My children use my Mac (actually an older MacBook just for kids). They’re pre-school but already I’m looking ahead to Mac utilities which will help to manage their browsing and application usage.
With online predators growing in number, a parent can never be too safe. One utility takes a different approach to controlling how and when children are allowed to use a Mac. Am I a paranoid mommy-Nazi, or just a concerned parent looking after the welfare of my children?
Children On Macs
Nearly every parent of not-yet-adult-children I know has a home with multiple computers, all of which are connected to the internet.
School age children in particular are vulnerable to a number of potential problems which range from over usage (too many games, too much chat, too many web sites) to predators.
How can a Mac Mommy™ help Mac using children through those tender years? Education helps. But so do those handy Mac utilities which make their Macs a better, safer place.
I recommend OS X’s Parental Controls, of course. But I’m on the lookout for other utilities to help. Time Trap is a simple utility with a unique approach to Mac usage.
Simply put, Time Trap lets you select the days and times when your children can use their Macs. Parental Controls can limit what they use, but Time Trap determines when.
Parental Controls For Controlling Parents
Allow me to back up a step or two. OS X comes with Parental Controls in the System Preferences. It’s easy to use and can be quite effective to limit specific apps and utilities on a Mac.
For example, set up a user account for each child on the Mac. Do not give the account administrator privileges. Open Parental Controls, set Use Simple Finder, and select Only Allow Selected Applications.
Then select which applications, utilities, games you will allow to be used. As the administrator account, you control web sites visited by Safari, and can place limits on Mail and iChat. Time limits have controls, too, for a specific number of hours per day, and when the Mac cannot be used.
Time Trap’s Difference
Time Trap works in concert with Parental Controls. Rather than limit a single block of time when the Mac cannot be used by your children, it lets you set specific times when the Mac can be used.
For example, set it so the Mac can be used during homework time, with both start and stop times. That will help children to focus on using the Mac to help with homework during specific times.
Time Trap can set times per day, and per hour, even allowing for specific circumstances such as a grounded period, or school break. Other features include blocking specific web sites, allowing or disallowing specific applications during specific times.
When your child tries to access the Mac at the wrong time, a simple warning pops up letting the child know that now is not the time, and sleep will begin in x-number of seconds. The same holds true for when time is about to run out, allowing your child to close down work projects or browsing before going to sleep.
A background utility auto starts Time Trap so even smarter-than-mommy children will have a difficult time disabling Time Trap. I don’t like the thought of becoming a mommy-Nazi and controlling my children’s every move online, but I have a parental obligation to ensure their safety and welfare while they use a Mac on the internet.
Time Trap is one of a number of Mac utilities to help parents manage computer usage. I’ll do more reviews as my children grow.