Mac Security

5 Useful Ways to Utilize Your Mac’s Parental Controls

Ben Stegner 30-08-2017

Even if you’re a seasoned macOS user, there are probably some great features you don’t use enough 7 Useful Things You Probably Aren't Using on Your Mac Better plan your day, quickly find what you're looking for and multitask like a boss — here's a look at seven excellent OS X features that you're probably not using. Read More . But what if we told you that some of them are hiding in your Mac’s Parental Controls menu?


And you don’t even have to be a parent to take advantage of them. That’s right — just like the accessibility options in macOS A Mac OS X Guide To Accessibility Features Mac OS X has a number of accessibility features built-in which can accommodate the needs of most users. Here’s what they are, and what they do. Read More , the Parental Controls menu offers some handy controls not seen elsewhere. We’ll show you how to access them and the best ones to try.

How to Access Parental Controls

To get started with Parental Controls, visit the Apple Menu in the upper-left corner of your screen and select System Preferences. Then, select the Parental Controls option. It’s a yellow icon with outlines of a parent and child inside.

mac system preferences parental controls

Assuming you’re the only user on your Mac, you’ll then see a note that there are no user accounts to manage. Indeed, parental controls only work on a non-administrator account. Thus you need to either create a new user account with parental controls, or convert your own account to a controlled account.

Since you probably like your account the way it is, we recommend creating a new account. See our guide to macOS accounts How to Set Up Multiple User Accounts on Your Mac How do user accounts work on a Mac? Can users read and edit each other's files? What happens when you delete a user account? Read More for more info. Select the Create a new user account with parental controls option and hit Continue.


Next, you’ll need to create an account on your Mac for parental controls. This is pretty basic: specify a name, username, and password just like you would for a normal account. You also must enter an age range: 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+ are your options.

Your Mac will preset some options based what you select here, so go ahead and choose 17+ since you’re not actually creating an account for a child.

mac create parental controls account

Click Create User to enter the Parental Controls menu proper.


Parental Controls Basics

Before we jump into the best tweaks, let’s take a brief tour of the menu so you know what all is here.

When you open the Parental Controls menu with a managed account ready, you’ll see it (plus any others) on the left sidebar. You can adjust the available settings individually for each user: just click a username to make changes to that account. Click the Settings gear at the bottom of the left bar to copy settings to a different account or remove parental controls from it entirely.

mac parental controls overview

The Parental Controls menu is split into six tabs:


While all these options could be useful for managing children, we’ve selected the most useful tweaks you can make Top 7 Ways to Personalize Your Mac Desktop Want to make your Mac more personal? Check out these awesome methods for customizing your Mac theme and more. Read More with this menu for your own use.

1. Disable Your Webcam

Here’s a simple solution to a common security risk. Your webcam poses a risk to your privacy because if someone gained access to it, they’d be able to view everything you do. How would you feel knowing some creep was watching you undress, and what if you held your credit card near your computer?

That’s why unless you’re using it, you should disable your webcam Why You Should Disable or Cover Your Webcam Right Now If you aren't careful, hackers can easily gain access to your webcam and spy on you without your knowledge. So you have two options: disable the camera or cover it up. Read More . You could find out what device is using it nefariously How to Find What Program Is Using Your Webcam The light of your webcam is on, but you're not using it? Who's spying on you through the camera lens? Find out now! Read More , but it’s easier and safer to just kill it outright.

To do so, head to the Apps tab and uncheck the box for Allow use of camera. Note that this will obviously prevent FaceTime from making video calls.


2. Limit Applications for Another User

Many uses for limiting the available apps on your computer exist. For instance, someone might need to use your computer for a while — maybe they need access to Safari, but there’s no reason for them to go poking through your photos or pop open a Terminal window. Or maybe you’re trying to stay productive Focus! 4 Best Tools To Temporarily Block Facebook & Co You're not alone, we have all done it - wasting hours browsing the web instead of getting stuff done. Need a spike in productivity? Find the best tools for escaping social media here. Read More and don’t want to open non-work apps.

