In the 3rd part of this Parental Controls series, I’m going to introduce Windows into the mix. My last post was around Macintosh safety and while the Parental Controls on the Mac are pretty good, I am actually a bit more pleased with what you can get with Windows Live and their Family Safety features.
The important thing with any set up of Parental Controls on a computer is being sure that you carefully think out how you are going to configure your child’s environment. The important thing is, along with regular conversations with them about the dangers of the Internet, kids normally aren’t aware of what they should or shouldn’t do. You might be surprised as to the items that they can discover on their own that are wrapped in “innocence” but when you really look at them, might be completely inappropriate. It’s your job as a parent to help them understand why some content might be better than others.
Again, like the Mac, you need to use a named account. I also set up a generic account for all of my kids (which is something that you can do on the mac as well). There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage is that you only have one account that you need to set up and manage. The disadvantage with a single account is that you don’t have the granular control over specific kids, and you may have kids that need longer hours of availability than others do. Regardless, be sure that you do set up at least one account that is different than yours.
The Parental Controls and Family Safety Filters are found within Windows Live. You need to set up a free Windows Life account in order for you to create and manage your safety environment which you can do at: https://home.live.com/allservices/. You will need to download and install the Family Safety Filters component from Windows live but once you do, you are ready to quickly and easily set up their environment.
Unlike the Macintosh version, the Windows version can be maintained via a webpage. You set up one profile and then associate that profile with a named login users. What is nice about this is is that you can do this on multiple computers and when you create a new users on a computer for your kids, it will prompt you if you want associate any of your named profiles to that new user.
The Windows controls seem to offer a bit more granular control than that of the Macintosh. And the nice thing is, you can remote administer all of the settings. What are those settings? For starters, within the safety area, you can see not only the named profiles but also the computers that have the “Family Safety Filter” installed and active.
Each profile is broken down into a series of controls, namely:
- Web Filtering – gives you the ability to set up allow/deny lists, child-friendly categories and general interest categories.
- Activity Reporting – protection is only as good as what is reported back to you. And, you need to review the logs so that you know what your kids have been doing online and if you need to tighten up your restrictions and/or have some face-time with them for safety education
- Contact Management – this allows you to allow or restrict certain types of contact with various people (e.g., manage Hotmail, Messenger and Spaces) but remember, it only works, I believe within Microsoft properties and services.
- Requests – one nice thing about the Windows version of Parental Controls is that if your child encounters a site that they can’t access due to the filters, they can send you a request and then you can either allow or deny access to that site.
- Time Limits – this is one of the most important options that you need to have in any type of Parental Control. This limits the amount of time your kids can use the computer as well as when they can access it.
- Game Restrictions – kids love playing computer games and this feature with either allow or deny them access to a rated game based on the setting you choose.
- Program Restrictions – you can decide which programs you want your kids to have access to. For example, you might not want them looking into Quicken and messing with your finances.
There is a lot of granularity and control available on the Windows platform so be sure to explore it a bit.
Named Parental Control Users 1 of 8It's easy to set up named accounts and users for Windows Parental Controls
Activity Reports 2 of 8Protection is only as good as what is reported back to you. And, you need to review the logs so that you know what your kids have been doing online and if you need to tighten up your restrictions and/or have some face-time with them for safety education
Game Restrictions 3 of 8Kids love playing computer games and this feature with either allow or deny them access to a rated game based on the setting you choose
Requests 4 of 8One nice thing about the Windows version of Parental Controls is that if your child encounters a site that they can't access due to the filters, they can send you a request and then you can either allow or deny access to that site
Account Settings 5 of 8You get a lot of granularity on the amount of items you can manage and control
Time Limits 6 of 8This is one of the most important options that you need to have in any type of Parental Control. This limits the amount of time your kids can use the computer as well as when they can access it
Web Filtering Lists 7 of 8Gives you the ability to set up allow/deny lists, child-friendly categories and general interest categories
Web Filtering 8 of 8More of a generic web filtering that allows you to set thresholds
Parental Controls and Filters are particularly important on Windows, especially since many households have inexpensive netbooks at the computers that are used by children. In my household, we have two “floating” netbooks that my kids use interchangeably for their school work and once and a while, entertainment purposes.
By setting up the named accounts within Windows Live and then associating those configurations directly to their logins on the netbooks, I know that they are getting the same protection, regardless of the computer that they use. I like the fact that I can configure the controls once and online and then simply roll those configurations out to any Windows computer that they use. Also, being able to aggregate their usage tracking in a centralized place makes it much easier to scale and manage.
Have you tried out the free Windows Live Parental Filters and Controls? What do you think of them? What are some of the best practices that you are implementing to protect your kids’ Internet activity at home?
Up next - Other Types of Parental Controls Available