Making your computer safe for your kids

In This Chapter

Configuring your kid’s computer account Limiting Junior’s PC access Restricting games Preventing programs from running Seeing what your kids are up to Preventing online bullying despite its attraction to kids, a computer can be a decidedly non-kid-friendly thing. Beyond the scourge of malicious software, there are places on the Internet you definitely don’t want your precious snowflake to discover. There are games that you may enjoy playing but could give a child nightmares. And, there’s the issue of Too Much Computer Time. All those topics can be dealt with, first by being a responsible parent, and second by using the various kid-safe computing tools discussed in this chapter.
The information in this chapter is specific to Windows 7, though some of it also applies to Windows Vista. The main difference comes from the innumerable User Account Control (UAC) warnings that pop up during the process in Windows Vista.
Windows XP lacks parental controls as a feature.

An Account for Junior

To use the parental controls in Windows, and to ensure your PC’s security when Junior is online, set up two accounts on the computer. You set up your own account as an administrator, and then you give the kid a Standard User account. This section explains how to do that.
The Administrator account has full control over the computer. An administrator can change computer settings, install new software, and control other accounts on the computer.
The Standard User account can use the computer but cannot change computer settings, install new software, or access other accounts without an Administrator account’s password.
‘ The Standard User account is also known as a Limited account.
It’s those User Account Control (UAC) warnings that exercise the administrator’s privileges in Windows. See Chapter 19.
It doesn’t matter whether the Standard User account has a password, but your Administrator account must have a password.
When more than one kid is using the same computer, each should have his or her own Standard User account.

Setting up your Administrator account

Start by setting up your own account. If you already have an account on the computer, skip to the next section, “Confirming your Administrator account.” Otherwise, you need to create an Administrator account on the computer. Follow these steps:
1. Log on to the computer using an existing account or the computer’s only account, if it has only one.
2. Open the Control Panel.
3. From beneath the User Accounts and Family Safety heading, choose the link Add or Remove User Accounts.
The Manage Accounts window appears.
4. Click the link Create a New Account.
5. Type a name for the account, such as Parent, or use your own name.
6. Choose Administrator.
7. Click the Create Account button.
8. Log off the current account: From the Start button menu, choose the Log Off command from the Shutdown menu.
See Figure 4-2, in Chapter 4, for information about the Shutdown menu.
9. Log in using the new account you created.
The account has no password, so you don’t need to type one when you first log in. The account does, however, need a password:
10. Pop up the Start button menu.
11. Click the mouse on your account’s picture, found at the top of the Start button’s menu.
The User Accounts window appears.
12. Choose the link Create a Password for Your Account. The Create Your Password window shows up.
13. Type the password.
14. Type the password again to confirm it.
15. Type a password hint that isn’t the same as the password.
16. Click the Create Password button.
Your Administrator account is now created, and you’re ready to manage the computer for your kid. Skip to the section “Adding an account for Junior”; or, when Junior already has an account on the computer, skip to the section “Configuring Junior’s account.”

Confirming your Administrator account

If you already have an account on the computer, ensure that it’s an Administrator account:
1. Log in to your account on your child’s computer.
2. Pop up the Start button menu.
3. Click your account picture, found in the upper right area of the Start button menu.
You’ll find yourself in the User Accounts window.
4. Ensure that your account is administrator level; check for the word Administrator below your account name, on the right side of the window.
5. If your account isn’t at administrator level, log in to the computer using the Administrator account to set up your kid’s account.
6. Ensure that your account has a password; check for the words Password Protected, found below the word Administrator on the right side of the window.
If your account doesn’t have a password, click the link Create a Password for Your Account and follow Steps 13 through 16 in the preceding section.
7. Close the window.
Now you need to add an account for your kid, covered in the next section, or confirm that the account is limited, covered in the section “Configuring Junior’s account.”

