Chances are high that if you have kids and computers at home, there will be times where you wished you had control over when they could actually log on and use the computer. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, you can now easily do just that with the Parental Controls feature. The Internet can be very addicting, especially with so much things a kid would want to do like updating their Facebook account, chatting over MSN Messenger, playing video games, watching videos and who knows what else. While there is perfectly nothing wrong with doing what I’ve listed for a kid (given that your kids themselves aren’t doing anything they’re not suppose to on them), there is however a time for it. For example, do you really want your son playing World of Warcraft until 1AM in the morning every night? Or how about your daughter staying up late every night clicking away in a chat room?Yes, this will be another long quote but please bear with me. What parents have to understand is that there is no piece of technology out there that can replace good ol’ fashion parenting. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about actually spending time and talking with your kids! I know that no matter how you put it, setting up a computer *curfew* and restricting what time period your kids are allowed on it will be viewed as a roadblock. That is why it is your job as parents to explain to them why it is you are doing it. I’m not a parent myself but if I did have kids, I would likely restrict computer usage the first chance I get after they learn how to use the Internet. While growing up in a Asian family gave me the luxury of going to bed whenever I wanted to, it didn’t also help that my parents were computer illiterate. As you can see, I pretty much could do whatever I wanted to at home. Thinking back on it, I certainly could have used a little discipline. I’m not blaming my parents but if I had kids, there is no way in hell that I would let my kids roam on the computer till 3-4AM in the morning. Just because you limit at what hours of the day your kids get to use the computer, that doesn’t automatically mean that they aren’t doing anything malicious once they are. Kids are often a lot smarter than what parents give them credit for, especially when it comes to computers. At the least, I’m sure they know about Firefox’s Private Browsing Mode or to clean up their tracks after each use. You could use a web site reporting mechanism like the Windows Family Safety add-on to filter out what websites your kids can go to, who they can chat with on MSN Messenger and even generate a report on the websites they visited. OpenDNS is another way to prohibit what types of websites are allowed or disallowed in your home computer network. However, just because your 13 year old son isn’t viewing explicit websites on your home computer doesn’t mean that he isn’t doing it elsewhere. This brings us back to where I made my point earlier in that technology isn’t the answer to all of our parenting problems. I ain’t a doctor so I’ll let you parents decide how to handle the situation! If you want to limit the actual amount of hours your child can use the computer per day, please take a look at Romaco Timeout instead!
There are only two things that is required in your computer before you are allowed to set log on time restrictions. In many cases, you should be already good to go but it doesn’t hurt to double check.
An account with administrator privileges with a secure and hard to guess password. This will be the “parent’s” account. If the computer is being shared in the family, this should be the account that you, the parent, is currently using. Putting in a secure password (or basically one that your kids will never be able to easily guess) is essential because if not, then your kids will be able to easily defeat the log on time restrictions you have put in place. Remember, this is a crucial step! BE SURE THAT YOUR KIDS CANNOT EASILY GUESS YOUR PASSWORD! So don’t even think about using your wife’s or husband’s name while appending their birthday date to it or using your family’s pet name because not only are these bad passwords in general, your children will also be smart enough to try them!
An account with Standard User privileges. This will be the user account to which log on time restrictions will be applied to. In our scenario, this will be your son’s or daughter’s user account. It is not necessary to equip this account with a totally secure password so it’s up to the actual user.
Applying the Restrictions
By default, Parental Controls are turned off and must be applied to each individual account. Therefore, there is no batch processing to automate the task should you have more than one account to which you want to apply the same settings to. You must configure them individually. To begin configuring time limits on the account, simply enough, click on the On radial button and then select the Time Limits link.
Now you’ll be presented with a time and date grid. Since there are no time restrictions by default, the entire grid will be blank. To begin setting time restriction, simply click on the box that corresponds to the day of the week and time. As seen in the picture below, the user account is allowed to log on from 7AM-11PM Monday-Thursday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday, the restriction is relaxed a bit and the user is allowed to log on from 7AM-1AM since it isn’t a school night. Obviously you’ll want to restrict the time based on your personal preferences. When you are finish, hit the OK button and the changes will be saved. To make changes in the future, you would perform the same procedure.
Time restrictions work exactly as how you would imagine it would work.
Trying to log on while you’re not supposed to? Then you’ll be greeted at the log on screen with a friendly (or not, if you’re the one being denied) and simple message stating that time restrictions has been applied to the account and that you’ll need to try again later.
A user logged on with time restrictions applied can easily check how much longer they have until the computer will force a log off. In the Notification Area, they can simply hover their mouse over the Parental Control icon and see how much longer they have. It will notify the user when the countdown goes to the 15 minute and 1 minute mark. Once time is up, the computer will immediately log off. However, open applications will still be left open and the user can pick up right where he/she left off the next time they are permitted to log on again (assuming the computer hasn’t been restarted or turned off).
In the End…
Using the Parental Control feature in Windows 7 and Windows Vista is a extremely easy method to customize a computer schedule for a young one in the family. Spending so much time in front of a computer can be hazardous to one’s health no matter the age. Hell, if one is purely dedicated on spending less time in front of the computer, they should put time restrictions on their own account (must be a standard user account though) and *force* themselves to take a one hour break every now and then or to force themselves to make it a habit of shutting down the computer every night at 11PM. The time restriction feature doesn’t have to be used only on kids. If you do though, just don’t rely solely on it (or any other technology for that matter) to discipline your kids!