try to search for this stuff they won't find it, it will not appear in there. Then you have website restrictions. You have 3 options here. One is to allow unrestricted access to websites this is something you do not want to allow for your young child. The next one imposes a little more security and that's try to limit access to adult websites automatically.
By clicking Customize you can determine how this is really going to work. For example if your child is doing homework and the subject of breast cancer comes up for example some of these filters may filter out important medical sites. What you can do is allow certain sites by clicking the Plus button and then you can enter the URL for that site and you are set to go. You can also never allow certain sites. There are certain unseemly sites that use very innocent sounding names. If you learn what those are and realize that your child is trying to get to these sites you can click the Plus button and then you can add the URLs for those sites so now these sites are off limits as well.
Finally the most secure option particularly for a young child is to choose allow access to only these websites. This produces a series of bookmarks that Apple creates. These are all kid friendly bookmarks that are perfectly fine for a child to go to, Disney, Yahoo, Kids National Geographic, it's all fine. At this point you can create a white list of bookmarks. Just click the plus button and you can add a bookmark or you can add a folder and then in the resulting window you add the URL for the site that you want to allow your child to go to.
Now suppose the kid is on the computer goes to somewhere like PBS Kids or National Geographic Kids and tries to go somewhere else. They enter something in Safari's address field or they click a link that goes outside that domain. Should they attempt to do this up pops a little warning that says "I am sorry, you are not allowed to go here," so it keeps them caged in to just the sites that you have allowed. Well turn on unrestricted for now. We will go to Mail and iChat. Mail and iChat filtering is very much like the white list that we talked about under Safari.
You have two options you can limit Mail or you can limit iChat. When you limit Mail once again you see our friend the plus button you can click the plus button and you can choose who this person is allowed to communicate with. So this child can then sent me an email, her grandmother an email, uncle, friends, that sort of thing but not strangers. Not people that you haven't approved. And you are going to accomplish this a couple of ways. One is you can type an email address in the Allow Contacts area or you can enter that iChat handle we choose or you can click the downward pointing triangle.
This expands to show you the contents of your Address Book you can then choose contacts and click Add and that will add the names to the Allowed List. Same thing works with iChat, same idea plus add identities and you are good to go. Time Limits is next. You know sometimes kids sit too long at the computer as wonderful as the Mac is it's nice to have a balance it's good for kids to get outside run around, read books, talk to people do other things not just sit at the computer all day.
This is how you can limit the time they spend doing that. The first option, Weekday time limits. You can limit computer use to anywhere from half an hour a day to 8 hours a day. You choose what you believe is healthy and necessary for your child to do. So if we set it at 3 hours a day for example this gives that child over a 24-hour period 3 hours that they can use the computer. They can be logged in for 3 hours. It doesn't have to be continuous, it can be in little chunks over the day so it can be an hour in the morning, half an hour later as long as it adds up to the total.
When you get to about 15 minutes of the limit up pops a little warning dialog box saying, "You have 15 minutes left. Please wrap up what you need to do because your time is almost up." Once the time is up the child will be logged out and they will not be allowed back in until that 24-hour period has expired. You also have the option to set weekend time limits. Same idea here. How many hours over the course of 2 days are you going to allow your child to use the Mac. Again up to 8 hours, down to half an hour. And then there is the Bedtime option.
Kids need to get their rest and you don't want them up after a certain period of time banging on the computer. And it would be great if they didn't get up at 4 in the morning so that they can spend time with the computer as well. So on school nights you can set a limit. Say, you know after 8 o'clock you are done, this is going to turn off and you can't use the computer again until 6 am. And on weekends what the heck, we are going to make it 5 in the morning. That will keep you out of my room and let me sleep late. That's fine. You can have the computer after that but I am certainly going to set a weekend time limit so use your time wisely.
And finally there is the Logs tab and the log is really what it sounds like. It's a way for you to keep tabs on what your child has done on the Mac. And so we see websites visited. Any websites your child visits under account will appear in the log. Also websites that are blocked. This will give you an idea of what your child has been doing and has been forbidden from doing. It's quite likely that a lot of this stuff is going to be very innocent. They have tried to click out of an allowed website and they have been told they can't do it.
Applications it will tell you which applications the child has watched, how long they were up and when they were quit and finally iChat is really useful. There can be some untoward things that happened in instant messaging. What the iChat option will do is it will keep a complete list of all the iChats that your child has engaged in as well as complete transcript of what happened in that chat. So not only can you see that little Suzy iChat with her little friend George but if you wish to you can go in and see exactly what was typed between each one of them.
I know it feels a little like you are spying on your child and it's quite possible that you don't feel that you need to do this but some people feel that they do have to do this, they need to keep track of what their kids are doing. And honestly although this is not technology related, it's really important that you talk to your children about this. They need to know 1) about some of the dangers, without scaring them. I mean you don't want to talk to a 7 year old and talk to them about some of the evil things going on in the Internet. As they grow older you can give them a better idea of what's happening. Try to make it clear that this is your computer, it's a privilege to use the Internet, and that you are keeping track of what they are doing.
If they know that you are watching it's less likely that they are going to try to break the rules and do something that they are not allowed to do. In the meantime you have Parental Controls, which will help you manage your child's Internet and computer experience.
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