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How To Setup a Managed Parental Control Account In OS X

The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different settings.

OS X has four account types – Administrator, Standard, and Managed (with Parental Controls). The Administrator account is the most important.

Managed with Parental Controls: In an account managed by parental controls the administrator can place restrictions on: inappropriate Internet content, the amount of computer use, and access to applications, email, and iChat.

Parental Controls are great for managing how your kids use the Mac. This account can be made more restrictive that the Standard account. Parents can allow use of specific apps, printers, web sites etc. The important distinction between a Standard and Managed account is that the Managed account has restricts on the time, the use of applications and the Internet.

Create a new Managed account

The first step in setting up Parental Controls is to create a new Managed account. You can do this by launching the System Preferences application and then clicking Users & Groups. You will be taken to a preferences pane that looks something like this.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.37.19

You may have to click the lock icon in the lower left of the screen to make changes.

Click the + button in the lower left corner to bring up the new account dialog. Choose Managed with Parental Controls from the drop down and enter a name for the account. Enter a password and make sure to write it down and store it somewhere safe. You will also need to give it to your child.

Local OS X Yosemite accounts can use local passwords for authentication or can be linked to an iCloud account. Once linked, the user can login to the Mac using the same password they user for their iCloud account. If your kids are too young for an email account, skip this step.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.38.36

User names like “Khürt Williams” or “Khürt” are helpful but feel free to be creative. If you children are fans of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, perhaps “Sméagol” is a good choice (Ok, not really).

Click Create User and voilà, you have a new Managed account. To customize the account, clock the image icon and choose and image from the defaults or drag one from your hard drive on to the icon to change it. The next step is to add the Parental Controls to the account.

Parental Controls

It is best to have your kids sit with your while you do this so you can explain why you are making these choices.

Select the account to be managed and click Open Parental Controls….

Apps

Apple has provided some pre-configured applications controls based on age groups. For most people these pre-configured controls will do just fine. However, a parent can customize these based on a child maturity level. Click the arrow to show the list of applications and select the ones you want to give your child access to. Your child will be limited to running only those applications that you have explicitly selected.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.39.26

Web

Parents can select from one of three choices in the Web tab. You can allow unrestricted access to website for older or more mature kids and apply a web filter to keep kids safe from adult web sites. For younger kids, parents can limit access to a specific set of web sites. With that option, children will not be able to visit any web site not explicitly allowed in that list.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.39.34

People

With this tab, a parent can limit a child’s contact via email. By adding an email address to this list, OS X will only allow email exchanges between that address and your child email tool. NOTE: This only works with Apple’s Mail application so it might be a good idea to prevent access (via the Apps tab) to any other email application and block access to web-based mail.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.40.31

Parents also have the option of receiving an email alert when their child receives or sends email to an unapproved email address.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.40.57

Time Limits

This is perhaps the most important setting in the Parental Controls preferences. We all know our kids spend too much time online or on the computer. We also know that the older kids needs access to the computer and to the web to complete homework assignments. So as Parents we need to balance homework computer time against hanging out online computer time. This is where you set that up. Spend some time to think about what’s right for your family.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.11

Other

This one is self-explanatory. Some kids can’t be responsible with a webcam, especially teenage kids with a laptop. I don’t let my kids change their computer password. I want to be able to see what they are up to. Logs can help with that.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.27

Logs

I want to be able to see what they are up to. Logs can help with that. OS X will keep a log of every web site your kids successfully visited as well as which ones you blocked but they attempted to visit. You’ll know if your young teenage boy has hit puberty by his sudden interest in porn sites. You’ll know if your child was using study time to hangout on Facebook or Twitter. Time, date and web site address are recorded in the log.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 14.41.40

Conclusion

In my house computers and the Internet are a privilege, not a right. I teach my kids safe computer and Internet habits but a Managed Account with Parental Controls provides me with a level of comfort that my rules are being followed.

How To Setup A Standard Account In OS X

The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different settings.

OS X has three account types – Administrator, Standard, and Managed (with Parental Controls). The Administrator account is the most important.

Standard: Standard account users cannot administer other accounts, but can install software for their own use and change settings related to their accounts.

