Latest in How to

Image credit:

Mac 101: Restricting Web Access

TJ Luoma , @tjluoma

TUAW reader Adam wrote in with the following question:

Today, I am in the process of upgrading our iMac for another product, likely a MacBook Pro with external display this time. I am wrestling with the idea of putting the old iMac in my daughter's study area for use.

My question is this: Is there a way for me to select the websites that she 'can' access? This is different to using a 'net nanny' filter where I can choose sites to block. I wish to ideally, set up two user accounts for her. One account with access to all the educational information and learning sites only, with a second account (for outside of study hours) where she can web-cam with friends/family and other social or fun site access.

Can this be done somehow/somewhere? I'm OK if it requires purchase of separate (reasonably priced) software, but cannot locate a solution for this dilemma.

I, and my gorgeous daughter, would love a reply on this one!

Dear Adam:

Good news! Not only is this possible, but it is free and built right into Mac OS X. I'll walk you through the steps.

First, launch System either by going to the Apple menu or by finding the /Applications/ folder in Finder.

Open the "Users & Groups" preference pane and you'll see something like this:

Click that + button at the bottom left (make sure that the "padlock" icon is unlocked first.)

Now you will see a "New Account" window. Choose "Managed with Parental Controls" as shown here:

(Since I don't know your daughter, I chose a familiar "little sister" name for her.)

Once you click "Create User" that window will go away, and you will see one like this:

Click the button for "Open Parental Controls" as shown, and you will see

Select the radio button next to "Allow access to only these websites" and then use the "+" and "-" buttons to add or remove sites.

Mac OS X manages access to these sites by setting up a local proxy and sending all traffic through it, which means that the same restrictions are in place regardless of which app is used, even the Terminal. While I wouldn't assume that any system is foolproof, this should prevent any accidental viewing of undesirable websites.

You can manage other settings using the Parental Controls pane in System

Apple has video tutorials on this an other subjects available at