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Windows 7 - How to Configure Parental Controls

Any responsible parent should closely monitor and restrict their children's access to the computer and the Internet. The virtual world is often every bit as dangerous as the real world but, fortunately, Windows 7 provides some family-friendly features that were long lacking in previous versions of the operating system. Follow this guide to learn how to activate and configure the parental controls in Windows. This feature is available in all editions of Windows 7.

1 – Activating Parental Controls
You'll find the parental controls section by opening your start menu, clicking on "Control Panel" and clicking "Set up parental controls for any user" in the "User Accounts and Family Safety" section. You will not be able to set parental controls for the administrator account, so you'll need to create a standard user account for your children to access the computer with. Click the "Create a new user account" link and enter a new name for the account. Ensure that you create a standard user account rather than one with administrator rights. Click on the new account icon to change the parental control settings for that account.

By default, parental control settings are turned off. Before you can configure this feature, you'll need to turn it on by clicking the radio box, "On, enforce current settings." All of the controls should now be enabled and ready to customize as you require. You will now be able to configure time limits for that user account as well as which programs and games are accessible.

2 – Setting Time Limits
To set login time limits for the user account, click on the "Time limits" icon. By default, there are no restrictions. To specify the hours when you want the user account to be locked, simply click once in the box for that time and day. You can select multiple boxes by holding down the left mouse button and dragging it out over an area of the timetable. With these settings activated, the user account will be completely inaccessible during those hours.

3 – Controlling Access to Games
Back in the main parental controls window, click the "Games" icon. If you want to prevent the user account from having any access to games, ensure that the "No" radio box is selected. Alternatively, you can select "Yes" and customize the settings to allow your children to play suitable games. You can use these settings to block or allow specific games or set ratings for each game.

Many games which integrate with the Windows Games Explorer provide a rating, although there are many which do not. If you want to allow your child to play games which are suitable for their age group, you will probably want to select "Block games with no rating" unless you want to block or allow specific games. Below this option, you'll see a list of available content rating schemes which are explained in further detail. Select the one which is most appropriate for your children.

You can also block games by the type of content that they contain, although many games do not actually support these features. Using this feature, you can, for example, block a game which contains cartoon violence, even if the game's rating is otherwise within the range that you previously selected.

3 – Blocking Programs
Back in the main parental control screen, click "Allow and block specific programs." This feature is useful for preventing your children from accessing unsuitable content including unrated and unsuitable games. It's also a good way of preventing access to programs which can be used to change important system settings.

To block specific programs, simply select the second radio box option to allow access only to the programs that you allow. Check the boxes beside the programs below which you want to allow access to. For some programs, you can even block access to specific components rather than the whole program.


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