We have a number of policies and procedures built in to Mac and PC usage which helps keep students and teachers safe while online, but you can never be too safe so we continually evaluate Mac utilities which add extra layers of protection. Here’s one you might like.
Paranoia, Meet Parental Controls
The app I’m testing this month is called ContentBarrier X8, which is a highfalutin technobabble name for what amounts to a Mac nanny; built in parental controls to block usage and nefarious websites when children (and teachers, staff, and other adults) go online.
Think of ContentBarrier X8 (truly needs a different name; I suggest Mac Nanny, or Mac Guardian, or Mac Controller) as a friendly firewall for children but controlled by adults. The app lets you setup specific profiles that monitor internet access and usage and restrict access to dangerous sites– perfect for school age children with internet access.
There’s even a built-in scheduler so parental controls are applied at different times of the day (especially good for Macs that are shared among family members).
That feature alone makes it straightforward to tailor restrictions for different family members (or, students). What gets blocked is what you’d expect, including objectionable websites, specific sites or general categories of content, even search keywords, or secure sites.
Also built in is a whitelist option which means you control exactly which sites can be visited and no others. Each account stores a history of usage, including chat history. ContentBarrier X8 can take screenshots of visited sites, record all keystrokes (except passwords), and limit an account to use only specific apps.
The app is smart enough to block peer-to-peer downloads (illegal movies and game downloads), and can be set to block sites and activity, including email and chat, whenever predator keywords are used. Despite the plethora of features, ContentBarrier X8 is surprisingly simple to setup and use initially, but does have a learning curve to truly lock down a Mac.
On the negative side, with many settings on, all that background activity might slow down an older Mac. Occasionally it blocks sites or apps which should not be blocked but that’s the price of paranoia.