Adding an account for Junior

When your kid doesn’t yet have his or her own account on the computer, you need to add one. Follow these steps:
1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Click the heading User Accounts and Family Safety.
3. From beneath the heading User Accounts, click the link Add or Remove User Accounts.
4. Click the link Create a New Account.
5. Type the account name.
You might want to ask your kid which account name they want.
6. Choose Standard User.
7. Click the Create Account button.
You don’t need to slap on a password for the account, but the kids can add a password to protect their stuff later.
Repeat the steps in this section for each kid who uses the computer.
You’re now done setting up the accounts. The parental controls can be applied per the directions in the later section “Parental Controls.”

Configuring Junior’s account

When Snowflake or Buster already has an account on the computer, follow these steps to ensure that they also have a Standard User account:
1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Click the link Add or Remove User Accounts, found beneath the heading User Accounts and Family Safety.
3. Ensure that it says Standard User beneath Junior’s account name in the window.
If so, you’re done. If not, continue:
4. Click Junior’s account picture.
5. Click the link Change the Account Type.
6. Choose Standard User.
7. Click the Change Account Type button.
8. Close the window.
After the account is configured, you’re ready to apply the parental controls.

Parental Controls

To extend your parental fingers into the PC, and better regulate Junior’s computer use, you must activate the parental controls in Windows. Here’s how that’s done:
1. Log in to Windows using your account.
2. Open the Control Panel.
3. Choose the link Set Up Parental Controls for Any User, beneath the heading User Accounts and Family Safety.
The Parental Controls window appears, listing all accounts on the computer.
4. Choose the account to control; click its icon.
5. In the User Controls window, choose On, Enforce Current Settings.
The User Controls window is shown in Figure 29-1. It’s where you apply the various parental controls mentioned in this chapter.
Set parental controls here.
Figure 29-1:
Set parental controls here.
6. Apply the parental controls; refer to the next few sections.
7. When you’re done setting parental controls, click the OK button to close the User Controls window.
Repeat the steps in this section for each kid’s account on your PC.

Setting time limits

You can control when your kids can access the computer by placing time limits on their accounts. That way, they can log in and use the computer only during the hours you specify — and the computer logs them off when the time runs out.
To set time limits, open the User Controls window (see Figure 29-1) by following Steps 1 through 4 in the preceding section. Choose the link Time Limits to display the Time Restrictions window, shown in Figure 29-2.
Drag the mouse over the times you don’t want Junior to access the computer. Click OK.
Restricting Junior's PC time.
Figure 29-2:
Restricting Junior’s PC time.

Controlling access to games

Windows lets you combine the parental controls with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) game rating system to control which computer games your kid can play on the PC. You can restrict access to games by the game name, its rating, or the contents of the game (violence or adult themes, for example).
To restrict access to certain games, open the User Controls window (refer to Figure 29-1) by following Steps 1 through 4 in the earlier section “Parental Controls.” Click the Games link to view the Game Controls window.
In the Game Controls window, choose Yes to restrict game access. You can then choose to block the games by their ESRB ratings: Click the Set Game Ratings link. You can also choose to block specific games by clicking the Block or Allow Specific Games link.
Click OK and close the various windows when you’re done putting the clamps on junior’s gaming appetite.
The ESRB defines and sets ratings for computer games similarly to the way the MPAA rates movies.
Visit the ESRB Web site for more information on the ratings system.

Blocking programs

In addition to blocking computer games, you can restrict your kid’s access to any program that runs on your computer. For example, you can prevent them from running your computer’s home finance program or other programs you’d rather have them not playing with. Or, you might want to block them from using instant messaging tools that they might be abusing.

