Parental Controls are built right in to OS X, and they’re a great way for parents to set time limits for their children. My daughter is quickly becoming a teenager, what with her wanting to be online playing games or emailing friends and such at all hours of the day and night. The answer for us was to set her older Macbook up with time limits, using Parental Controls to only allow her Mac to be used with her account during waking hours.
It’s not only for kids, though, as you can set up time limits on your own Mac to help you practice a little self control, or to help you get away from work or online games (looking at YOU, Guild Wars 2!) and spend more time with family. Here’s how to make that happen.
Launch System Preferences from the Applications folder, or the Dock, and then click on the Parental Controls icon. You can choose an OS X account that’s already been created here, or you can hit the plus button in the lower left to create a new account. If you choose the latter, fill in the info like you would in the Users & Groups system preference pane.
Once you have an account to apply Parental Controls to, click on it in the left-hand column. Notice that you can limit specific Web sites, Apps, apply a Simple Finder, and decide whether your child (or yourself!) can access other people on Game Center or via eMail. Ignore all that for now, and click on the Time Limits tab at the top, there.
When you do, you’ll see two different ways to apply time limits for weekdays and weekends. To set a limit to a certain number of hours per day, click on Limit computer use to: in the Weekday or Weekend time limits section. Then drag the slider to the number of hours you’d like to allow the affected account. Once those hours are up, the Mac will warn the user, and allow an admin password to override the time limit.
The second way to set a time limit is to set a Bedtime limit, by checking the School nights and/or Weekend checkboxes, and setting the time at which you’d like the Mac to restrict access to that account. An admin account password can also override these settings as well, in case of homework or other emergencies.
Now you’ll be able to have a bit more control over how long and at what times your children can access the Mac, and even maybe put a few limits on yourself at the same time.