By default the OS X Setup Assistant configures the first account on the Mac as an administrator account. This account can do anything to the Mac including installing software and changing system settings and other accounts. It’s a bad idea to use this regularly for day-to-day tasks and Apple recommends that users should use standard user accounts for day-to-day computer use and create an Administrator account strictly for system administration tasks.

The important distinction between a Standard and Administrator account is that the Standard account cannot make system wide changes or install software for use by other users on the Mac.

Create a new Standard account

The first step is to create a new Standard account. You can do this by launching the System Preferences application and then clicking Users & Groups. You will be taken to a preferences pane that looks something like this.

Users & Groups

You may have to click the lock icon in the lower left of the screen to make changes.

Click the + button in the lower left corner to bring up the new account dialog. Choose Standard from the drop down and enter a name for the account. Enter a strong password and make sure to write it down and store it somewhere safe.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 13.42.17

Local OS X Yosemite accounts can use local passwords for authentication or can be linked to an iCloud account. Once linked, the user can login to the Mac using the same password they user for their iCloud account.

User names like “Khürt Williams” or “Khürt” are helpful but feel free to be creative. If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, perhaps “Frodo Baggins” is a good choice for you.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 13.35.21

Click Create User and voilà, you have a new Standard account. To customize the account, clock the image icon and choose and image from the defaults or drag one from your hard drive on to the icon to change it.

Screenshot 2014-12-30 13.36.40

Once the new Standard account has been created, please logout and log back into the new account to test that the password works.

Conclusion

I know that using an account with Administrator privileges makes it easier when installing software or making system changes. However, these are activities that the average users has to rarely complete. Performing your day-to-day work using a Standard account reduces the likelihood that you accidentally install a Trojan horse or some other malicious software.

Jetpack Publicize and Twitter Hashtags

I love the Jetpack WordPress plugin from Automatic. This one plugin does many things that require multiple plugins including traffic analysis, enhanced security and speed boosts. Using the one plugin reduces the amount of code running on my site. It also means I only have one plugin to update instead of many.

Jetpack has a feature called Publicize.

Publicize makes it easy to share your site’s posts on several social media networks automatically when you publish a new post.

I configured Publicize to send my post links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and a number of other social media sites. I have the option of adding a custom message to be posted to my Twitter account. If I leave the custom message area blank, Publicize will use the title of my post as the custom message texts. The Publicize feature works well but one thing bothered me.

publicize_custom_message

I always add WordPress tags to my post. But I wanted the WordPress tags posted as Twitter hashtags when Publicize posts the message. Hashtags help people find your content on Twitter. After reading the Jetpack documentation I started looking around on Google. Using the search phrase, “does jetpack support twitter hashtags”, I found a link to a discussion on WordPress.org.

Jeremy Herve provided a possible solution using the Functionality plugin and a bit of code.

A functionality plugin is a way to separate what you might normally place in a theme’s functions.php file, and put it in a plugin instead. It works the same way as a theme functions.php file, but is separate from the theme and so not affected by theme upgrades, or tied to the theme so you lose all of your functions if you choose to switch themes.

Jeremy’s solution added WordPress categories as Twitter hashtags to the custom message entered into the Publicize. After reading up on WordPress functions I installed Functionality and modified Jeremy’s code to use WordPress tags instead of categories.

This post will be a test of whether this works.

// Create custom Publicize message
// Source https://wordpress.org/support/topic/jetpack-publicize#post-4836869
function islandinthenet_cust_pub_message() {
$post = get_post();

// Grab the tags of the post
if ( !empty( $post ) )
    $post_tags = get_the_tags( $post->ID );
// Append tags to custom message
if ( !empty( $post_tags ) ) {
    $previous_cust = get_post_meta( $post->ID, '_wpas_mess', true );
    foreach( $post_tags as $tag ) {
        $custom_message = $previous_cust.' #'.$tag->name;
    }
    update_post_meta( $post->ID, '_wpas_mess', $custom_message );
}

}

// Save that message
function islandinthenet_cust_pub_message_save() {
add_action( 'save_post', 'islandinthenet_cust_pub_message', 21 );
}
add_action( 'publish_post', 'islandinthenet_cust_pub_message_save' );

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