Many parents rightfully worry about how much access their children should have to a computer. However, despite this, children need to get on the computer at younger and younger ages, as schools use the internet and other computer resources to set homework and support your child’s education. If you’re a household of Apple users, then a family Mac could be the best bet, as you can set it up in a high-traffic area where you can keep an eye on things, and have a computer that can be linked to your other devices. But how can you share a Mac as a family?
Configure Users and Groups
You can make it easier to manage your Mac with account for different family members. When you set up new accounts, you have a few choices for kinds of accounts; Administrator, Standard, Managed with Parental Controls, Sharing Only, and Group.
An Administrator account can control most of the functions of the Mac, including installing software, creating new accounts, changing passwords, and modifying and deleting files. This is the account type that you should have to allow you to manage the computer and the accounts you give your children. This user will need to understand the computer, from knowing how to install updates to how to use safe mode on macOS Catalina.
A Standard account can operate the Mac normally, but won’t have the level of control that the Administrator account has. A Standard user can’t install software, for example. This kind of account prevents the user from making changes that could cause problems with the Mac, but it does mean you’ll need to step in every time an administrator password is needed. This option could work well for older children who you trust to stay safe online, but don’t want to make changes.
Managed with Parental Controls is the right sort of account for the children. With parental controls, the Administrator can limit what the account can do and can monitor what the account does.
Sharing and Group accounts aren’t that useful on the family Mac. A Sharing Only count is designed to allow a remote user to access files on the computer. A Group account can be used by a subset of users already set up on the Mac.
One of the advantages of managing accounts of a family Mac is the parental controls available to you.
Apps – You can limit access to apps from other accounts by enabling the Simple Finder. The Finder’s menu bar has fewer commands, and the Dock has only a My Applications folder, a Documents folder, Shared folder, and the Trash. There are no options to view anything on the hard drive, and no menu to navigate elsewhere on the Mac. This is ideal for accounts for children who only need access for homework and games.
You can also allow and restrict specific apps, such as allowing access to Pages but not allowing access to the DVD Player. Users with controlled accounts can’t modify the Dock either.
Web – In the web tab there are three options. You can allow unrestricted access to websites, try to limit access to adult websites automatically, and allow access to only chosen websites. For children, avoid the first option. The second option uses the filters that are built into the Mac OS to limit access to adult content. You can customize this access will allow some access and restrict access to sites that Apple’s filters miss. The last option offers the most control and is useful accounts for young children. You can choose to make the accounts only able to access a handful of selected child-friendly websites.
The internet filters are built into the OS, so they can be used on most web browsers. The filters are also intelligent. Instead of just blocking a list of blacklisted sites, websites are filtered based on the content and structure of their pages. Sites that identify themselves as adult-oriented are automatically blocked. Remember, however, that these filters aren’t perfect, so you will need to pay attention to the sites your children visit. You can look at the sites a controlled user has visited, and blacklist them yourself if you feel they are inappropriate.
People – In the People tab, you can allow or deny access to Mail and iChat. You can also add contacts that your child is allowed to communicate with. If your child tries to send an email to or chat with someone not on the list you have approved, you get a permission request sent to you, which you can access remotely to approve or deny.
Time limits – You can also decide how long someone with a controlled user account can use the Mac for. You can set different limits for weekdays and weekends, and set bedtime time limits. For weekdays and weekends, you can decide how many hours a day the user can use the computer for. For example, on weeknights, you could restrict the kids to two hours of use to allow them to do homework, but not spend the whole night online. You can then allow longer at weekends to allow for games and other fun use, while not being allowed to stay on there all day. The Bedtime option allows you to choose the exact hours the computer can be used between. You could line these up with bedtime, so there are no arguments about ‘five more minutes’ to stay up and stay on the computer.
Other – There’s also an Other tab for Parental Controls where you can choose other restrictions. Here, you can choose options like hiding profanity in the dictionary, limit access to the family printer, restrict access to burning CDs or DVDs, and disable the ability to change their passwords. Remember that you don’t need to stop someone from changing their password to maintain access to their count. If your child does change their password, you, as the administrator, still have access and the power to reset the password of any other account on the computer.