How to block websites and apps on your Mac

9 min read

The web has the capacity to be both a blessing and a curse at the same time. On the one hand, it enables us to do the work we do and access the wealth of human knowledge. On the other hand, it distracts us from our goals and could make us feel like we’re wasting our lives.

Naturally, the topic of limiting web access has been in discussion for decades now. How do we block harmful websites from our kids? What does blocking time-wasting websites like Facebook and YouTube mean for a modern workplace? Why do we need to restrict ourselves with website blockers to resist temptation and distractions?

All these are valid questions we’ll explore below, in addition to showing you the best ways to block websites that seemingly steal your attention all day long.

How To Block Websites On Mac

Restricting access to apps and websites has been a feature on both Windows and Macs since the early days. Surprisingly, most people aren’t even aware this is a possibility or don’t use it as it seems to be too complicated to set up.

We’ll start by tackling the flow for the Screen Time feature, available in macOS Catalina and later, which significantly expanded on Parental Controls that Macs have been using for years. A similar feature on Windows is called Family Safety, so if you’ve encountered that before, a lot of the steps will sound familiar, although there are some key differences as well.

Blocking websites and apps with Screen Time

As the name suggests, Screen Time was developed by Apple to help anyone be in control of their Mac usage and, by extension, control the Mac usage of their kids too. With this utility, you can easily filter out adult websites, addictive games, endless YouTube videos, and much more. 

Lately, it hasn’t been uncommon for employers to set Screen Time controls for their employees too, mostly to limit social media use or deter them from reading news websites throughout the day.

Regardless of your intended application for Screen Time, here’s how to use it to block a website on Mac as well as any app: 

  1. Open Screen Time in System Preferences
  2. Navigate to App Limits
  3. Click the plus sign
  4. Check the box next to any app category or select the dropdown arrow to check a specific app
  5. Scroll all the way down to see all the websites you can block as well and even add your own to the list
  6. As you check an app or website, you can input the exact daily limit in the box below or click Custom ➙ Edit to set a variable limit depending on the day

set up Screen Time controls

You can also use specific limits if you’re setting up a computer for your kids. Screen Time will then block websites in Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and any other browser at once. First, you want to prevent anyone but yourself from changing your settings, so go to Options and choose to Use Screen Time Passcode. In the same window, you can also “Share across devices” to have the same settings for all devices of a particular iCloud user. 

Then, to use Screen Time as a web and app blocker as well as a complete self-control app, click Content & Privacy ➙ Turn On. In Web Content, select either to Limit Adult Websites or Allowed Websites Only if you know which websites are absolutely needed. Then switch to the Apps tab and uncheck any apps that shouldn’t be used. 

As mentioned above, Screen Time doesn’t differentiate between browsers, so if you were looking for how to block a website on Chrome or how to block website on Safari — it’s all the same.

Easily block websites without changing settings

The truth is Screen Time is not really intuitive and somewhat complicated to manage. It takes a while to get all the settings just right. And every time you’ll catch yourself or your kids coming up with a new workaround, you’ll have to devise a way to solve that too.

And what if you share the same computer with your children? Then you’d have to use the passcode to undo the changes every time you pass the laptop to each other. Some of us just don’t need those complications and wish there was an easier way. Luckily, there is.

Meet Focus - a simple website blocker that also works for apps and even specific webpages, all right from your Mac’s menu bar.

To block out distractions in Focus:

  1. Click on the app’s icon in the menu bar > Preferences
  2. Navigate to the Blocking tab
  3. Add any websites, webpages, and applications to the list using plus icons at the bottom. You’re done!
    Websites to block with Focus app

The beauty of Focus is that it doesn’t enforce its focus mode all the time — it works in sessions, which is perfect for sharing the same computer. So when your kids are asking for some playtime, you can just click on the app’s icon and select “Focus for 25 minutes” or “Custom focus...” to set the period of time during which blocking websites will be enforced.

