Microsoft Monday

One of Vista’s shining points that often gets looked over is the amazing parental controls that are included with it.  Microsoft certainly spent some time thinking this feature through because it’s thorough and gives parents control over nearly every aspect of their child’s computer use. If you’re running any version of Vista besides the Business edition, you already have this feature at your fingertips just waiting to be configured. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at parental controls and how to set them up and configure them best for your children.

What is the purpose of Parental Controls?

It’s rather self explanatory, but parental controls help parents manage what their kids are doing on the computer.  Children are much more tech savvy these days and use computers regularly.  Parents aren’t always able to be monitoring their children while they’re on the computer at all times which is where this comes in handy. There is so much that you can control like which web sites a child can and cannot visit, and controlling which programs they can open.  If there’s a game that has been issued a rating that you don’t approve of, you can block them from playing it. There’s a lot to it and it’s worth taking the time to set it up so that you can make the most out of it.

Finding Parental Controls

Remember, parental controls is not available if you’re using the business version of Vista.  Any other version has it, and to find it, just click on the start menu and start typing “parental controls” in the search box.  It will pull it up from there, otherwise you can go to the “control panel” and then “user accounts” to access it.  Once you’re there, you’ll begin configuring all of your options. One thing I recommend doing is to leave the “Activity Reporting” turned on.  It’s on by default and with it you can get reports and collect information about computer usage. We’ll explain more about this a little later…

Web Restrictions

If your children are going to be on the Internet, you’ll likely want to visit the web limits section.  Here you add web sites to the block/allow list. If you don’t want to create a manual list, you can block web content automatically and choose a setting like high, medium, or none.  Selecting the medium level, Vista would block “unratable” content and web content in categories like mature content, pornography, drugs, hate speech, and weapons.  You can also block your children from downloading files.

parent controls 1

Time Limits

This is a great feature where a graph is displayed and you can click and drag the hours that you want to block or allow your children from using the computer. For example, between the hours of 4 and 6 each day, your children are to work on their homework in which case you don’t want them using the computer.  You can block this time out each day so that your children can’t use the computer. The blocks will turn blue to signify that the time has been blocked.  If your child is using the computer and they’re approaching a blocked time, they’ll get a 15 minute warning followed by a 1 minute warning letting them know that their time is almost up. Once time is up and they’re still using the computer, Vista will automatically go back to the login screen.

time controls

Game Ratings

Under the game ratings section, you first determine whether or not the child can play games at all. If you decide that they can, you can choose which ratings are suitable for the child to play. More specifically, you can block games based upon certain type of content like reference to alcohol, depictions of blood, crude humor, and more. If there are specific games on your computer that you know you don’t want your child to play, you can block those by name.

game settings

Program Controls

Perhaps there are some programs on your computer that you’d prefer your child not use. If you decide that your child can only use the programs that you allow, you’ll be able to manually check the programs on your computer that can be used.

Activity Report

The activity report is great for filling you in on what your child has been doing.  You’ll be able to see the top 10 web sites they visit, the most recent 10 web sites that you blocked, whether or not they downloaded files, when they logged on to the computer, the applications that they ran, and more. It gives you a great overall glimpse at what they are doing and if there are any parental controls that you need to modify like adding a website that they frequently visit to the blocked list. There are also options to see the media that they’ve played, and even instant messaging statistics.

Wrapping it up

I told you this feature was thorough, didn’t I? Parental Controls covers nearly everything imaginable and helps parents do their job of protecting their children from harm, all while allowing them to experience all that a computer and the Internet has to offer.