Allowing your kids on the home PC is a crucial part of their education these days, but give any inexperienced user unfettered access and you’re asking for trouble. Windows XP started the ball rolling by allowing multiple restricted accounts, and Vista introduced the concept of parental controls for individual users, building in features such as internet security and web filtering.
This is where you set when and for how long a child (that is, a specified Standard user account that a child will be logging in as) can use a PC. The blue squares represent the hours during which this user account will be inaccessible. You can choose specific times for each day of the week, so you could allow an hour every school-day evening and then a few hours more during the weekend, blocking off the PC after bedtime and in the morning. To change a schedule, once you’ve dragged the mouse over a block of hours, simply repeat the process to revert them to free hours. By default, a new user account is free all the time.
Click on Games in the main Parental Controls panel and you can choose which games each user will be allowed to load, based on their content ratings. The first question is whether a user is allowed to play any games at all; if they are, your next task is to set which age ratings they can access. Remember, an age certificate is just the beginning – different games have different reasons for being awarded certain certificates. Windows 7 acknowledges this, and you can block games that have certain attributes, such as violence, bad language or sexual content. Keep track of the option at the top, which allows you to block games that don’t come with a rating.
You can override the settings you made in step 2 by clicking Allow or Block certain application. Regardless of content or age restrictions you may have previously set up: if you click Always Allow, this user will be able to load the specified game. The games that come supplied with Windows 7 are a tame bunch, and none is rated unsuitable for anyone over the age of three, but this is a good place to experiment with your settings.
It’s unlikely that you many applications (as opposed to games or documents) on your PC that you wouldn’t want a child to access, but by clicking Block and Allow specific programs, and then choosing the second option, you can see a list of those available and choose which to prohibit. You might want to block high-end apps such as Microsoft Excel as part of protecting your work content, or restrict programs that access the internet, such as web browsers, while allowing common applications such as Microsoft Word and essentials such as virus scanners. In the unlikely event that an application you want to block isn’t in the list, click Browse at the foot of the screen and navigate to the program’s application file (the file that its shortcut in the Start menu points to) to block it.