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March 29, 2011

Protection from the Internet, Part 3

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:34 am

For the past two weeks we have looked at ways to protect your kids on the internet. Last week I said that today we would look at “Family Safety” which is a part of Windows Live Essentials. So buckle up and hold on.

To install and set up an account for Family Safety on your computer, surf to “explore.live.com.” Next, scroll down to Windows Live Essentials, click the link and follow the instructions shown. Be aware that there are about 11 total programs you can install with Live Essentials. Family Safety is just one. So when you install Windows Live Essentials click the link that says, “Choose the programs you want to install.” If not you will get all of the programs. That is not a bad thing since most of the applications in Live Essentials are very good. This is just a reminder to get what you want.

Family SafetyFamily Safety augments the features provided with the standard Parental Controls in Windows, which we talked about previously. Family Safety adds remote management which lets you change your children’s rights online. If you are interested in web activity monitoring reports you can access information on programs your kids have used and websites they have visited. This is all viewed on the Family Safety website from any computer; all access is on the web.

In addition, Family Safety also provides guidance from child organizations (for example, American Academy of Pediatrics) with their suggestions for age appropriate settings and online activities. Keep in mind that they are your kids and you need to make the decisions.

Along with the features mentioned above you can also use, “Contact management,” so you know who your child has been contacting. As the parent you will also have the ability to allow a list of approved contacts for your children. The contact management feature only works with Microsoft services – mainly Hotmail and Messenger. That means that if they are using Google, AOL, Yahoo or any of the other common chat applications, you cannot see with whom they have been communicating.

When you have Family Safety installed on your computer, go to the controls by clicking Start / Control Panel and finally click Parental Controls. Once you are in the Parental Controls section you will see a link for Family Safety options. Check it out and let me know what you think.

I believe that this column will lead us into other Live Essential applications over the coming weeks.

March 22, 2011

Protection from the Internet, Part 2

Last time I told you about OpenDNS.com where you can set up ways to restrict website access from your home computers.  Microsoft also adds a similar feature in Windows Vista and 7, titled, "Parental Controls."

"Parental Controls" are useful to help manage how and when your children use a computer.  You can set up games they can play, programs they are allowed to run and time limits on computer use.

You need to be an Administrator on the computer in order to perform the following actions.  To access "Parental Controls" in Windows 7 go to the Start button / Control Panel.  Next, select User Accounts.  You will need to set up an account for each child you wish to restrict if one does not already exist.  If your children are equal in age, ability, trustworthiness, etc. you may only need one account with a password.  You will see the settings for the account you are currently using. Make sure it says the account is password protected. You may not want your children accessing your account.

Make sure when you set up the account for your kids, or before setting up Parental Controls on an existing account, you set the account to a Standard user account.  If your child is an Admin on the computer they will have all rights.

Next, click the Set up Parental Controls link at the bottom of the screen.  From the Parental Control screen, select the child’s account you wish to restrict.   Change "Parental Controls" to "On, enforce current settings." You will see links for Time Limits and Games and Program controls.

Using the "Time Limits" link, you can set limits on when the computer can be used. For example, you can have the computer log on from 7 PM to 9 PM every day and then block all access to the user account.

Click the Games link to control what games can be run. You can filter by rating, content or title. This setting only applies to games in Windows 7’s Game Explorer area. If they aren’t there they cannot be affected.

The last link is, "Allow or block specific programs".  Here you can stop access to any programs installed on the computer.  This will take a couple of minutes to set up since it will search your system for all programs which can be affected.  Once the list loads you can check the applications you want to enable that user to run.  Be cautious since some of them are not labeled well and you may allow access to the wrong application.

Windows Live EssentialsNext week we will look at a few more things you can control on your computer using Windows Live Essentials.

March 15, 2011

Protection from the Internet, Part 1

I get emails from people quite often wondering how they can go about protecting people (especially kids & teens) from the darker side of the internet.  I did write about this several years ago but from the number of changes in the e-world, software and number of emails I get; I feel it is time for an update.

I have a very good and free recommendation called OpenDNS.  At the bottom of the main page choose, "For Households" to get directions.  OpenDNS does many things but basically provides a fairly simple method for home users to block objectionable content from their computers.  This works whether it is pornography, alcohol, file sharing networks, video sites, podcasts, or chat rooms, etc.

Filtering LevelYou can choose "High," "Moderate," "Low," "None," or "Custom" as your default setting. These have been created by OpenDNS for you.  My favorite option is, "Custom." Using the custom setting you may choose from over 50 categories to block from your computer.  These include, "Academic Fraud," "Adult Themes," "Photo Sharing," "Games," and "Instant Messaging" just to name just a few.

Custom Filter ChoicesYou also have the option of blocking individual sites.  So if you didn’t want your spouse spending all day long reading the great articles at DoubleClicks.info you could block that site alone…but I know you would not do so…please?!.

OpenDNS is controlled by one password and account. You cannot control it by creating separate accounts for individual users.  This means if you block "weapons" from your computer because you don’t want your kids buying grenade launchers, it will also block you from browsing for a new pocket knife.

They threw in another neat feature.  It is cosmetic but still worth mentioning.  If you try to log into a blocked site you will get a reference page telling you which category blocked it, i.e. "weapons".  The page can be customized by you, the administrator of your network.  Mine has a picture of me glaring at the user and a sentence telling them that they shouldn’t try this site again or I will come after them.  Of course, my wife has a better glare than me (the mom look) and this probably won’t have much effect since the kids are grown and gone.

Also, if you get blocked the reference page has an email form which allows the user to notify the administrator.  They can say that they don’t believe that particular site should be blocked.  Then you may allow its use if you agree.  There are other features you can discover on your own.

I think this is a very useful tool for keeping your kids safe online.  I forgot to mention the price…free!  Next week we will take a look at how Microsoft provides this type of help too.

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