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windows live family safetyWindows 7 has a number of default parental control features How To Use Windows’ Parental Controls To Restrict Your Child's Use Of The PC How To Use Windows’ Parental Controls To Restrict Your Child's Use Of The PC Computers can be intimidating to parents. Allowing children the opportunity to understand computers is important, but a PC can be used to explore curiosities that are inappropriate. They also can turn into massive time sinks... Read More built in. Using these, it’s possible to deny access to certain applications and games as well as restrict a child’s account so that is can be used during only specific days and times.

These features may not be enough for all parents, however. Windows Live Family Safety 2011 expands the controls to include web filtering and activity reporting, among other things.

Installation & Setup

To obtain Family Safety 2011 you need to visit the Windows Live Essentials website and download the package. This package contains a wealth of software, but you can choose to only install the Family Safety features if you’d like.

windows live family safety

Once installed, you’ll be prompted with a screen that lets you choose which accounts you’d like to monitor. As you can see above, I’ve chosen my example “Child’s Account” for monitoring. In addition to this, Windows will recommend that you disable guest accounts, since they can be used by anyone as a means to bypass account monitoring. Alternatively, you can add a password to the guest account.

Now Family Safety is active, and the accounts you specified during setup have been given some default settings, as shown above.


Web Filtering & Contact Management

Although the Family Safety software must be installed on the PC you’d like to monitor, the settings are adjusted via a web interface made available online through the Windows Live website. There are two specific categories of settings that are now available which aren’t included in the standard Parental Controls.

windows family safety

Web Filtering OpenDNS Works As A Great Free Web Content Filtering Solution OpenDNS Works As A Great Free Web Content Filtering Solution Read More is the first, and provides a way to automatically prevent your child from accessing certain websites while using his or her account. There are five default settings that can be utilized, ranging from extremely restrictive (only websites you approve can be accessed) to completely open (all websites can be accessed). It’s also possible to block specific websites based on their URL.

The other category, Contact Management, makes it possible to control your child’s contacts when they’re using a Windows Live ID. For example, you could make it impossible for him or her to chat online with anyone you have not approved.


Although Web Filtering works to prevent your child from seeing unapproved sites, it doesn’t prevent them from entering the URL. Doing so brings up a request page instead of the actual website. Your child can use this page to request access to a specific site.

For example, I limited my Child’s Account to allow Child-Friendly content only. When logged into the Child’s Account, attempting to access a new site like CNN results in the notification below.

windows family safety

Any requests made will show up in the web interface, where they can be approved or denied.

Activity Reporting

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is activity reporting. This does what it states. Using the web interface, it’s possible for a parent to see what is happening on a child account.

This includes the websites that are visited, including when they’re accessed, as well as important computer activity such as when the account is logged in and the programs that are used. In the case of web activity, all sites are reported even if they are blocked, and those that are blocked can be approved.

windows live family safety

Although the standard Parental Controls allows for parents to proactively stop children from using certain software or accessing a computer at certain times, Activity Monitoring makes it possible to make sure the rules aren’t being stretched. The fact that the interface is web based is also a boon, since it’s possible for a parent to keep tabs on a child’s account even at work or on the road.


Windows Live Family Safety is an impressive software suite, particularly when the low price of free is considered. Although there are other paid solutions available, the default Parental Controls combined with the advanced Family Safety features should provide everything a parent needs to keep tabs on their child’s computer use.

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  1. James Bruce
    August 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

    All I can say is, if my parents ever tried to pull this crap on me, I would have had it hacked and uninstalled before you can say "censorship". I'm not sure imposing technical boundaries is the solution - it'd be more likely to drive the child insane wouldn't it? 

    I mean, I grew up with everything the internet had to offer, and look how I turned out!... on second thoughts, this might have been a good idea, eh?

    • Aibek
      August 5, 2011 at 10:44 am


    • Mark O'Neill
      August 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      I'm not sure I agree.  There's a lot of dark stuff out there on the net - porn, sexual predators, con artists....stuff that I wouldn't want my child to see and be aware of until they were of the age where they could deal with it, understand it and know how to handle it properly. 

      Children are naturally rebellious and want to grow up too fast and I think software like this stops them from doing stuff online behind their parents backs.

  2. Sonny Bass
    August 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    With three children each with their own computer and a family room computer,Windows Live Family Safety makes it much easier to establish and maintain boundaries suitable for each age and computer. Before I got everyone on Windows 7 I was using K9, it works very well, but it is very convenient to be able to adjust and monitor all of them from my computer, whether it be desk or laptop.