Many parents rightfully worry about how much time their children spend on the computer and online. However, despite this, children need to get on the computer at younger and younger ages, especially if you’re homeschooling your children. If you’re a household of Apple fans, then a family Mac could be the best choice, as you can set it up in a high-traffic area where you can keep an eye on the kids, and have a computer that can be used alongside your other devices. But how what makes Macs such great family computers?
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Configure Users and Groups
You can make it easy to manage your family computers with accounts for different family members. When you set up new accounts, you have a few choices for what kind of account you give each user; Administrator, Standard, Managed with Parental Controls, Sharing Only, and Group.
An Administrator account will 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 that you need so that you can manage the computer and the accounts you give your children. The Admin will need to understand a bit about computers, from knowing how to install updates to how to run programs like Clean My Mac X.
A Standard account can use the Mac in a normal way, but won’t have the amount of control that the Administrator account has. A Standard user can’t install new software, for example. This kind of account stops the user from making changes that could cause problems with the computer, but it does mean you’ll need to take over every time an administrator password is needed. This option could work well for older children who you trust to use the computer in a responsible way, but don’t want to give too much control.
Managed with Parental Controls is the ideal account for younger children. With parental controls, the Administrator (that’s you) you can limit what the account can do and can monitor what the account gets up to.
Sharing and Group accounts aren’t all that handy on the family Mac. A Sharing Only account is designed to allow a remote user to access files on the computer. A Group account can be used by a set of users already set up on the computer.
One of the advantages of you having the Administrator account of a family Mac is the parental controls available to you to protect your family.
Apps – You can control access to apps that other accounts have by enabling the Simple Finder. The Finder’s menu bar has fewer available commands, and the Dock only has My Applications folder, a Documents folder, Shared folder, and the Trash, as well as any open programs. There won’t be any options to access anything on the hard drive, and there’s no menu to navigate elsewhere on the Mac. This is perfect for the user accounts for kids who only need access for homework and some games.
You can also block specific apps, such as allowing access to Pages but not allowing access to the internet browser.
Web – In the web tab of Parental Controls, there are three options for you. You can allow unrestricted access to websites, try to limit access to adult websites automatically, and allow access to only chosen websites. For the children’s account, do not use the first option. The second option uses the automatics filters that are built into the OS to prevent access to adult content. You can customize these filters too to allow some sites through that you think have been blocked accidentally and restrict access to sites that the filters have missed. The last option gives you the most control and is useful for accounts for very young children. You can choose to make block access to all but a small amount of selected child-friendly websites.
The internet filters are built into the operating system, so they can be used on whichever web browser you prefer to use. The filters are also smart. Instead of just blocking a list of sites that have been blacklisted, websites are filtered based on the content of their pages. Sites that choose to flag themselves as adult-oriented are automatically blocked. Remember, though, that these filters aren’t perfect, so don’t rely on them entirely. You’ll still need to supervise your kids online. You can use your Admin account to check what sites they visit and block them yourself if you feel they aren’t age-appropriate.
People – In the People options, you can manage access to programs like Mail and iChat. You can also choose the contacts that your child is allowed to communicate with. If your child tries to send an email to someone not on this list, your admin account will be alerted with a permission request sent to you, which you can access remotely, to approve or deny.
Time limits – You can also manage how much time a child with a controlled user account can use the computer for. You can customize the limits for weekdays and weekends, and set bedtime time limits. You can decide how many hours a day the user can be on the computer. For example, on weekdays, you can allow access during homeschooling hours, and then block it for the evening, so the children have to take a screen break. You can then allow access at weekends to allow for games and other fun use, but only for the hours you choose. The Bedtime limits mean you can choose the exact hours the computer can be used between.
Other – There’s also an Other tab for Parental Controls where you can handle other safety features. You could choose to hide profanity in the dictionary, limit access to printing, block the option to burn CDs or DVDs, and disable the ability to change their passwords. As the main Administrator, you can also reset passwords for other accounts yourself, so you’ll never lose access, even if they try to keep you out with a password change.