How to: Block web­sites on a Mac

David Price ex­plains how to keep your chil­dren safe

Macworld - - HOW-TO -

There are lots of rea­sons why you might wish to block cer­tain web­sites on a Mac. Prob­a­bly the two most com­mon ones are stop­ping kids from look­ing at porn on the fam­ily com­puter (but still be­ing able to look things up for home­work), and stop­ping em­ploy­ees from wast­ing time on Face­book or sim­i­lar when they should be us­ing work sites.

One method is to in­stall mon­i­tor­ing soft­ware on the Mac(s) whose ac­cess you want to limit.

Pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude Nor­ton Fam­ily (£29.99 at­rigs) and Net Nanny (from $9 (£6.40) at An­other is to spend some time set­ting up Parental Con­trols on the ma­chine they’re go­ing to be us­ing.

But if you only want to set up a few re­stric­tions on a sin­gle Mac, it’s prob­a­bly eas­ier to just tinker with the set­tings – and we ex­plain how to do this over the fol­low­ing pages. Note that this ap­plies re­stric­tions to a sep­a­rate non-ad­min user ac­count; the main ad­min ac­count will still be able to ac­cess all the sites it wants to.

We’ll as­sume here that you haven’t al­ready set up a sep­a­rate user ac­count for your chil­dren or who­ever isn’t sup­posed to be look­ing at the sites, but if you have – and that ac­count sim­ply needs to have web-ac­cess re­stric­tions placed on it – then we’ll ex­plain which steps to skip. This method can­not ap­ply re­stric­tions to ad­min­is­tra­tor ac­counts.

One fi­nal word. You’ll spot a few Sa­fari icons in the fol­low­ing di­a­logue boxes, but don’t be fooled: the re­stric­tions will ap­ply to any and ev­ery web browser on your Mac. You don’t need to set up sep­a­rate re­stric­tions for Fire­fox, Chrome and so on.

Open Parental Con­trols

Open Sys­tem Pref­er­ences – from the dock, or via the ap­ple icon at the top-left cor­ner of the screen – then se­lect Parental Con­trols. It’s got a bright yel­low icon.

If you can’t see it (and in some ver­sions of Mac OS X the icon will be dif­fer­ent), re­mem­ber that

you can find pref­er­ences sub-cat­e­gories us­ing the search field at the top right.

Cre­ate a new user ac­count

Since we haven’t yet set up our child-friendly, non­ad­min­is­tra­tor user ac­count, the Parental Con­trols screen doesn’t have much to of­fer. Se­lect ‘Cre­ate a new user ac­count with parental con­trols’ and click Con­tinue. (If you’ve al­ready set up a sep­a­rate non-ad­min ac­count, you’ll be see­ing rather dif­fer­ent op­tions. Skip ahead to the step en­ti­tled ‘Web parental con­trols’.)

User ac­count de­tails

Cre­at­ing a new user ac­count is sim­ple. Fill in the five fields, se­lect­ing a name (the ac­count name will fill in au­to­mat­i­cally based on this, but you can

edit the choice), pass­word and pass­word hint. Hit Con­tinue.

Web parental con­trols

Now that we’ve got a sep­a­rate user ac­count to ap­ply them to, we can see the full range of parental con­trols op­tions. You can re­strict the apps the user can open, the con­tacts they can chat to and the times they can use the Mac, but we’re fo­cus­ing on re­stricted web­sites.

Make sure the cor­rect ac­count is se­lected in the left-hand pane; we have only one non-ad­min­is­tra­tor ac­count at present, so that’s not an is­sue here. Se­lect Web (or Con­tent, in older ver­sions of macOS and Mac OS X) in the top bar.

Limit adult web­sites au­to­mat­i­cally

You’ve got three op­tions: al­low the user ac­count to visit any web­sites; stop the ac­count from vis­it­ing

adult web­sites (based on Ap­ple’s own list – but you can add or re­move sites from the re­stricted list); or re­strict the ac­count to a whitelist of ap­proved sites.

Let’s start with the sec­ond op­tion. Se­lect ‘Try to limit ac­cess to adult web­sites au­to­mat­i­cally’ (note the word “try” – Ap­ple doesn’t claim it knows ev­ery adult web­site in the world, so can­not guar­an­tee your child won’t stum­ble across some­thing dodgy if you use this op­tion) and then click Cus­tom­ize.

Cus­tom­ize the black­list

On this page we can mod­ify Ap­ple’s black­list, ei­ther pre­vent­ing ac­cess to a site that Ap­ple isn’t aware of (or doesn’t clas­sify as adult), or al­low­ing some­thing that’s been wrongly zapped. Click the ‘+’ sym­bol be­neath ei­ther box and en­ter the URL of the site to be al­lowed or blocked. Click OK.

Set up a whitelist of ac­cepted sites

For greater safety, it’s bet­ter to go for the whitelist ap­proach – that way you have com­plete con­trol over the sites your child can visit.

Se­lect the third op­tion – ‘Al­low ac­cess to only these web­sites’ – and then start sort­ing out the list. Ap­ple starts you off with 10 kid-friendly sites. Press the ‘+’ sym­bol to add more or or­gan­ise per­mit­ted book­marks in fold­ers, or high­light one of the sites and press the ‘-’ but­ton to take it away.

Lock changes

When you’re fin­ished, click on the pad­lock icon at the bot­tom left. This locks the set­tings in place,

and will re­quire an ad­min pass­word in or­der to change them.

How to un­block web­sites

Un­block­ing sites for the ac­count is easy. If you’re work­ing from a whitelist (as in step head­lined ‘Set up a whitelist of ac­cepted sites’), you can add sites to the whitelist as you de­cide your child is ready for them. Or you can just lift all the site re­stric­tions in one go by se­lect­ing the first op­tion in the Web tab: ‘Al­low un­re­stricted ac­cess to web­sites’.

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