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How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

Apple iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro and Air machines running OS X and iPhones and iPads have a number of parental controls built in. Here’s how to enable them. 

Some of the UK’s ISPs provide parental controls. However, not all of these solutions, for example TalkTalk’s HomeSafe, work with Macs. 

Thankfully there are already parental controls built in to your Apple devices. In this feature we’ll show you how to get the most of them. 

Stop little Jake looking at things he shouldn't be. Yet.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs 

Mac computers running OS X come with parental control measures built in already. These allow parents to create profiles for their children to use, with access to certain websites restricted.

Parents can apply scheduled time limits, preventing access outside of set homework hours, before the weekend and after bed time.

The ability to monitor contacts (who your child speaks to online), restrict what apps and games children can use and the ability to lock out swear words from dictionaries, thesauruses and sites like Wikipedia are also available to parents.

Activating parental controls on your Mac is easy; we’ll show you how:

1) Have your main network administrator password to hand

This is the password you’ll have chosen when you set up your Mac for the first time. This will help you assign parental control settings and take control over what your children can see online.

2) Go to the Apple icon (top left) and head to System Preferences

3) Once here go to System > Parental Controls

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

4) Choose from the following options:

  • Create a new user account with Parental Controls: if you want to create an account for your child.
  • Convert this account to a parental controls account: if you’re setting up parental controls on your child’s machine.

Whichever you choose, you’ll be asked to create a username and a password. Each time your child logs in to your Mac, they’ll need to select their name and enter the password you give them.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

The Parental Controls panel will let you access and configure the profiles for your children and apply settings as you see fit.


5) Start setting limits

Setting limits will be familiar to most parents, and once you’ve set up profiles you’re now able to set limits on what you children can do on your Mac, including which apps they can access, what they can use on the web, who they talk to and when they can use your computer.

There’s also a miscellaneous section where you can apply extra settings to filter swearing, limit access to the printer and stop your children from changing their passwords.

We’ll go through each section explaining what each one means and what you can do in each one.

  • Apps

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

Here you can apply simple settings to your Mac, locking out some of the more advanced features for your child. This will stop them changing any settings or altering things that they might not yet understand how to use.

You can also apply restrictions on the types of apps that are downloaded from the App Store.

Apple age rates apps submitted to the App Store into the following categories: 4+, 9+, 12+, 17+. You can choose to allow apps defined by these age-rated categories, allow all apps or prevent any apps from being downloaded.

  • Websites

This is where parents have the option of choosing what their children can access online.

You’ve a choice between ‘Allow unrestricted access to websites’, ‘Try to limit access to adult websites automatically’, or ‘Allow access to only these websites.’

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

It’s fair to say that most parents would consider the first option to be pretty much off the menu for anyone under 18.

The second option automatically locks out most adult websites, with anyone trying to access something they shouldn’t seeing a screen similar to this:How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

If your child has found that they’ve been locked out of something that both you and they feel shouldn’t be restricted (Apple’s filter locks out Gmail, for example) then all a parent needs to do is click on the ‘Add Website’ button which pops up, and enter their username and network password.

Similarly, if you feel that there are sites which should be restricted but aren’t, then you can head back to the Parental Controls menu and under your child’s profile go to Web > Customise and add links to inappropriate websites.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

This way, you’ll gradually build up a list of approved and unapproved sites, giving your child the freedom to explore the web safely and learn how it works while parents can still control what they see.

The third option is ‘Allow access only to these websites’. This lets you create a small network of sites which your child can use. You can add or remove sites as you see fit and might be the best option for the youngest children.

Finally, under the ‘Logs’ section at the bottom, parents can track the web activity of their kids, what sites they have been looking at and what sites they’ve been trying to access.

  • People

This section lets you keep track of and limit who your children are emailing to chatting to on Mail and iChat.

The Allowed Contacts list lets you create an approved list of contacts like relatives and family friends.

Note that this will only work with Apple’s own Mail and iChat services. If your children are using other services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Skype, then you won’t be able to apply the same restrictions.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

  • Time Limits

This section lets parents specify how long their children can be online, and when.

Using the sliders you can specify for how long your children can use the family computer during weekdays and weekends. You can set intervals from half an hour up to eight hours.

This lets you effectively schedule ‘homework time’, giving children a time window in which to use the web for research.

Using the Bedtime feature, parents can also lock out access to the computer after hours on school nights or at weekends. This prevents children from accessing the web late at night

  • Other

The ‘Other’ section lets you turn on additional controls. These include:

Hide profanity in Dictionary: a profanity blocker which blocks searches for swear words from dictionary sites and Wikipedia.

Limit printer administration: prevents a child from changing the printer settings, adding new printers or removing existing ones.

Limit CD and DVD burning: stops your children from copying music or films to discs.

Disable changing the password: stops your children from changing their password.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on iPads and iPhones

iPads and iPhones have a set of restrictions parents can apply which locks out the use of the Safari web browser, YouTube and limits what kind of content can be downloaded from iTunes and the App Store.

Restrictions can be applied if your children are using the family iPad, they want to play on your iPhone or if they’ve got an iPhone or iPod Touch of their own – parents can turn them on and off as and when they need them.

To access these, go to Settings on your iPad or iPhone, then General, then Restrictions.

How to turn on Parental Internet Controls on Macs, iPads and iPhones

Here you can block access to Safari, YouTube, iTunes and the Ping social network, as well as restrict the ability to install or delete apps.

If you’re happy for your child to download apps, music and podcasts on their iPad or iPhone you can apply filters to stop downloads of anything with explicit lyrics, apps with an older age rating or any apps which require in-app purchases. Perhaps a good idea if you want to preempt a FarmVille spending spree…

Make sure you change the ratings location to ‘United Kingdom’ from the default ‘United States’ if you want the UK age ratings to apply.

When you enable restrictions on an iPad or iPhone you can lock access to this menu (to prevent your child undoing all of your restrictions) with a 4-digit PIN.

Main image: Flickr


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