With schools back in session, it may be time to secure your computers so that certain websites are off-limits. You may also want to limit access to sites that are otherwise acceptable as long as they aren’t used as a distraction when the user should be doing homework or regular work — adults can be just as easily led astray as kids.
If you have a Mac, Screen Time can be used to block specific sites and limit access to approved sites. If there are multiple members of your family using the computer, you can set up Family Sharing and customize limits for each member (the organizer plus up to five additional users). The following instructions apply to single users and Family Sharing.
To get started, click the Apple icon in the upper left of your screen, choose “System Settings” and then “Screen Time” indicated by an hourglass icon. Make sure “Screen Time” is toggled on. Go to the bottom of the feature list and select “Content & Privacy.” If it’s not toggled on, do that now.
Here you will see four types of restrictions you can customize: content, store, app and preference. All sections have worthwhile controls to consider, so you’ll want to go through each one.
Open “Web Content” and note the scrolling options next to “Access to Web Content.” Choose “Limit Adult Websites,” which will block most adult websites. But there may be other websites you want to block. To do that, click the “Customize” button and add the URLs of these websites in the “Restricted” section. Click “Done” to go back to the Web Content menu and make any adjustments you’d like, most of which are related to gaming. For instance, you may want to block multiplayer games and private messaging in the Game Center.
Alternately, you may find it more useful to allow only certain websites. Instead of selecting “Limit Adult Websites,” choose “Allowed Websites Only.” You’ll then customize by adding only the websites you want your child to access.
Move on to “Store Restrictions” where you will find controls to limit movies, TV shows and apps by age ratings. You can also prevent users from installing or deleting apps as well as disabling in-app purchases.
“App Restrictions” refer to just Apple apps and here you can choose which ones are allowed and block others. You may not want your child to access the camera in your computer or FaceTime, so just toggle these apps off.
Preference restrictions should be toggled off for kids. These include allowing passcode, account and cellular data changes. To secure the changes you’ve made, protect them with a Screen Time passcode by toggling this feature on in the main Screen Time menu.
Windows users can access similar content controls to both allow and block specified websites. You’ll find these options in “Parental Controls.” You must first set up a family member account. Go to settings, “Accounts” and then “Family and other users.” Set up an account for your child. Once you’ve set up the family accounts, go to your accounts page and you’ll see your new family members’ accounts. Choose one and click “Overview” and then select the “Content Filters” tab.
Under the “Web and Search” tab, you can toggle on the “Only Use Allowed Websites” option, which means your child can only visit websites you’ve listed in the “Allowed Sites” section. To add allowed websites, go to the “Allowed Sites” section and enter the websites. You can also skip the “only use allowed” setting and add blocked sites in the “Blocked Sites” section. Which route you choose depends on the level of control you’re looking for and your knowledge of sites of concern.
If you’re concerned primarily with blocking adult websites, Windows offers an easy solution through its Safe Search feature. Go into your computer’s settings and search for “Privacy & security.” Click it and then search for “Search permissions.” Locate the SafeSearch section and choose the “Strict” option, which will block adult text, images and videos from your search results. Note that by default, Moderate is turned on and that will block images and videos but not text.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at [email protected].