With all the horror stories we hear about children meeting people online who turn out not to be who they say they are, and kids getting exposed to inappropriate content when they use the Internet, it’s good to know that there’s something that we can do to restrict and record what children can do when they connect to the internet.
In this guide I’ll be showing you just one way that you can set up your family’s computer so that you can breathe easy when your children use the computer. The steps have been written with Windows 7 in mind, however users of Windows Vista should be able to follow the instructions too.
Windows 7 allows you to control how and when your children use the computer. With the built-in parental controls, you can control:
- The times and days in which they can use the computer
- What programs they can run
- What games they can play
By also using Windows Live Family Safety Filter, you can also:
- Block inappropriate web sites from the Internet
- View logs of your children’s activity both online and with general computer use
- Keep track of your child’s online contacts and approve/deny requests
To install the Family Safety features, you must install Windows Live Essentials, via Windows Update (press Start and type in ‘Windows Update’, then follow the on-screen prompts).
Enabling Parental Controls
To enable parental controls, press Start > Control Panel. Then, under User Accounts and Family Safety, click on Set up parental controls for any user:
The next screen will show you all the user accounts on the computer, so that you can apply Parental Controls individually to each child’s account:
Clicking on the account that you wish to control will bring up the following screen:
Make sure the top setting is set to On, and then you may configure the restrictions.
Limiting When Your Children Can Use The Computer Using Time Limits
To control when your children may use the computer, click on the Time Limits section then simply click and drag to select and deselect time limits for the user’s account:
The computer is also off-limits during school hours, 9am – 4pm, but is free all day at weekends.
Adjust the limits to suit your own personal schedule.
Limiting When or If Your Children Can Use The Computer to Play Games
You can ban games altogether, for example if your child has access to two computers and one has been set aside as solely for school work. Otherwise, press the Set game ratings link to set the maximum rating that the account’s settings will allow.
You may also block other types of potentially objectionable content, and this setting will override any rating (see box on left).
You can also block or allow specific games, regardless of their content or rating.
To do this, simply press the Block or Allow specific games link on the main Game Controls screen.
Blocking Access To Certain Programs
You may also wish to block access to certain programs which are installed on your computer. For example, you may have software installed for your own account to use but not want your children to use the software. To configure this, select the Allow and block specific programs option:
Tip: to allow access to most programs, first press the Check All button, then scroll through the list unselecting any programs to which you wish to restrict access.
Restricting and Monitoring Your Child’s Internet Usage
The Additional Controls allow you to control how your child uses the internet, and prevent them from getting themselves into potentially undesirable situations, as well as protecting them from unsuitable content.
Select the provider from the list. In this guide, we use Microsoft’s own system, Windows Live Family Safety. If this is not already installed as part of Windows Live Essentials, you will be prompted to install the program or you may install it through Windows Update.
Once you have installed the suite, you may need to restart your computer. You must have a Windows Live ID (account) in order to proceed. If you do not have an account, you may create a free account and choose a password that your children will not know!
Note: once you have selected Windows Live Family Safety as a provider, it will take over control of the basic settings too, meaning they are all configured in the web browser. This means that you can control these settings from any computer in the world that you are logged into with Windows Live.
Press the account you wish to control, then the configuration pages will load in your web browser (left).
This allows you to control all settings from the same screen.
Set Up Web Filtering On Your Child’s User Account
To set up web filtering for the account, press the Web filtering link and choose the appropriate level of filtering for each account.
To block or allow specific web sites, press the Web filtering lists button on the left-hand menu:
If your child attempts to view a web site which has either been specifically blocked, or has been blocked automatically due to its content, they will see a screen similar to this one:
If you are in the room, you may choose to allow access to the web site by pressing the Ask in person button. This then allows you to enter your Windows Live ID password (which may be different from the password you use to log on to your account on the computer) to permit access to the site.
Otherwise, if your child has reason to believe that the site is being blocked in error, they may send an email request which you may review and take appropriate action.
You may also view logs of each account’s activity to see what your children have been up to, and restrict access to various contacts by using the appropriate screen as selected from the left-hand menu within the web-based settings interface.