parental controls in os x tiger

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I just updated my kids' laptops (yes, I know how insanely privileged we are...) to Tiger. In the process, I discovered that my younger son has been doing some Google searches with his friends for items that I would not consider to be entirely appropriate for unsupervised 8-year-old consumption. <sigh>

We went through this a couple of years ago with my older son, so I wasn't exactly shocked. Gerald and I talked about what to do, and I was leaning towards taking the computer out of his room and limiting his use to public areas of the house. Then I remembered that I'd seen some information in the Tiger feature list about parental controls, so I took a closer look. Eureka!

So, for the time being, I've enabled controls on his computer for Safari, Mail, and iChat. It's a whitelist approach--Gerald or I have to approve any new contacts for email or iChat, and add new domains to his approved list in Safari. I prefer whitelists to blacklists in this context, since it's so hard to anticipate the many ways that kids (and spammers) can get around filters.

This won't be a permanent state--I trust my 10-year-old to administer his own computer, despite a rough patch when he was around 8. But as a short-term response to the situation I think this will work. Yet another reason to be glad of the upgrade to Tiger.

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I was wondering about that. My eight-year-old hardly uses computers yet, she's disappointingly unkeen about the net -- hey I guess it'll come. And actually she's right into weird stuff like punching enter on the widget calculator 1000 times (if you start with 1, it counts up to 1000) or playing strange games with the iSight while videochatting or spending hours making pictures in Tuxpaint or strange music in Garageband. And she can use email, though she complains when she gets too much of it -- daddy's emailed me again? (She loves her dad heaps and heaps, but she just isn't much of an emailer yet and even if he is away for a month she's exhausted with the email after the first two days of spending a halfhour doing intricate emails and drawings and promising she'll write every single day)

OK, so I wasn't really meaning to talk about my anxieties that my daughter's not enough of a geek. Sorry.

What I really wanted to ask was how many sites you've whitelisted? Is it a huge list? My girl does so little surfing, and always on the family room imac, so there's no worry, but I might want to do this if she really did get into it. Or if I got a wireless card for her ancient G3 laptop (inherited from me, yes), which she now only uses to listen to her Harry Potter mp3s.

The National Academies report recommended this approach: starting out with whitelists, moving to blacklists, then to open access, as children are better equipped to engage some of the extremes of the web.

By far the most important thing, and everyone who deals with both exposure and exploitation issues agrees about this, is for kids to understand the dangers and know that there are things out there that they may not yet be ready for.

Perhaps because of teaching the porn class this semester and dealing with issues of child pornography and exploitation, I'm overly sensitive to this now. I prefer children be treated with respect for their own directions, especially when it comes to exploration and curiosity. But, man, there's a lot of nastiness out there.

Regardless of whether or not your 8-year-old would read it, would you whitelist your blog?

Joe, I'd absolutely whitelist my blog. In fact, I already have, on his computer. And my 10-year-old has been reading my blog (on and off; he's often bored by it) for a while now.

Alex, in theory I feel the same way about children's exploration. And with my older son, we've relied on education and open communication. But the one thing I've learned about parenting over the past decade is that it's a series of contextual judgements.

Jill, my boys are geeks who spend too much time in front of screens. I wish they were half as athletic as Aurora! They're also unethusiastic about email, but Lane's quite fond of AIM. They both are fans of the Neopets site, and use the net a lot for answers to questions (from game cheat codes to history facts).

I have a 10 month old and we watch teletubbies on my iBook. She wants to play with the keyboard while we watch. Is there a keyboard lockout function in OSX that you are aware of?


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This page contains a single entry published on May 5, 2005 8:26 AM.

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