Letting kids loose on a Mac can be frustrating: they might delete important files, visit unsuitable Web sites, or spend too much time staring at the screen. Happily, Apple is in your corner, and if you want to let your child use a Mac safely, you can set up a “Managed account.”
With a Managed account, your child’s files and apps live in their own space, separate from other accounts on the Mac. Plus, you can use Parental Controls to limit your child’s activities, such as which apps or Web sites your child can access and how many hours per day your child can use the computer.
To start setting up a Managed account, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. You can see the current accounts in the user list at the left. Notice that each account’s listing tells you what type of account it is.
Next, if the Lock icon at the bottom left is closed, click it and enter your admin password.
If a child already has an Admin or Standard account, you can change it to a Managed account. Select it at the left, and then select the “Enable parental controls” checkbox at the right.
If you’ve been sharing your account with your kid, you’ll want to add a new Managed account for them. Beneath the user list, click the plus button and follow these steps:
- From the New Account pop-up menu, choose Managed with Parental Controls.
- From the Age pop-up menu, choose your child’s age range. This sets age restrictions in places like the iTunes Store; you can tweak these settings later.
- In the Full Name field, enter your child’s full name.
- In the Account Name field, enter a short name for the account, usually the child’s first name. This name will become the name of the Home folder for the account. It can’t contain spaces and is best done in lowercase. You can’t change the account name later, so choose wisely!
- In the Password and Verify fields, type an easily entered password for the account. Jot it down on paper, and keep that paper until you are sure it has been memorized or stored in a safe place.
- In the Password Hint field, it’s a good idea to enter a hint that will help you remember the password.
- Click the Create User button.
An entry for the new user appears in the user list at the left. If you want to change the image that goes with the user, click the default image and select a new one.
Next, turn on Fast User Switching, which makes it easy to switch users quickly from the menu bar. Under the user list, click Login Options. Select the checkbox labeled “Show fast user switch menu as” and choose any option from the pop-up menu.
Now, to set up the parental controls for the selected account, click the Open Parental Controls button. In the future, you can access these same Parental Controls more quickly in System Preferences > Parental Controls. As you can see below, separate views control app usage, Web site usage, what can be purchased from Apple’s stores, when (and for how long) the Mac can be used, what data the account can share, and more.
To switch to the new account, either choose it from the Fast User Switching menu in the menu bar or go to the Apple menu at the upper left and choose Log Out name. When the login screen appears, sign in to the new account. The first time you sign in, expect to wait a few moments for your Mac to set it up. When the Mac asks for an Apple ID, it’s referring to the child’s Apple ID, which you should know if you are using Family Sharing. If you aren’t sure what to fill in, just select “Don’t sign in.” Follow any remaining setup prompts until you get to the Finder.
Once you’ve set your child up with a Managed account, they should be able to use the Mac as they did before, except without causing any trouble. If they run into something they need to do but can’t (like finish a big school project after bedtime), take a quick trip to the Parental Controls preference pane to tweak the settings.