Summer is here, and kids are out of school. For now, that means a temporary reprieve from the chaos of school schedules, but it will undoubtedly and quickly turn to boredom for the kids (especially on those days when it's too hot to play outside). That, ultimately, leads to excessive time in front of a TV or computer. Not that either is bad, but too much of anything can be harmful... even too much computer time (gasp!).
Although I can't give you any good systematic ways to prevent too much TV time, I can do something about too much computer time. Mac OS X has built-in Parental Controls that gives you serious control over what your kids do on their Mac. There are too many features to go through in detail here, but the one I wanted to spend some time on is time limits.
Note: don't let the name "Parental Controls" fool you. While I am directing this post to parents with children, the same principals apply to a work environment where user time limits are required.
First, lets start by entering the Parental Control panel of System Preferences (Applications > System Preferences > Parental Controls). At this point, you will see a list of all user accounts that are eligible to be controlled by Parental Controls, as shown below:
Note: only system Administrators are able to assign and make changes to Parental Controls.
As you explore the tabs along the top, you will see a lot of really useful functionality built-in, like the ability to limit who that account can email and Instant Message, access to certain applications and not others, and web site filtering. For purposes of this topic, let's click on the "Time Limits" tab. It will look like this:
Note: since I have Billy's account highlighted on the left, any changes made here will affect his account. If I want to also change the other accounts, I will need to highlight each of their accounts individually, and make the changes under their accounts as well.
At this point, we would simply make the changes that make sense for that user account. When done, close out of System Preferences and you're done.
If the user happens to reach their time limit, they will be prompted to either have an Administrator add more time, or log out. Ample notice is given so that they have time to save any work in progress.
This is a sample of how I have Parental Control set up for our kids:
They are able to use the computer up to 2 hours a day during the week, and up to 4 hours a day on the weekends. They also aren't allowed to use the computer before school (mornings are chaotic enough as it is), nor are they allowed to use it too late.