To activate the Applications Restrictions feature, heed these steps:

1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Choose the link Set Up Parental Controls for Any User, found beneath the heading User Accounts and Family Safety.
3. Choose the icon for account to restrict.
4. Click the link Allow and Block Specific Programs.
The Applications Restrictions window appears.
5. Choose the second (bottom) option, User Can Only Use the Programs I Allow.
Soon, a list is populated, detailing all programs found on your computer.
6. Place a check mark by the programs you want Junior to run.
Only those programs can be run by that user.
Yes, the program names are technical and mysterious! When you don’t recognize a program name, don’t put a check mark in its box.
7. Click the OK button.
Beyond restricting program access, you don’t need to worry about your sweetums getting into your account and looking at your stuff. First, your account has a password, right? Second, all accounts in Windows are separate from each other. When your child has a Standard User account, they cannot peek into your account’s folders or access your own computer data, e-mail, or other private information without knowing your account’s password.

PC Parenting

Here are my parental rules for kids who use computers:
Know your kids. Talk with them. Be their parent.
Exercise your license to drop in on them and see what they’re doing on the computer.
Use the parental controls provided in Windows, as covered in this chapter.

Spying on your kids

Before jumping into your James Bond suit and beginning the art of snooping around Junior’s PC, talk with your child. Ask what’s up or whether anything is bothering them. It may be nothing, but as a parent, you should know your own child, so use your best judgment when you suspect that something is amiss.
When mood swings and unusual behavior dictate, you can check up on your kid’s account to see what they’ve been up to. You need to log in under their account and review two things: their recent Web pages visited and their document history.
The Web history: To review the Web history, open your child’s Web browser and press Ctrl+H in Internet Explorer. Open the various dates and Web sites listed on the History tab (on the left side of the browser window). If the sites look suspicious, click their links to visit them. You’ll know in a few minutes whether you have cause for concern.
Recent documents: Examine documents your child has opened recently by visiting the Start menu and opening the Recent Documents menu next to Recently Opened Programs. (Refer to Figure 23-1, in Chapter 23, to find out where to look.) In Windows Vista, the recent documents are found on the Recent Items list on the right side of the Start button menu.
What kind of recent documents are you looking for? You won’t know until you open them yourself.
If you find anything unsavory, your next step is to discuss your discovery with your child. Remind them that their activities aren’t allowed by you as a parent. Then cite your reasons and concerns.
I don’t recommend buying PC snooping software. If the situation with your child is so great that you feel this type of software is necessary, you already have a big problem on your hands. Sit down and discuss the situation with your child immediately.
Your child can cover their tracks, especially when they’re already computer savvy. In fact, if you notice that the Web browser history seems surprisingly empty for the amount of time Buster spends on the PC, something is probably going on.
Talk with your kids, not at them.

Dealing with a cyberbully

Count among the many downsides of glorious technology the anonymous, nasty, and persistent creep commonly called a cyberbully. Like his (or her) schoolyard namesake, they can make life online a living hell for you, your child, and your entire family.
Unlike the bully you might remember from childhood, a cyberbully has the sneaky advantage of stealthy anonymity on the Internet. This person is found in chat rooms, instant messaging programs, and even cellphone text messages — places your technically adept child probably clings to for social interaction.
Beyond intimidation, the cyberbully can use personal attacks, such as making private information public, creating false images using photo-editing techniques, faking messages from other friends, and generally misrepresenting your child’s behavior. Such attacks have devastating emotional effects, especially on vulnerable children.
For good advice on cyberbullying, visit the Web site www.cyberbulling. org. You’ll find information there on how to deal with a cyberbully as well as tips on how you and your family can avoid becoming one of their victims.
The best way to avoid having personal or embarrassing information float around the Internet is not to put it on the Internet in the first place. Teaching your children about modesty and self-respect goes a long way.
Many areas have laws against cyberbullying. Check with the police if you or your children become a victim.
Cyberbullying may also violate the terms of the Internet service provider (ISP) contract. Contact your ISP if you feel victimized.
It helps to document cyberbullying episodes: Print Web pages, and note when the attacks occur.
Adults can also be victims of cyberbullying, though the terms that are used are cyberharassment and cyberstalking.

Next post:

Previous post: