Mac parental controlsSource: iMore

You don't have to hover over your children's shoulders, watching their every move, to keep them safe. Apple has several parental control features for the Mac to help protect them as they browse the internet, use apps, and play games. You can even set time limits for your little ones' computer activities, so they don't overuse their allotted screen time. Here's how to set up and manage Parental controls on your Mac.

If you are looking for how to use parental controls on iOS, check out our ultimate guide to parental controls on iPhone and iPad.

How to create a new user account on Mac

If you currently only have one user account (your administrator account), you'll need to create a new account for your kids.

  1. Select System Preferences from the Mac Dock.
  2. Choose Users & Groups.
  3. Tap the lock at the bottom left.

    Mac create userSource: iMore

  4. Enter your administrative username and password to unlock your accounts.
  5. Tap the + at the bottom left.

    Mac create userSource: iMore

  6. Toggle the type of account. Use Standard as your choice.
  7. Enter the full name of the child that will be using the new account.
  8. Create a password for the account.
  9. Verify the password.
  10. Add a password hint in case you forget it.
  11. Click on Create User to create a new account.

    Finalize new user creation on MacSource: iMore

  12. Repeat Steps 5 to 11 for additional children accounts.

Once you create an account for your child, you must set restrictions by activating Screen Time in macOS Catalina.

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How to turn on Screen Time on macOS

Screen Time is located in System Preferences in macOS Catalina. To get started:

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences. Make sure the administrator account is selected at the top left. By default, it is.
  2. Select the Options button at the bottom left.
  3. Click the Turn On button at the top right.

    Mac turn on Screen TimeSource: iMore

You can now start using Screen Time on Mac. For further information on Screen Time for Mac, see:

The following steps are exclusive to establishing parental controls on Mac using Screen Time.

How to set restrictions across all devices

Thanks to Screen Time, you can establish restrictions for your children across all of your devices. As changes are made on one device, they'll carry over to the others. However, they must be set up to do so.

On Mac:

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences. Make sure the administrator account is selected at the top left. By default, it is.
  2. Select the Options button at the bottom left.
  3. Check the box next to Share across devices.

    Screen Time shareSource: iMore

How to add a passcode to Screen Time on macOS

So your child can't change restrictions, it's best to set a passcode on the account.

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences.
  2. On the left, toggle the child account.
  3. Select the Options button at the bottom left.

    Screen time set passcodeSource: iMore

  4. Check the Use Screen Time Passcode box.
  5. Add a four-digit passcode
  6. Re-enter the four-digit passcode

    Screen Time Mac add passcodeSource: iMore

How to schedule Downtime using Screen Time for macOS

During Downtime, only the apps you choose to allow will work for your child on Mac. To set up a Downtime schedule:

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences.
  2. On the left, toggle the child account.
  3. Select Downtime on the left side.

    Screen Time DowntimeSource: iMore

  4. Click the Turn On button to activate Downtime.
  5. Using the radio buttons, select Every Day or Custom depending on the schedule you'd like to set.

With Every Day selected, Downtime is enforced during the same time each day. With Custom picked, you can adjust the time for each day of the week or uncheck the box next to a day to turn Downtime off for that day.

You can also select Block at Downtime if you want the machine completely blocked to your child during Downtime.

set screen time downtimeSource: iMore

How to set app limits using Screen Time for macOS

In Screen Time for Mac, you can also set app time limits.

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences.
  2. On the left, toggle the child account.
  3. Select App Limits on the left side.
  4. Click the Turn On button to activate App Limits.

    Screen Time Mac app limitsqSource: iMore

  5. Select the + to add an app category.
  6. Next, check the box next to the app category you'd like to limit.

    app limits MacSource: iMore

  7. Tap the expand icon to see the apps affected by this limit. The list will include apps across all devices, when applicable.
  8. With the app category highlighted, set the total limit using the radio buttons. You can set the limits Every Day or using a Custom schedule.
  9. Repeat Steps 5-6 for each app category you'd like to limit.
  10. Click Done to complete.

    finalize app limitsSource: iMore

To remove app limits:

  1. In Screen Time for Mac, toggle the child account.
  2. Select App Limits on the left side.
  3. On the right, uncheck the box next to each app category you no longer want to limit.
  4. To turn off app tracking, click the Turn Off button.

    App limits offSource: iMore

How to set always allowed content in Screen Time for macOS

You might want specific processes available on the Mac at all the time for your child, regardless of other restrictions. This can include communication with certain people or apps.

To set always allowed content:

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences.
  2. Toggle the child account.
  3. Select Always Allowed on the left side.
  4. Check the box next to each of the items that you want always to allow.

    Screen Time always allowedSource: iMore

How to set content and privacy using Screen Time for macOS

Finally, you can restrict content and privacy using Screen Time.

  1. Click Screen Time in System Preferences.
  2. Toggle the child account.
  3. Select Content & Privacy on the left side.
  4. Click Turn On to activate Content & Privacy.

    Screen Time Content RestrictionsSource: iMore

  5. There are four sections here: Content, Stores, Apps, and Other. Under each, check the box to restrict content and add privacy. See samples below.

    Screen Time restrictionsSource: iMore

    Screen Time restrictionsSource: iMore

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about setting up and customizing parental controls or enabling remote access to parental controls on a different computer? Let us know in the comments and we'll help you out.

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