Free Software Apps to Limit Your Kids’ Online Time

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kids_playingTomorrow evening, just after dinner, I’d like you to do me a favour. All of you. When you get up from the supper table, go look out your window and count the number of kids playing outside. If you see more than 3, count your blessings. Chances are, you won’t see any.

Now think back to when you were a kid and how many pickup games of road hockey, baseball or even cricket that you had. (Do European and Australian kids have pick-up games of cricket? I’m just trying to be more inclusive.) At least once or twice a week? Nothing organized, just a bunch of kids getting together and having fun.

So, where did the kids go? I know there are kids out there or we wouldn’t have Hannah Montana or toy stores. The kids are inside, surfing the Internets, IM’ing their BFF’s, Facebooking and YouTubing. If you’re like me, you know life is to be lived – not watched. So what to do?

How about free software to limit your kids’ online time on the computer?

Here’s a free one to check out:

Romaco Timeout

free software to limit kids time on pc

This is a fine piece of freeware from fellow Canuck, Mark Furneaux (a.k.a. TheUbuntuGuy – no relation). It simply does what it says it will. Perhaps the only caveat is to make sure that when you install it, that you select the Install for Everyone option. That way you can apply it to whichever users are on the computer.

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free software to limit kids time on pc

Take a look at the settings window and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out exactly how to use this software. The beauty is the simplicity.

free software to limit kids time on pc

When the Romaco Control Panel opens, you must enter a password before you can even change any settings. Of course, choose a password that your kids won’t guess. Once you’ve done that, the rest of the Control Panel is accessible.

In order to make the program start counting down, you must check the Enable Timeout checkbox. From there, you can choose the method you want to put healthy limits on the computer usage.

Do you want them to be on the computer for no more than an hour or two a day? Choose the Daily Quota option.

freeware limit kids time on pc

Did you say they could only go on for half-an-hour before supper? Choose the Per-Session Timeout.

freeware limit kids time on pc

With the Per-Session Timeout, you do have to set it for a minimum of  15 minutes. Now, if you set the Warn n minutes before action option in either scenario, there is NO WAY the little goobers can say, “I didn’t know it was going to shut off.” Or the ever-popular, “It’s not fair! I didn’t have time to save my game. I need to get back on and get to a save point!”

Personally, I would only respond to that last statement with my patented, “Did I promise you fair?” accompanied by the arched eyebrow. See that warning below? It scales to whatever size your screen is. They can click the OK button to continue their Twittering.

free software to limit kids time on pc

There are two possible outcomes from setting the timer – Log Off or Shut Down. How you choose is up to you. Log off is good enough for our kids since they know that they’ve had enough time and respect us. Ha! I almost typed that last line with a straight-face.

I’d also recommend checking the Startup Automatically For This User. That way it will startup automatically for that user. That was redundant.

automatic_startup

Once you have it set as you want, simply click on the Run Immediately button. The countdown will begin. Then click on the Apply and Close button. That will minimize the Romaco Timeout to the system tray – out of the way.

free software to limit kids time on pc

The only easy way to stop the program now, is to open the Timeout Control Panel from the system tray icon and enter the password. If you’ve done your job right, the kids won’t be able to cirvumvent this. Unless they are more into computers than just surfing. In that case, you may want to look at registry tweaks to disable the Task Manager.

I can’t promise you that your neighbourhood will fill up with kids playing and laughing by using Timeout. What you do with your kids when they step away from the flickering-blue babysitter is up to you.

What other methods do you use to help keep their computer usage healthy? How do you encourage them to get outside and just play? I’m all ears and willing to learn. Just leave me a note in the comments below.

Image Credit : krisandapril

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18 Comments - Write a Comment

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ILoveFreeSoftware

This is a really useful application. Now parents won’t have to worry about kids spending all the time online. This software would take care of it.

Reply

Trinae Ross

I agree with ILFS, this is useful when helping to curb the amount of time kids spend online. Question, is there similar software that will lock a user from the PC for a predetermined amount of time? Playing video games when they should be doing homework is more my problem with the kids.

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AlDeezy

No no no no no no NO. This is NOT the solution. If their homework is done, let them surf. Today’s age IS the internet. It IS electronics. Your children might be talking to other kids on the other side of the world! Jeez, do you have any idea how many life-long friends I’ve made from the internet? Just don’t let it too out of hand, but be more flexible with the computing. And remember to kick em outside every now and again.

Guy McDowell

Well, that’s kind of the point of the article. It isn’t to ban kids from the Internet, it’s to help govern their time spent on it. Pen pals, as we used to call them, are great. But they won’t be there when you need help moving a bed or just want to go for a walk. That’s why kids need to get outside and be with real and present people.

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Ibrahim

Man, I will really need this app with my 2 kids — allowing them to share the computer without using it too much. And your observation about kids being excessively tied to indoor life is spot-on. Kids are a naturally active and physically-driven beings – they should normally have been playing, jumping and frolicking (not sitting on a chair playing video games and getting obese).

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TukangRoti

Thanks! I need this to control my kids’ use of our computer. Ooh.. my kids are going to hate you for this :-)

Guy McDowell

As my Mom would say, “Someday they’ll thank me!” ;)

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tom fullerton

Thanks for the tip – would you know of a similar app for Mac?

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summoner2100

The mac can do it built into to Leopard and Snow Leopard, Create an account for the kid to use under system preferences, Go to parental controls and enable for that account. Set the time limits accordingly. It can also lock down other things as well, mail, ichat, content, only allow certain apps.

Have fun. :)

Guy McDowell

I’ve often wondered why MS doesn’t have that in it’s home editions. Account scheduling like in the server editions would be great!

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