OS X Leopard: Limit computer usage times using Parental Controls

Posted October 21, 2007 by Quinn McHenry in Mac OS X Leopard

Parental Controls in OS X were introduced in version 10.5 (Leopard) and provide settings to restrict the actions of certain users. One common consideration for parents is limiting the amount of time their children use the computer. We know as adults that what starts as ordering a stapler ends up three hour later with 15 new browser tabs open.. the internet is so compelling and vast. This Tech-Recipe will describe the options of time limits in OS X.


To modify the parental controls on an OS X system, you must first have user accounts under parental control. Once you are setup for controlling accounts, you can access the Parental Controls from the System Preferences (under the Apple menu at the top left of the screen). Find the Parental Controls icon in the System section and give it one click to open.

In the left column you should see the user accounts listed that are under parental control. If you click one, nothing will happen. In order to make changes to parental controls, you need to click the padlock in the lower right corner of the window. After clicking, you’ll be asked to authenticate so the computer will know you are you and not.. them.

After authenticating, click on the user account in the left column that you wish to modify. To modify the time limits for this account, click on the Time Limits tab near the top of this window and you’ll see the window change to something like this:

Two different time limit controls are possible: how long and when. The “how long” controls limit how much time the user can use the computer and differentiates weekday and weekend days. To limit the computer use on a weekday to two hours, click the Limit computer use to box under Weekday time limits and slide the control from its default of 3 hours to the left until it reads 2 hours, or your desired duration. Once locked out of the computer, the user can login again at midnight unless…

The “when” control limits the time of day that the user can use the computer and is located in the section labeled Bedtime. In this case the parental controls differentiate school nights (Sunday-Thursday) from weekends (Friday-Saturday). To prevent computer use after 9:00PM on school nights, check the box next to [b]School nights[b] and set the first time to 9:00PM. The second time determines when the computer can again be used the next morning.

Using the “how long” control comes with at least one caveat (but probably many more). The “use” that is timed is user logged in time, so if the user walks away, the screen saver kicks in, sandwiches or mudpies are eaten, and comes back an hour later, an hour of “computer use” has been logged. Chances are that little ones will become acutely aware of this constraint and will learn to log out when leaving the computer for extended periods.

If negotiations for additional time occur (they will be warned 15 minutes before time runs out) and favor the junior negotiator, additional time can be added just for that night. A popup window like the one above will appear, followed by screams and, possibly, tantrums. If you decide to give in, select the amount of time to allow from the pulldown menu. A small window will pop up requesting your username and password which must be entered before the curfew is extended.

 

About Quinn McHenry

Quinn was one of the original co-founders of Tech-Recipes. He is currently crafting iOS applications as a senior developer at Small Planet Digital in Brooklyn, New York.
View more articles by Quinn McHenry

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