Parental controls are usually most effective when they are used as part of a strategy for protecting children, rather than relied upon solely. Clearly it helps if children also understand that they should never give private information out to anyone on the internet or by email – even things like age, gender, name, where they live or their school. If you keep your family computer somewhere “public” in the home, such as the living room or kitchen, this also helps cut down the risks.
Parental control software can be used to help in the following areas:
- PC system protection
- Setting time limits on your PC
- Programs and games
- Web filtering
- Activity reports
- Mobile phone protection
- Other devices
What parental controls I need?
Depending on the type of computer you have and the software and services you use, you may already have some parental control tools at your disposal.
Parental controls in Windows XP
Unfortunately, Windows XP has very few parental control features built into it. It is, however, possible to set up a ‘Limited’ user account, which will allow you to restrict some activities for anyone using this account.
This will restrict the standard user from changing most computer settings and deleting important files.
To create a user account you have to go to:
Start> Control Panel > User Accounts > Create Account
If you use Windows XP, then it is best if you install a parental control software such as K9, Windows Live Family Safety, etc.
Parental controls in Windows Vista
Parental controls in Windows Vista offer these options:
- set up individual user accounts for your children
- apply undesirable content blocking, access management and other safety settings to each account individually
- set specific time limits for when and how long children are allowed to have access to the PC
- block access to specific games based on their age-rating and allow or block specific programs
- use the built-in web filter to block or allow specific websites that your child can access, restrict file downloading
- set up activity reports to gather information about each user’s computer usage
Parental controls in Windows 7
Curiously, the latest version of Windows actually includes fewer parental control features than its predecessor. However, it’s possible to:
- activate parental controls on specific user accounts
- set time limits
- block access to games based on age-ratings
- block specific programs
You can download a separate pack called Windows Live Essentials, which also includes many components that are missing from Windows 7, such as Movie Maker and Windows Mail. Live Essentials is free to download, and the Family Safety component reinstates content filtering and activity reports and also includes a contact management utility that lets you decide precisely who your children can chat to in Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail.
Decide about the parental control software
If you use Windows XP, Vista or 7 and you require more advanced parental control features, then you will find presented below a list of suchsoftware:
- Net Nanny
- Sentry Parental Controls
- K9 Web Protection (free)
- Family safety (free)
Similarly, if you’re looking for a complete security package for your home computer that includes anti-virus protection, spam filtering, firewall, anti-spyware and backup facilities in one package, you will find that many security suites also contain a set of useful parental control features.
For example, Kaspersky, McAfee Total Protectionand Norton 360 PremierEdition, all include a parental control component as part of their overall approach to computer safety.
Some parental controls, including Net Nanny, offer extended monitoring tools that allow you to check on your child’s social networking activity, providing reports on friend lists, pictures posted and personal information used. They can even check on their instant messaging conversations (chat messages).
In addition to the features mentioned, dedicated parental control software often includes a selection of advanced options such as remote management, which allows parental control of one PC from another over the internet, and email reports, both of which can help you to keep an eye on your kids even when you’re at work or away from home.