Whilst eating lunch earlier and reading the BBC News Education page I came across this article: BBC News - MPs told young children accessing explicit porn
And the first thing that jumped into my head was 'Why do parents simply not use the tools Microsoft has provided for free?' (OS permitting of course) in the form of Windows Parental Controls (now called Windows Family Safety 2011) which are installed as part of the Live Suite of tools which includes Messenger, DVD Maker etc. Then it also struck me that I have not played with them for quite some time, since I was using Vista in fact, and now would be an ideal opportunity to reaquaint myself.
OK, so what you need to use Microsofts Parental Controls are the following:
A Windows Live account i.e. a Hotmail address.
A computer running Windows Vista (SP2) or Windows 7
Windows Live Essentials suite - Install it from here and ensure that Family Safety is checked: Windows Live Essentials 2011 - Download free Microsoft programs
User accounts for each child on the PC
Once you've installed Live Essentials go to control panel and open the 'Parental Controls' application in there. From there you select the user account you want to control (ensure your account has admin privileges first!)
It will then ask you to login with your Hotmail account details, once you have done this you will be taken to the account settings page (all the config pages are web based).
Now I won't bore you with details because it is so simple to use and well laid out it was quite shocking TBH. Essentially from the account page you can set the following items:
Web filtering - Where you can set a filtering level for all the internet your child might access.
Web filtering lists - You can block individual sites and domains here.
Activity Reporting - Shows what sites have been visited and when.
Contact management - This part allows you to restrict what messaging and email contacts can be used. This only works with Hotmail and Messenger BTW.
Requests - When your child encounters a blocked website they can request its unblocking here.
Time limits - Restrict the times your child can use the computer.
Game restrictions - Block access to games by their age rating. Nice feature.
Program restrictions. Be able to block access to individual applications and games on the computer.
Each of these modules can be turned on or off and are off by default.
I've included below a some screen grabs of each page just so you can get an overview of just how easy it is to use.
filtering.JPG Web filtering allows you to set a filtering level for your child. be carful though. Set it too strict and you may be limiting the sites they can access as the screen grab below shows when I set the filtering to 'Child Friendly'.
child sites.JPGSafe, but limited. However, you can add sites to this list if you wish.
blocked site.JPG Any atttemp to to access a blocked site will result in this page being displayed with an easy to use system for requesting the unblocking of web pages.
filtering2.JPG Web filtering lists allow you to manually block or allow sites.
webactivity.JPGActivity reporting gives you a good overview of what sites and programs your child has been using. This even works for in-private sessions in both Firefox and Chrome. Internet Explorer did not allow the user account in-private privileges.
comp activity.JPGAnd here is a list of programs used by the protected account.
request.JPG Requests to unblock sites can be accessed via the 'Requests' menu.
timelimits.JPGPreventing unauthorised computer use is easy from the 'Time limits' menu and any attempt to logon will result in an access denied because of time restrictions message.
games.JPGSetting restrictions on games has never been easier now that games have age ratings. You can also block older games in the program restriction menu.
programrestrictions.JPGProgram restrictions allow you to block access to programs or groups of programs from an easy check-box menu. Be careful how you use this though as it may have unexpected consequeces with inter-related programs.
blocked program.JPG The message a user gets when trying to use an unauthorised program.
And that's all there is too it. It took me 10 mins to setup and configure (including time to do screengrabs). It's well worth the effort and I really hope more people start to use these tools. There is a more though user guide from Microsoft which can be found here if you are intersted: Parental Controls - Windows 7 features - Microsoft Windows.
I had a more in depth look at these this weekend (hense the extra pics and re-organisation of the article) and it occurs to me that at primary school level, Microsoft really have a platform that, with a little modification and AD integration, could provide a very, very valuble and easy to use method of low end classroom management, but for home users I think it has been so overlooked that it is almost criminal it has not been pushed more via media coverage and advertising. It is an amazing feature that, best of all, is totally free!
Last edited by Dos_Box; 12th September 2011 at 11:44 AM.
Set this up when my nephew had our old computer in his bedroom and get internet access in there. Even though it was easy to setup, I could have done with reading this about a month ago
Unfortunately I am going to need to do it again as that computer blew up and now they are after a new one
Great tool, best work Microsoft has done in ages in my opinion (in terms of updates/addons I mean)
I've re-done the article to reflect a more in-depth look I've had at it this weekend. I think I'm going to turn into a Microsoft parental controls fanboy.
I'm now going to take a look at Apple's inbuilt parental controls to see how they hald up against Microsoft. Expect a report soon.
Last edited by Dos_Box; 12th September 2011 at 11:45 AM.
Hi Tony. I've just had a look at Apple's Parental Controls and will be posting up the results in a mo. By IOS controls could you be a bit more specific please so I can be fair.
What I am trying to concentrate on here is not the functionallity of the feature set from a techies perspective, but rather what parents will be using from a single interface. The aveage parent will simply want to go to one aplication and set the restrictions from there.
Didn't realise it was so good, TBH - worth knowing, as I always get asked about home use, and it is difficult to know what to recommend.
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