To prevent your kids from changing settings, just go to Preferences again and, in the General tab, check the “Hardcore mode.” For extra safety, you can also turn on the “Password mode.”

What if your kids have their own computer? Not a problem. In the Preferences window, you can choose Schedule and set the limits you desire.

Focus schedule website blocker

Eliminate distractions to be more productive

Another major advantage of Focus over Screen Time is that it works not only for your kids but for you too. Don’t you sometimes wish you could block websites on Mac? Turn off YouTube, eliminate Facebook, stay away from Reddit — Focus makes it easy.

Just follow the same instructions as you would for your kid: block websites and apps, set up a schedule that mirrors your work hours, and lock preferences during sessions to minimize temptation.

As we all know, it’s impossible to work undistracted for eight hours straight. In fact, small breaks throughout the day are highly beneficial to your productivity. Focus allows you to turn off the website blocker for a small amount of time in the Break mode.

Focus pomodoro technique

The app would also delight the followers of the Pomodoro technique, which automatically lets you have a short break after an intensive focus session. You can set it up in your break periods in Preferences as well.

For extra motivation, you can include a list of your favorite “go get it” phrases in the Quotes tab in the app’s preferences too. These quotes will appear when you try to access one of the blocked websites and remind you to get back to what’s truly important.

Use a self-control app for blocking and analysis

What if you could combine the flexibility and analytics of Screen Time, the ease of use of Focus, and the power of the Pomodoro technique — all in one? You’d get Session. 

Session starts off as a simple Pomodoro tracker that lives in your menu bar. Just click on the app icon, write the task you want to focus on, set the timer, and Start Session. At the end of your session, the app will ask you how you felt and let you take any notes for future reference. 

Pomodoro tracker

With time, you’ll get precise and extensive analytics on how you’ve been using your focus time, how distracted you’ve been, and how you might improve. 

To help you get in control, Session also offers a full-featured website and app blocker: 

  1. Just go to Preferences (⌘ + ,)
  2. Select App Blocker
  3. Check “Enable app blocker”
  4. Write the exact names of apps you want to block (one per line)
  5. Go to Website Blocker
  6. Check “Enable website blocker” 
  7. Write down the URLs either on a Deny or Allow list

Enable website blocker

Quickly concentrate on the task at hand

If Focus and Session can easily solve all your problems related to blocking websites and apps that waste your time, they do very little to physically help you concentrate on a single task amidst your cluttered desktop and a heap of open windows. That’s where you need HazeOver.

HazeOver is essentially a professional screen dimmer. While it’s not a way to block websites on Mac, it’s the perfect solution for your scattered focus. What this app does is highlighting the currently active window and dimming the rest of the screen, including notifications and other apps.

Even though HazeOver is simple in its application, it allows you to fine-tune every single setting to suit your needs. By going to its preferences from the menu bar icon, you can set how strong the dimming effect is, whitelist apps you don’t want dimmed, which is useful when you work with two windows at the same time, and configure how the apps will work on two or more displays.

Hazeover dimmer screen

As a bonus, HazeOver is perfect for working at night, as it only lets the light from the active app window to go through instead of overwhelming you with an ocean of blue light, which will make it harder to fall asleep later on. Similarly, watching a movie in the evening is so much more pleasant when HazeOver is there to dim everything around the video app.

Use the right website blocker at the right time

Overall, if you’ve used to tinker with all the complex settings in Family Safety on Windows or simply like the granular level of control, using Screen Time is certainly an option.

For the rest of us, using Focus + Session + HazeOver presents a much more flexible solution — one that can protect our kids and not let us slack off at the same time.

Best of all, Focus, Session, and HazeOver are available on Setapp, a platform of over 210 highly acclaimed tools, utilities, and apps for your Mac. Sign up to become a Setapp member and try Focus, Session, HazeOver, and all other apps from its catalog for free during your trial period. In the meantime, how to block websites on Mac should no longer be a pressing issue.

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