Both of my kids use the family computer, and sometimes it's hard for me to monitor them as well as I’d like. They might be using the Internet for homework, but it’s also possible they’re just playing a computer game. And I want to make sure they only go to safe locations on the web. Hi. I’m Dave Johnson, a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft.
And I’m Jean White, an editor on the Windows team. It’s these kinds of concerns that the Parental Controls in Windows Vista can help you with.
To use parental controls, your computer needs at least two accounts. You, the parent, should have a password-protected administrator account, while each of your children should have a standard user account. You can add, remove, or change user accounts in the User Accounts section of Control Panel.
Don’t know a lot about user accounts? No problem—you can read about it in Help.
After you set up your accounts, Parental Controls can automatically enforce rules blocking certain websites, limiting time spent on the computer, determining which games your kids can play, and preventing certain programs from running.
So that’s what you can do with Parental Controls. Jean, how about if I demonstrate how, as a parent, I would set up Parental Controls, and then when I’m done, you can show what the kid's experience is like with Parental Controls turned on?
Okay, great. Let's get started. To begin with, open the Control Panel and then type parent in the search box.
After you click Parental Controls, you will get a list of all the user accounts on the computer. Go ahead and click one.
The first thing to do here is to turn on Parental Controls. I’d also suggest leaving Activity Reporting turned on. That way, you can occasionally check in to see what your kids have been doing on the computer when they are supposed to be doing their homework.
The Parental Controls default settings are pretty good, but you can fine-tune them by clicking each setting. In the Web filter section, for example, you can let Windows automatically block questionable websites. Or, if you prefer, you can create a specific list of sites that you approve and disapprove of.
My favorite setting is Time Limits, where I can make sure that my kids are off the computer every day by, say, 10 pm. Except Saturdays, maybe, when they can stay up a little later.
When you’re done, click OK to save your changes.
Don’t forget that you can view the activity reports anytime. This is what an activity report looks like on a computer that’s been in use for a while.
Now let’s see what Parental Controls looks like from the kid’s perspective. You’ll have to pretend I’m a little younger than I look.
In general, nothing is different—I log onto my account and this computer works the same as always. But let’s say I need to do some homework, so I go to the computer for some research.
I’ll try to reach Encarta.com. In real life, this site is fine, and Parental Controls wouldn't block access to it. Just to show you what would happen though, we used Parental Controls to block Encarta, as an example for this video. As you can see, if I type in the address of a website that might have some questionable content, it’s automatically blocked by Parental Controls. That’s great—Parental Controls did its job, and kept me from reaching this website. If I really want to get there, I'll need permission from someone, like a parent, who has an administrator account on this computer.
Dave, will you give me permission to access this website?
Now keep in mind if I was doing this for my own kids, I'd want to check out the site on my own to make sure I really wanted to allow it. In this case, I'll allow access. I like this because it means parents like me make the final decision.
Oh, and remember the time limits that Dave imposed when he set up Parental Controls? It looks like they're almost up. This notification warns me that in a few minutes, I won't be able to use my computer. I won’t lose my work, but I won’t have access to the computer until the next time I’m scheduled.
One of the most challenging issues facing parents is monitoring their kids’ computer use and imposing smart and reasonable limitations. Parental Controls makes that easier.