Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Tomorrow 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:
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.
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.
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.
Did you say they could only go on for half-an-hour before supper? Choose the Per-Session Timeout.
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.
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.
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.
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