System Preferences in OS X: Parental Controls
With my extended look at System Preferences in OS X, I am having to backtrack a little this time. I knew I had delayed discussing Quick Time preferences, but I also omitted the important section dedicated to Parental Controls.
Sadly, these days, while the internet has developed into a fabulous resource of news, research sources and information, it has also become a risk for the same young users who could benefit most from its use. Some parents are rightly concerned about what their offspring are viewing and who they are in contact with. We are reminded of the Peter Steiner cartoon from New Yorker, "On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog."
While parents should work with the very young in their online discoveries, those who are a little older value their independence and privacy. They can feel inhibited and resentful if they feel they are under observation. Parents have to perform a balancing act between that freedom and the protection of their sons and daughters from the malign influences that may exist online.
Although there was some ability to limit user access in OS X versions 10.2 and 10.3, Parental Controls arrived fully as part of the standard setup for home users' Macs with OS X, 10.4, Tiger. With the preferences, it was possible to restrict access to any applications and also specified URL's: in essence allowing access only to approved sites.
The lower panel controls programs that may be used (with or without the simple Finder). By default, all are allowed. By unchecking boxes any or all may be deselected. At the bottomm of this panel are four checkboxes to allow the user to administer printers, burn disks, change the password and modify the Dock, if the parent allows this.
For more information on restricting internet access, there is a useful Knowledge Base Document available online at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2900.
As important as these limits to websites, are controls on using e-mail. The parent can specify addresses which a child can send to, or receive emails from. A facilty in this panel notifies a parent if the child tries to exchange mails with someone not authorised. Similar restrictions can also be applied to the Apple messenger service, iChat.
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