Why do we feel invincible while online? Is it because we have a sense of anonymity or we feel safe because we are online in the comfort of our homes? Whatever the reasons may be, we cannot be lulled into a feeling of security. Kids, especially teenagers, think that whatever they do online will never come back to bite them. From giving out too much information to strangers to posting pictures of themselves that they think nobody else will see, they are increasingly putting themselves in danger. So how do we prevent this from happening?

First off, I would like to state that there is no 100% sure way to keep kids safe online. They are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and it is that knowledge that gets them into trouble.

The most effective way to control what your kids do on the computer on and offline, is to create separate user accounts for everyone that uses it. Have each family member come up with their own password that only they know. In Windows XP, make sure to set them up as a Limited Account. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, set them up as a Standard user.

This will help with two things: You will know who did what because they had to be logged in to their own account and you will be able to customize restrictions based on how mature you feel your kids are.

Now as the administrator of the computer, you can go in and setup rules and parental controls for anyone with an account.

In Vista and Windows 7, you have the option to set up time limits so the user can only use the computer during approved times. You can allow or block specific programs from being run on those accounts.

One of the most important features is the web filter. You can go in and setup white lists (approved sites) and black lists (blocked sites) for any account. You can also block the download of files which is where a lot of viruses and spyware come from.

As an added bonus, the parental controls on vista and 7 allow you to have reports put together that show you what people are doing on your computer. From your account (the administrator) you can view the activity reports from each of the accounts on the computer that has parental controls set up.

Windows XP is not as user friendly as the newer operating systems, but can still be very effective. The biggest issue in XP is that when you enable the parental controls (Content Advisor), it enables it for the whole computer, not one specific account. There is an option however, that allows a password to be typed in if an adult wants to view sites that are blocked. This can be very tedious and tiresome.

The options for the web filter are very customizable as to what you want your family to be able to see and not see. The categories range from fear and intimidation sites to drug, violence, and sex sites and everything in between.

By setting up web filters and restrictions on the computer, you are not only protecting your family, you are protecting your investment in the computer. Visiting the wrong websites and downloading the wrong programs are sure fire ways to infect your computer with malware capable of stealing your personal information and crashing your operating system.

To setup Content Advisor in Windows XP:

  • Open up Internet Explorer.
  • Click on Tools in the menu bar.
  • Choose Internet Options from the list.
  • In the new window, click on the Content tab.
  • Under Content Advisor, click on Enable…
  • Explore this area and find out what you want to restrict, block or allow.

  • To setup Parental Controls in Vista and Windows 7

  • Open the Control Panel
  • If in the Control Panel Home view, just click on Set up parental controls for any user under the User Accounts and Family Safety section.
  • In the Classic View, open User Accounts.
  • Choose Manage another account.
  • Under Additional things you can do, click on Set up Parental Controls.
  • Click on the User account you want to set the controls on.
  • From here you can see everything that is available to do in a user friendly layout.
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