How to use parental controls on your Mac

By , Jun 28, 2016

Parental Controls Mac

Parental controls allow you to have more control over your child’s access to your Mac, and they’re an invaluable tool to make sure that they’re only doing what they’re supposed to be doing instead of everything they shouldn’t.

Because many parents allow their children to use their Macs, it’s a good idea to set parental control restrictions on their user account. We’ll show you how this is done in this tutorial.

The benefits of parental controls

With parental controls, you can deny access to certain apps, websites, and the people they may want to interact with. These settings can be applied to any standard user on your Mac, but not other administrator accounts.

These are very useful tools for parents who want to make sure their child is only using the computer for academic activities rather than playing online with video games, watching videos on YouTube or Netflix, or communicating with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Likewise, schools and institutions who use Macs in libraries and computer labs can use these features to prevent students from getting distracted while in an educational environment.

Parental controls come built into every Mac with OS X El Capitan installed on it, and they’re easy to enable and configure from any administrator account.

Enabling parental controls on a Mac

To enable parental controls for any standard user on your Mac, you will need to be logged into an administrator account. Once you are, you can follow these steps to enable parental controls for a standard user:

1) Launch the System Preferences app and open the Users & Groups preferences pane.

Users and Groups Mac System Preferences

2) Click on the Lock button at the bottom of the preferences pane to unlock it for editing.

Remove User Account Mac Click Lock to Make Changes

3) Enter your administrator password when prompted, then click the blue Unlock button.

Enter password for new Mac user

4) Next, select a standard OS X user you would like to apply parental controls to, and then put a check mark in the Enable Parental Controls box.

Enable Parental Controls for a Standard Account

Note that the text under the account name changes from “Standard” to “Managed” after the changes are complete. This indicates that the account is being managed by an administrator with parental controls.

Configuring parental controls on your Mac

Now that you’ve enabled parental control management for a standard Mac user, you can start configuring them. To do this, follow these steps:

1) Launch the System Preferences app on your Mac and open the Parental Controls preferences pane.

Parental Controls Preferences Pane Mac

2) Click on the Lock button at the bottom of the preferences pane to authenticate your identity and unlock the options:

Click the Lock to Make Changes Parental Controls

3) Enter your password and click on the blue Unlock button:

Unlock Mac for Parental Controls Password

4) You should now see the user account you enabled parental controls for in the sidebar. Click on it and you can begin editing the parental controls for that user account.

Click on User Account Parental Controls

Selecting what to configure

Every parent is going to want different restrictions for their child, so we won’t be telling you how to configure these settings. On the other hand we will explain what each of them can do.

The preferences pane is separated into six tabs: Apps, Web, Stores, Time, Privacy, and Other.


In the apps tab, you can control what apps your child is allowed to access. Here, you can control access to the following things:

  • Use of the iSight camera
  • Joining Game Center games
  • Adding Game Center friends
  • Who can and can’t be emailed
  • What applications can and can’t be launched
  • What utilities can and can’t be launched


In the web tab, you have the ability to limit the websites your child can load. You have the following management options:

  • Allowing unrestricted access to all websites
  • Limiting access to adult websites
  • Allowing access to only some websites that may be needed for school or research


In the stores tab, you can keep your child from accessing the digital content stores and downloading things. You can control access to the following:

  • iTunes Store
  • iTunes U
  • iBooks Store
  • Music with explicit content
  • Movies based on rating
  • TV shows based on rating
  • Apps based on age rating
  • Books with explicit sexual content


In the time tab, you can control time frames where the user account is allowed to have access to the computer. This is perfect for setting time limits so children don’t spent too much time on the computer and keeping them from using the computer at too late of a time. You can configure the following options here:

  • Setting time limits for weekday computer use
  • Setting time limits for weekend computer use
  • Setting up specified allowed hours on school days
  • Setting up specified allowed hours on weekends

There is also a Logs button, which lets you see a usage log for as long as you need to.


From the privacy tab, you can control the apps and services that are allowed to have access to the information stored in your child’s user account. This may be important to parents who want to keep bad people from obtaining information about their kids. Here, you get the following settings to configure:

  • Managing app privacy settings
  • Preventing access or changes to location services settings
  • Preventing access or changes to contacts settings
  • Preventing access or changes to calendars settings
  • Preventing access or changes to reminders settings
  • Preventing access or changes to Twitter settings
  • Preventing access or changes to Facebook settings
  • Preventing access or changes to Diagnostics settings


The other tab lets you configure some other various features of OS X that you may or may not want your child to have access to. Those include:

  • Enabling or disabling use of Siri Dictation to convert speech to text
  • Preventing the printer and scanner settings from being changed
  • Preventing the burning CDs or DVDs from Finder
  • Keeping explicit language from showing up in the OS X Dictionary
  • Keeping the contents of the Dock from being changed
  • Enabling a simplified Finder window with fewer options

Wrapping up

With today’s technology, children have access to almost anything they want to on computers and the internet and parental controls are a powerful way to control your child’s experience on the Mac.

We encourage parents to take advantage of these features to keep their children from becoming distracted or viewing potentially explicit content at a young age.

Also read:

Do you use parental controls for your Mac? Share in the comments!

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