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Setting up a computer for a child’s use? You have a lot to consider. From inappropriate content on the internet and even on your desktop to screen usage limits, it’s important to make sure your kids have a safe environment on their computer.
We’ll show you how to find and set up Windows 10’s parental controls. We’ll also share some tips for making your PC as child-friendly as possible using third-party parental controls for Windows 10. Of course, nothing can replace parental guidance, but these will make your job a lot easier.
1. The Most Important Tool: Child Accounts
If you only use one Windows 10 parental control, you should make it this one. Child accounts allow you to set restrictions on computer usage as well as monitoring their use, and they’ve seen a great boost in utility since Windows 7. We’ve covered how to use child accounts in our guide to locking down Windows user accounts, so we’ll offer an overview here.
You must sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account (not a local account) and navigate to Settings > Accounts > Family & other people. Select Add a family member, then proceed through the steps to create a Child account. You’ll need to add your child’s email address or create a new one for them to sign in. Additionally, if you live in the U.S. you’ll need to authorize a small charge on your credit card to comply with government regulations.
Adding Child Account Restrictions
Once they’re set up, you’ll see an entry for their email on the Family & other people page. Click Manage family settings online below that section or just visit the Windows 10 family settings website directly to manage your children’s accounts. Click their email address and you can manage various categories of their computer usage.
On the Activity page, you can see what they’ve searched for, websites they’ve visited, and apps they’ve opened.
Select Screen time to set a Windows 10 time limit; you can choose specific hours when your child can use the computer and set a maximum number of usage hours.
Choose the Content restrictions tab to only allow apps and games that are appropriate for a certain age level. You can select any age from 3 to 20 or disable this feature. For instance, if you select 12-year olds, your child will only be able to watch PG-rated movies, games rated E10+, and so on.
Of course, this only applies to content in the Microsoft Store. This wouldn’t stop your child from opening iTunes and watching a movie or buying an inappropriate game on Steam (assuming they had gift cards to do so).
Under Web browsing, you can enable a slider to Block inappropriate websites. Microsoft doesn’t explain exactly what websites this blocks, but the important thing to note is that it only works with Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. You can also block individual websites; you might want to block YouTube, for example, or Reddit.
Enabling this setting also blocks the account from opening common alternate browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. If your child is tech-savvy, they could simply install any number of alternate browsers to work around this, requiring you to manually block them all in the Always blocked apps section above.
Do your kids know their way around Windows settings better than you do? When you’re done, you may want to disable access to the Settings app and Control Panel entirely.
2. Block Inappropriate Websites With DNS Filtering
Windows 10’s parental controls are great for a first line of defense, but they don’t do much if your child opens a browser other than Edge or Internet Explorer. For that, we recommend enabling DNS filtering on your entire home network to block thousands of inappropriate sites.
(This is especially useful now that Chrome’s parental controls are changing.)
This will ensure that your children can’t access explicit sites, no matter how they get online. One of the best DNS servers, OpenDNS, offers the pre-configured Family Shield for easy filtering, or you can use the Home package to select exactly what sites you want to block. It only takes a few minutes to enable it on your router, so there’s no reason not to give it a try!
In addition to this, you should know how to block websites on Android.
3. Use UAC and a Standard Account for Your Child
Not all of making a computer child-friendly is about internet safety. It’s also important to make sure that your child’s account doesn’t have permission to make major changes to your computer. This includes installing potentially dangerous software.
You can perform two quick checks to make sure that your child’s account can’t do much damage. First, head back to Settings > Home > Family & other people and click your child’s account name. Choose Change account type, and make sure it’s set as Standard User, not Administrator.
Second, you should make sure you have User Account Control (UAC) enabled. This security feature prompts standard accounts for an administrator password when they try to make changes to the computer. Type UAC into the Start Menu and select Change User Account Control settings.
The default level, second from the top, is the best mix of security and convenience. You may want to turn it all the way up to prevent children from making most changes, but this can quickly get annoying for you.
4. Don’t Forget the Non-Software Rules
The above tools let you control what apps your kids use, when they can use the computer, where they can go online, and what they can do with their accounts. You can supplement them with additional parental control apps, if you like, but those cover the essentials.
But it’s worth a reminder that a few non-technical limitations can go a long way in making your Windows 10 PC a safe place for your kids to have fun and learn.
My daughter is only one but I teach internet safety at primary school. I'd definitely have a family computer in a shared living space with a massive screen, so that I can keep an eye on whatever my children/teenagers are looking at. #SafeandTotal
— Jules Pondering Parenthood (@mrsthinksalot) November 29, 2017
For instance, you might want to keep their computer in a shared room so that they aren’t going online without anybody around. That way, you can catch potential problems sooner. Additionally, it’s smart to set some basic rules with your kids about what you expect from their computer usage.
Perhaps you’d like them to check with you before they download anything. Or you might consider not giving them an email address to prevent them from signing up for various websites. Coming up with these guidelines beforehand can prevent some issues in the future. Plus, if you set clear rules, you can discipline your children if they violate them. That’s a lot better than spying on them without their knowledge.
What Other Safety Features Do You Use?
We’ve covered the most important tools for protecting your children on a Windows 10 PC. You might wish to include additional software for your children’s individual needs, but implementing these baseline changes will go a long way. Check our complete guide to parental controls for further resources.
Really, adding internet/content safety and computer safety are about all the changes you need to make a computer friendly for kids.
Young children growing up in the digital age don’t typically need accessibility features, like large text, to make a computer easier to use. Computer interfaces are already second nature to them. So you shouldn’t need to enable any of those unless your child needs them for a specific reason. In fact, they’ll probably figure out how to use Windows better than you before long!
What features do you use to make your PC safe for kids? Have you ever had an incident where a child got into trouble on your computer? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Maximkostenko/Depositphotos