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Setting up a Mac for young children

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By Mark Stockley

Over the summer I decided to give my kids an old Apple laptop to share.

We use laptops for school homework from time to time but my kids spend most of their screen time poking and swiping tablets. I wanted to broaden their horizons a little: do a bit of coding; a bit of web searching; get them comfortable with a keyboard; give them something valuable that they had to look after; and get the ball rolling with developing some good computer security habits.

The kids have been at school for a few years and they’re are old enough to have a little independence, but most of what they do is supervised or subject to fairly restrictive boundaries.

The Mac would be no exception, there would be boundaries, so I enlisted its in-built parental controls to see what they could do, and how they could help.

This article walks you through the things I did to secure the laptop, and details the parental controls and options I chose. Later this week we’ll walk you through a similar setup for a Windows machine so stay tuned for that.

A clean slate
Because I was reusing an old laptop I decided to wipe it clean and start again. I reinstalled macOS over the internet on to an encrypted filesystem, went through the setup process until I had a working computer with one user account and installed Sophos Home.

I do this whenever a computer changes hands, even in the same household, but it’s not a prerequisite for setting up parental controls. I’m just letting you know what state my laptop was in when I wrote these steps.

All you need is a working Mac that you’re happy for your kids to spend some time on. What is important is that each of your children starts with their own clean slate: a user account that’s theirs and nobody else’s.

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