One of the most useful feature an operating system should have if I was a parent looking for ways to help limit my child’s computer usage is simply setting a daily quota limit. If I wanted my kid to only be able to use the family computer for a maximum of three hours each day, I should be able to do just that! However, prior to Windows 8, this was not possible. While Windows 7 had parental controls, it only allowed parents to specifically set at which times their child had access to the computer. For example, they may want to allow them to use the computer between 3pm-5pm for homework purposes and between maybe 9pm-10pm before they go to sleep. Once the weekend arrives, they may set another schedule. Technically, this might work for many families but something more was needed. In my opinion, a quota can be much more flexible. Of course this depends on your views. Some parents actually want to be able to just configure it so that their child is not allowed to use the computer for more than 5 hours a day and that they don’t care exactly when they use it. With the release of Windows 8, this simple yet much requested feature will finally be baked in to the operating system.Although I mentioned that Windows 7 didn’t allow for usage quota, I found a brilliant utility that actually provided this function. It is actually the only one I have come across so far that allowed such a feature. This utility is called Romaco Timeout and I have written a detailed article about it here. Although Windows 8 will provide this feature natively, please keep it in mind if you will be sticking around with Windows 7 for awhile. Additionally, Romaco Timeout includes other pretty cool parental features you might be interested in besides just being able to configure usage quotas. Windows 8 will no doubt come out with more advance features for parental controls but for the sake of simplicity in this article, I will only be focusing on the quota feature. This article was written with the Windows 8 RC build.
Creating Standard User Accounts
You should already know by now that in order to take advantage of parental controls as a parent, you need to create a standard user account for your child. If you give them administrator rights, they will just undo the changes you make! Creating a standard user account is a breeze in Windows 8.
- Press the keyboard combination of the Windows key+w. Once you are in the search screen, type in the word Users and click on Users setting. Scroll to the bottom and click the “Add a user” option.
- You can either add a Microsoft account or a local account. Here, I will choose the latter. Simply fill in the information for your child’s account such as username and password.
- Once you have entered in the information, the next screen will actually ask if this is a child account and if you wish to turn on parental features (Family Safety). If you enable this, Windows 8 will monitor your child’s account and give you a report on how your child is using that computer. Either way, we can configure all the parental features in the next couple of steps so it doesn’t matter if you enable this checkbox here or not.
Configuring a Time Limit Quota
Once you have the standard user account created for your kid, its time to put the clamps on!
- Press the keyboard combination of the Windows Key+W and type in the word Family. The result screen should show two results for Family Safety. Either one will do. Once you are presented with all the user accounts on your system, simply select the user account that you have just created for your child.
- In the User Settings area, you’ll be presented with the parental controls of Windows 8. In order to use any of these controls, Family Safety must be turned on. If you wish to turn off Activity Reporting, simply turn off the option as seen here. The main gem is the Time Settings link. Click on it.
- In the next window, you’ll be able to select how you’ll want to configure the time limit for your child. You can either select a curfew (original method) or time allowance (quota). In our case, we select the time allowance option.
- In the next window, to control the limit quota, we obviously have to select the second radio button. You are allowed to manually configure how many hours each day of the week your child can spend on the computer. This allows you to become a little more lenient when it comes to the weekends. Either way the smallest quota you can set per day is 0 minutes which effectively blocks the child access to the computer for that day. The next increment is 15 minutes. You can go up to 24 hours, in which case your child has full access to the computer for the whole day. Once you are done with the configuration, simply close the window and the settings will take effect immediately.
Once the child logs in with their user account, they will be notified that their account is monitored via Family Safety. For demonstration purposes, I’ve set the account with a 15 minute quota limit. Immediately upon log on, I’m presented with a big warning that I only have 15 minutes left of my time limit before I will be denied access.
If your child needs more time, you as the administrator can grant that. You can grant him/her an additional 15 minute, 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, 4 hour or 8 hour time quota.
Once the final two minute mark rolls around, your child will be presented with their last warning message.
Once the time quota has expired, your child be be then logged off from the computer with a simple message stating that they have used up all the time they are allowed for the day to use the computer. Again, they can ask for permission but you have to supply your administrator credentials. This is why it is so important that your kids cannot easily guess your password!
In the End…
While it’s not Microsoft’s job to help raise your kids, obviously, they are giving you some pretty awesome features to help at least limit how your child can use the PC. Family Safety contains other features such as blacklisting websites and even configuring which applications they can use. If you are really concerned, then you can take advantage of the reporting feature to get some additional insight into how your child is using the PC. For example, you can easily see which websites and applications they are spending the most time on.
Basically speaking, you just have to find a solution that works for you and your child.