Having broadband at home is great for children; they can use it to do homework, play games and chat online with friends. But it’s natural for parents to want to monitor their children’s online activities, which is where Windows Vista’s parental controls features come in handy. Built into the User Account aspect of Microsoft’s new operating system, the parental controls allow you to tailor and track each user’s computer and internet usage. You will need to create a user account for each person who accesses the PC, and they will need to use their personal login details whenever they use it.With this system set up, it’s possible to set Vista’s controls to specify what each user can and can’t do. Just follow the steps below to create user accounts and set up parental controls.
The default account that comes with your Vista PC is an administrator account. The first step is to change the name of this account and the picture to personalise it. Left-click on the Start button (the Windows logo icon on the bottom-left of the desktop) and select Control Panel from the Start menu (third up on the right column). Under ‘User Accounts and Family Safety’, click on the Add or Remove User Accounts option at the top-right of the window. The User Account Control warning will appear, so click Continue. Click on ‘Change the account name’ and enter a new name in the window that appears. You can include a space in the name if you wish. This does not change the name of the folder in which the files are kept.
Once you are finished, click on ‘Manage Accounts’ in the Address bar to return to the Accounts Window. Click on the ‘Create a new account’ link underneath the list of accounts. Give the account a name (usually the name of the person for whom the account is intended) and select the kind of account you want them to have. In our example, the new account is for a child, so it should be left as a Standard User. Click on the Create Account button to finish the wizard and return to the Manage Accounts window. Now you can create a password for this account.
Creating a password is important for protecting your data. To make it difficult for unauthorised users to guess your passwords, you should use non-alphabetical characters, as well as regular letters and numbers. You can use spaces as well as upper and lower case, and should avoid using a single word as a password. If you want to use words, it is good practice to run several together. For example, ‘safepassword’ is safer than just ‘password’ and ‘S@fepassw0rd’ is even better. It is also a good idea to create a hint to help jog the memory. Be careful that the hint is not too obvious, as anyone using the computer will be able to read it.
Now you can apply parental controls to the accounts that need them. Click on Start and select Control Panel. Make sure you are logged in under your Administrator account. Click on ‘Set up parental controls’ in the User Accounts and Family Safety section. Click Continue when Windows asks for your permission. A list of users will be displayed. Click on a user and put a check next to ‘On, enforce current settings’ to turn on parental controls. It is also a good idea to turn on Activity Reporting so you know what that user is doing with the computer. Click next to the ‘On, collect information about computer usage’ option.
The options below the Parental Controls and Activity Reporting section allow you to apply more specific controls. Click on the Windows Vista Web Filter to control what the user is allowed to do on the internet. Set the first option to Block some websites or content. If you want to choose which websites to block, check the option labelled ‘Only allow websites that are on the allow list’. In this case, you will have to click on the option labelled ‘Edit the Allow and block list’. On this page, add websites you want blocked or allowed. Click OK when finished. Next choose a restriction level, select the option ‘Block file downloads’ and click OK to save the options.
To set when the user can log onto the PC, click the Time limits option. A window will appear with a grid showing times during a week-long period. White squares show the time when the user is allowed to log on and blue squares show when they are not. Click on a square to change its colour, or drag the mouse over several to change many at once. If users try to log on during prohibited times, the PC will ask for an administrator to enter their password. If they use the PC up to the deadline, they’ll receive a warning prompting them to save their work; an administrator option allows them to use the PC for longer.