Whatever your reason, you can limit the programs an account is allowed to open on the Apps tab. Check Limit Applications on this Mac and you can hand-pick the allowed apps. Under Other Apps the system will check some of the basics for you, such as App Store, Calculator, and iMovie. But you can make any changes you’d like — search for an app using the box nearby if you can’t find it in the list.

mac limit apps parental controls

Combined with the Prevent the dock from being modified option on the Other tab, you could use this to fill the Dock up Make Your Mac Dock Great Again With These 5 Shortcuts Why stick with the jumble of icons that came with your Mac's dock when you can swap them for a bunch of super useful shortcuts? Read More with a specific list of apps.

3. Filter Adult Websites

You’ll find plenty of ways to filter inappropriate sites on your computer 7 Family Safety Tools To Keep Your Kids Safe Online Like the real world, the internet can sometimes be a scary place for your kids. There are some great apps and tools to keep them safe; here are some we think are the best. Read More . Some of them involve making tweaks to your router or DNS settings, while others come from paying a third-party security suite. But flipping one setting in the Parental Controls menu can filter out a ton of explicit content with minimal work.

Flip to the Web tab and you’ll see three filtering options:

  • Allow unrestricted access to websites doesn’t filter anything online.
  • Allows access to only these websites lets you add a hand-picked list of sites that the account can visit. Anything else simply won’t work.
  • We’re interested in the middle option: Try to limit access to adult websites.

mac filter explicit sites

This applies an automatic filter to edit out the worst of the web. You can click the Customize button to add lists of sites to always allow or always deny, handy if you find one that gets through the filter or a false positive. Of course, no automatic filter is 100 percent perfect, but this is still a huge help.

4. Limit Time Spent on Your Mac

Think you spend too much time on your computer? Though it’s meant for limiting kids’ screen time The Best Tools for Limiting Your Kids Online Screen Time The time kids spend online is just as important as what they see. These are the best tools for limiting your child’s screen time on the internet and their mobile device. Read More , you can take advantage of the Time tab to prevent yourself from using your own Mac too often.

mac time limit parental controls

Using the Weekday and Weekend time limits options, you can control how long the account can use the computer. Anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours will work. The Bedtime option kicks you off after a certain time of night and won’t let you back on until morning. If you have a tendency to work too long into the night, this can help you go to bed on time.

5. Make Navigation Easy With Simple Finder

Located on the Other tab, the Use Simple Finder option makes your Mac’s file system easier to navigate. For comparison, here’s what the standard Finder view looks like:

mac default finder

And here’s how Simple Finder changes it:

mac simple finder

You can’t even open Finder normally. You’re limited to My Applications, Documents, Shared, and the Trash. The numbered navigation buttons are more obvious and you can’t delete applications. This option also hides any documents living on the desktop.

This probably isn’t an option you’d want for your everyday account, since it limits what you can do with Finder 8 Finder Tips for Mac Newbies Navigating files and folders using the native Mac file browser Finder is easy enough, but there are many more features hidden behind menus and keyboard shortcuts. Read More . But it’s a great option for making a computer easier to use for an elderly person, or limiting someone’s access to what’s on your computer.

Parental Controls Without the Parenting

Now you know the secrets of this oft-forgotten menu in your Mac’s System preferences and how to use it to your advantage. You might not get use out of everything here, but the options above are definitely worth taking a look at. And if you have kids, try some controls here to make your Mac safer for them to use!

Continue increasing your Mac knowledge with the best tips and tricks for using Safari 17 Essential Safari Tips and Tricks for Mac Users These essential Safari tips and tricks will make the Mac's default browser experience even better. Read More .

How do you use your Mac’s parental controls? Is there another useful setting we didn’t cover in detail here? Tell us in the comments!

Related topics: Mac Tricks, Parental Control.

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