November 7, 2009

Using the Windows Parental Controls

How to use Windows Parental Controls
Windows 7 provides three options for controlling how your children (or even you) can use the computer. These are as follows:

- Time Limits: Specify the hours during each day that the child can use the computer.
- Games: Specify whether the child can play games on the computer, and set the rating and content types that are allowed.
- Allow and Block Specific Programs: Select which programs the child can run.

Getting to the Parental Controls Page

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a computer guru to set up parental controls. After you’ve set up appropriate user accounts, the rest is easy. Here are the steps:

1. Log in to a user account that has administrative privileges.

2. Do whichever of the following is most convenient for you at the moment:
- Tap WIN key,type par in the search box, and click Parental Controls.
- Click the Start button, choose Control Panel, and click Set Up Parental Controls for Any User.

3. You come to a page that shows the name and picture for each user account you’ve created, as in the example in picture. Click the user account for which you want to set up parental controls.

Now you’re in the parental controls page shown in picture. Any options you choose are applied to the account shown in the page. For example, I’m setting up parental controls for a user named Gene. To activate parental controls for the account, choose On, Enforce Current Settings under the Parental Controls heading. After you turn on parental controls, you can choose which controls to apply for the selected user.

Setting time limits

To specify times when the child is allowed to use the computer, click Time Limits. You see a grid of days and times. Initially, all squares are white, meaning there are no restrictions. You can click any time slot for which the child isn’t allowed to use the computer to turn it blue. Or, drag the mouse pointer through a longer stretch of time to block more time.

Optionally, you can place the mouse pointer in the upper-left corner of the grid and drag down to the lower-right corner to block all times. Then drag the mouse pointer through the times that the child is allowed to use the computer. For example, in Figure 4-3, the child is allowed to use the computer from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm on Sunday, 3:00 to 7:00 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 3:00 to 9:00 on Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday. Click OK after setting allowable times. You can change those settings at any time by clicking Time Limits again when appropriate. For example, if the child needs a ‘‘time out’’ from the computer, you can block out all the times so that the child can’t use the computer at all!

Sometimes you might want to allow your children to use the computer but not use the Internet. For example, they might need to do homework but you don’t want them on the Web. You can prevent their access to the Internet by blocking Internet Explorer, but I block Internet traffic at the home firewall instead. With a single click in the firewall interface, I can allow or deny traffic to the kids’ computer. Configuring a firewall is outside the scope of this chapter, but I offer this tip to give you another way to control how your children use the computer.

Controlling game play

To control the child’s game play, click Games. Doing so opens the page shown in Picture. If you don’t want the child to use the computer for game play at all, choose No. Otherwise, choose Yes. If you choose Yes, you can block games based on content. Click Set Game Ratings. Your first options will be base don ESRB ratings. ESRB stands for Entertainment Software Rating Board, an independent third party that rates games for age appropriateness and specific content. The ratings are similar to movie ratings (G, PG, R, and so forth), but specific to computer games.

To use a rating system other than ESRB, click the Back button until you get to the first parental controls page that shows user accounts. Then click Select a Games Rating System in the left column.

To prevent the child from playing games that have no ESRB rating, choose Block games with no rating. Then read each rating and click whichever rating is the most appropriate for your child. The child will be able to play games up to, and including, the rating you choose. Then you can scroll down the page and block more games based on content type. To block games based on content, select the type of content you want to block. When you get to the bottom of the list and have blocked all the content that you feel is inappropriate, click OK. Finally, you can click Block or Allow Speci?c Games to allow or block games installed on your computer. For each listed game, you can choose User Rating Setting to block based on the ESRB rating. Or you can choose Always Allow to let the child play the game. Or choose Always Block to prevent the child from playing that game. Click OK after making your selections. Then click OK again to return to the main parental controls page for your child.

Blocking and allowing programs

Clicking Allow and Block Specific Programs takes you to a page that lists all the programs installed on your computer. There you can opt to allow the child to use all programs. Or choose Can Only Use the Programs I Allow. If you choose the second option, you need to select the check box next to each program that the child is allowed to use. Click OK after making your selections.

When you’ve ?nished setting up parental controls for the child, the account name and picture summarize your settings. You can click OK to return to the list of user accounts. From there, you can click another account to which you want to assign parental controls. Or close the window if you’re finished setting up parental controls.

Of course, you can add or change parental controls at any time. Just use any technique described under ‘‘Getting to the Parental Controls Page,’’ earlier in this chapter, to get to the main page. Then click the account for which you want to add or change parental controls.

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