OS X: Manage Parental Controls from Another Computer

Did you know that you can sit at your computer and remotely make changes to the Parental Controls settings on your kid’s Mac, as long as it’s on the same network? Or that you can even cut off your child’s access to his machine from across the house? Hey, I’m not saying that’s the nicest thing ever, but sometimes you parents gotta do what you gotta do.

To enable this, what you’ll do is go to the computer you’d like to access remotely and open System Preferences> Parental Controls.

First of all, if you see what’s in the screenshot below, then there aren’t any non-administrator accounts on your kid’s Mac, which means that you can’t set up Parental Controls until you make some changes.  

If that’s the case, select “Convert this account to a parental controls account” if you’re logged in as your kiddo, or if you’re logged in as a different user, you’ll probably want to visit System Preferences> Users & Groups, click on your kid’s account, and deselect “Allow user to administer this computer.” 

Keep in mind that there has to be at least one administrator on any Mac, so the machine may not let you turn off your kid’s privileges until you create a new admin account. If you need more help with that, check out this Apple support article on the topic.

OK, so now you’ve got a non-administrator account set up for your child, right? When that’s done, go back to System Preferences> Parental Controls. Click on the lock icon at the bottom-left of the window and enter the administrator name and password to allow yourself access first, and then click the gear icon and pick “Allow Remote Setup” so that you can make changes later from your own Mac.

If you haven’t actually configured the Parental Controls for the kid’s account yet, you’ll also be able to do that from here. Select the big “Enable Parental Controls” button to get started, and then walk through setting up time limits, restricting websites, and so on.

When that’s all finished, you can go back to your own Mac. Now when you visit System Preferences> Parental Controls on your machine, you should see the remote computer appear in the left-hand list (as long as it’s not sleeping or shut down). 

Pick that, and you’ll be asked to enter the Mac’s administrator name and password to continue.

Then you’ll see the user account that’s being managed with Parental Controls appear.

Once you click that to get in, you can make changes to any of those settings remotely or check out the report on what your kid is doing online with the “Logs” button at the bottom-right corner. You can also force your child off his Mac immediately using the “Time Limits” tab. Just go down to the “Bedtime” setting, select either “School nights” or “Weekend” depending on what day it is, and set the cutoff time to be earlier than the current time.

Mwa ha ha! I mean, sorry. I’m sorry for doing that to you, kids.