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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 thanks to the games and movies available on them.
This might encourage a parent to police a child’s use constantly, but this is tiring for both parent and child. A better alternative is to use parental control software capable of locking access to certain software. Windows has these controls built in, and they’re easy to learn.
Giving Your Child An Account
Windows uses accounts as a means of restricting user access to certain parts of the operating system. This function has more to do with security than it does parental controls. By restricting the access of people who don’t have administrative privileges it’s more difficult for hackers to take over a Windows machine.
However, the accounts system is also well suited for parental controls. When you access the Parental Controls menu in the Windows control panel you’ll be presented with a list of users. You may have already created an account specifically for your child, but if not, find the “Create a new user account” link at the bottom of the list and click it.
You’ll then be asked to put in a name for the account, and you can also require that the account input a password when it is first used. I don’t recommend this with younger children, as they’ll likely forget, but teens should be able to remember the password.
Once you’ve created the account you’ll be sent back to the Parental Controls menu. Now you have an account that can be used by your child.
Defining The Rules
Now that your child’s account appears in Parental Controls, click on it to access the account’s settings. By default, the controls will be turned off. Simply click the On radio button to activate them.
Now you’ll have access to three different rules: time limits, games, and allow and block specific programs.
Time limits are not used to limit the amount of time the account can be used but rather when the account can be used. Access to the account is not allowed during the blocked time periods, and the account will be logged off if active in those time periods.
Games lets you decide if an account can be used to play games, and decide what games your child can play based on the rating of the game. It’s also possible to block specific titles. While these are excellent controls, keep in mind that ratings are only a guideline. What one parent finds acceptable may be intolerable for another.
The final control makes it possible to define the specific programs you’d like your child to have access to. If you want to block web access, this is an easy way to do so (by blocking all web browsers). It’s also possible to block potentially damaging software. For example, I wouldn’t want a mischievous teen to have access to TrueCrypt .
Near the bottom of the Parental Controls menu you’ll find a section labeled Advanced Controls. This is where you’ll be able to make changes to advanced tools like web filtering.
These advanced controls are not installed by default, however. You’ll have to install some other software to access them. Microsoft itself offers a free program called Windows Live Family Safety that can be easily acquired as part of Windows Live Essentials.
The built-in parental controls found in Windows are a great boon for every parent. Monitoring a child’s usage of a PC can be tiresome, and at times not feasible. By learning to use the controls above you can protect your child even when you’re not present. Let us know what you think about them in the comments. Is Parental Controls in Windows effective?