Parental Controls is a feature which was first introduced by Windows Vista. The aim of this tool is to give parents a way to manage the computing activity of their children. With Parental Controls, parents can easily define when children are allowed to use the PC, which games they play, which applications they can use and also block sites with adult content. This tool has been kept in Windows 7 and it was also changed by Microsoft in a couple of ways. In this article I will show how to enable Parental Controls and how to set access rules for your children.
Where to Find Parental Controls Panel
There are different ways of getting to the Parental Controls panel. The first one is to open Control Panel from the Start Menu.
In the Control Panel window, choose 'User Accounts and Family Safety'.
In the 'User Accounts and Family Safety' panel, choose Parental Controls.
The other option is to type Parental Controls in the search bar from Start Menu and click on its shortcut.
How to Enable Parental Controls
NOTE: To set up parental controls you have to log in as administrator. You can set up parental controls only to standard and guest accounts. You cannot set up parental controls for another administrator account. For more information about creating an account and account types, I recommend one of our previous articles on How to Create or Delete User Accounts.
From the Parental Controls Explorer, select the standard account for which you want to set them up.
In the User Controls window, under Parental Controls, select: 'On, enforce current settings'.
How to Set Time Limits in Parental Controls
If you want to restrict the amount of time your computer is used, you can set time limits. More precisely, you can set the hours for each day of the week when your child is allowed to log in.
Go to the Parental Controls window and select your child's user. Go to the Windows Settings section and click on Time limits.
In the table with hours for each day of the week, click or drag the squares corresponding to the hours that you want to block. You can set different hours for each day.
If your child tries to log on in one of the blocked hours, he will be denied access and receive the following message: 'Your account has time restrictions that prevent you from logging on at this time. Please try again later'.
If the standard user is logged on when the allocated time comes to an end, notifications will be shown when 15 minutes & 1 minute are remaining. When the time is up, Windows 7 will log the user out.
How to Define Gaming Restrictions
Before setting up the type of games that you allow your children to play, you have to choose what game rating system you use. From the Parental Controls window, select Game Rating Systems.
The game rating system is used to classify games into suitability-related groups. From the offered list, choose the one that you think it's best. You can find details about different game rating system on the Evolved Gaming Network. If you still are unsure, then use ESRB. It seems to be the most used games rating system.
From the Parental Controls window, select the user for which you want to set up gaming restrictions. In the Windows Settings section, choose Games.
From the Game controls windows, you have to first settle upon whether you want your children to play or not games. Click on Yes or No, depending on your decision.
If your children are allowed to play games, you have to set also the game ratings which are suitable for them. Click on 'Set game ratings'.
First, you will be asked if you allow your children to play games which have no rating. Click on Allow or Block, depending on your decision.
Second, you will be asked to select the games rating which applies best to your children. Select the most suitable from the list.
Scrolling down in the same window, you can mark which types of content should be blocked. Even if a game has an allowed rating, you can block it for the type of content it includes. For example, you can block games which contain references to alcohol or drugs. Mark all the things which you want to filter out in the games they play.
When done, click on OK.
Apart from blocking games based on their ratings or content you can also select to either allow or block specific games. For this, go back to the Games Controls window as shown at the beginning of this chapter. Then, click on Block or 'Allow specific games'.
In the Game Overrides window, you will see a list of all installed games on your computer that you can choose to block or not.
Select the games which you want to block and, when done, click on OK.
How to Allow and Block Specific Programs
If, for example, you don't want to let your children use instant messaging programs or internet browsers, Windows 7 allows you to block them, as well as any other applications installed on your computer.
In the Parental Controls window, select the user for which you want to set these restrictions and, under Windows Settings select 'Allow or block specific programs'.
First, you have to select whether you allow your children to use all the programs or only specific ones.
If you choose to allow them to use only the programs you want, a list of all the applications from your computer will be loaded, allowing you to select the ones which will be restricted.
Select the ones you want to block. You can also add other programs to the list, by pressing the Browse button and selecting the one you want to block.
When your child tries to access a program that you have blocked, he/she can click a link in the notification to request permission for accessing that game or program. You can allow access by entering your account information.
NOTE: Apart from blocking games and applications, Parental Controls in Windows Media Center allows blocking objectionable TV shows and movies. We will post a future article on this subject, to give you more info.
Parental Controls offers a large variety of options and settings to help you manage the computing activities of your children. I will continue this series and, in future articles, I will share how to access activity reports and see what your children do on their computers. Also, I will share how to filter TV shows and movies in Windows Media Center. If you have any questions about this tool or some issues you need help with, don't hesitate to leave a comment. We promise to do our best to help.