All of my children are pre-school age. Two of the three use the family MacBook to play games. The oldest can read and it won’t be long before Safari and web pages are part of her daily Mac ritual.
Is there a way to lock down a Mac and make it safe for young hands and minds? Apple’s Parental Controls can help, but if you’re concerned about safe browsing and more granular controls, check out Giddy Up—the secure Mac browser.
Not Your Mother’s Parental Controls
First, I’m on record as in favor of parental controls—at least until my children can afford their own car payments. Second, on surfing the internet, I want controls that I can fine tune.
GiddyUp is a Mac browser that provides unprecedented security and controls.
Am I being too paranoid? I don’t think so. After all, as the saying goes, if everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have. I want my children to know how to use technology, and not be abused by those who misuse technology?
Pre-schoolers, middle schoolers, or high schoolers, does that make sense? Of course it does.
Control Freaky Friday
As a mommy I try to view some things in life as my children view them. What do they think of the Mac? What do they think of Mac games? What do they think of web sites for children? My job as a parent is to protect and teach, and that requires a measure of control that is also flexible.
Giddy Up is a browser for children and used in schools, but is perfect for home use. I recommend setting up your Mac with the built-in Parental Controls which manage which apps are available to each child.
Instead of Safari, try Giddy Up. What? Underneath it is Safari (based on Safari’s WebKit rendering engine). On the outside the controls and options are limited. Here’s what your children might see.
Giddy Up looks more Fisher Price than Firefox and comes with a number of acceptable child oriented URLs—sites for kids. Basic controls are simple and straightforward, with options to use Favorites (which can be saved by the child), Search, Home, and Quit.
What I also want are more granular controls and Giddy Up delivers, providing lists which can be authorized for use (or blocked) and a few hundred additional options so parents can fine tune the controls on a per child basis.
Giddy Up’s Preferences are extensive and include options for the browser Toolbar. A number of actions can be assigned to each tool icon in the Toolbar, and the icons can be organized to suit your requirements.
Not only do you get control of Favorites and how they’re used, but other Security options ensure full control beyond the browser options.
For example, you can disable the options in OS X’s Apple Menu (icon in the left of the Menubar), including Quit, Print, and File. Even simple options such as always hiding the Dock and removing Logout and Restart options are available.
GiddyUp even features a sessions management section which can clear cookies and cached files under specific options.
The Giddy Up Control Palette can be set to allow access to Preferences, Quit Giddy Up and perform one of three options. The URL Control filters sites which contain specific keywords that you control (sex and porn are good choices) via rules (similar to those in Mail).
Other options set up an onscreen keyboard as an alternative to the USB or Bluetooth keyboard, and the message a child sees when attempting to download a file. My children are not into email (yet) but options include the ability to deny sending email, or use only the default email app.
In my tests I found the many controls to be mostly intuitive (easy to figure out what they do) and the browser is both fast and stable (at least as much so as Safari 5). Customizing capability is extensive so you can make Giddy Up to fit your needs at home or school.
I’m not convinced there’s a need for the Fisher Price look (quickly differentiates mommy’s browser from the child’s browser), but the large icons make it easy to use even for pre-schoolers. Now if we could only do something about all those Flash games online.