We demonstrate parental controls with Windows Live Family Safety, free software that helps keep your children safe from the dangers of the web.

The web has transformed the way we communicate and find information. It’s an ideal resource whether you’re looking for reviews of an item or service you’ve got your eye on or for schoolchildren to research a homework topic. It’s also great for keeping in touch. Teens can chat to their friends on Facebook without tying up the landline or running up hefty mobile phone bills.

However, the web also presents a wealth of dangers – ones that kids aren’t necessarily clued-up to handle. The prospect of your children being bullied in chat rooms and on social networks or stumbling across inappropriate images are the headline-grabbing threats, but there are other dangers to look out for too. Malware can accidentally be downloaded, and it’s all too easy for them to hand over more personal details than they should.

The tricky thing is to keep your kids safe without preventing them from using the web altogether.

Parental-control software lets you filter and block specific sites and web pages that contain inappropriate material. It also lets you monitor what your kids have been up to on a PC, and restrict which programs they use and how long they spend on the PC. Microsoft offers free parental-control software in the form of Windows Live Family Safety.

We can’t stress enough the importance of discussing with children how they can stay safe on the web. Not only will the communication help them understand why certain sites are blocked, it’ll help them think twice before taking unnecessary risks online.

Windows Live Family Safety: getting started

Step 1. Download Windows Live Family Safety. It’s part of the Windows Live Essentials package that includes MSN Messenger and Microsoft’s webmail client. You’ll be given the option to select which programs you want to install. Once you’ve selected the software you want, press Install.

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Step 2. Open the Start menu and select Windows Live Family Safety from the list of programs. To use the service, you’ll need a Windows Live login. If you don’t have one already, you’ll be able to register for one for free from the login screen. Log into your Windows Live account to get started.

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Also see: How to set up parental controls in Windows Media Center

Security Advisor

We demonstrate parental controls with Windows Live Family Safety, free software that helps keep your children safe from the dangers of the web.

Step 3. Set up a ‘standard’ rather than ‘administrator’ account for each child, preventing clever kids from uninstalling or making changes to Family Safety. Click ‘Create a new standard Windows account’, give it a name and press ‘Create account’. Ensure the ‘Monitor account’ option is selected and hit Save.

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Step 4. To make changes to the default web-filtering and activity-monitoring settings now active on each account, visit familysafety.live.com. This is also where you need to head to monitor your child’s activity. You’ll be presented with a list of user accounts; simply click ‘Edit settings’ next to the account you want to change.

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Step 5. Click ‘Web filtering’ to specify which types of site should be blocked. The strictest setting, ‘Allow list only’, permits the child to visit only the sites you stipulate; the most lenient option is ‘Warn on adult’, which won’t restrict access to any site but warns you when they view suspected adult content.

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Step 6. To add websites to the ‘Allow list’, select ‘Web filtering lists’ and enter the site’s URL into the ‘http://’ field at the top of the window. Choose Allow or Block. Sites can be allowed or blocked across all user accounts or for an individual user. When you’ve finished, click Save.

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Also see: How to set up parental controls in Windows Media Center

Security Advisor

We demonstrate parental controls with Windows Live Family Safety, free software that helps keep your children safe from the dangers of the web.

Step 7. Adding your child’s Windows Live email address enables you to manage their contacts in Windows Live Hotmail, Messenger and Spaces. The ‘Time Limits’ option lets you specify which times of the day the PC can or cannot be used. Program and game restrictions let you block access to specific applications.

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Step 8. To monitor activity, sign into familysafety.live.com. Click ‘View activity report’ next to the desired account. You’ll be able to see which sites your child has attempted to access, and where Family Safety has curtailed their efforts. It displays dates, times and the number of times a child has visited each site.

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Step 9. Click the ‘Computer activity’ tab to monitor offline PC usage. Click the arrow below ‘Sessions’ to see which machine they used, how long they used it for and the date they logged on. Click the arrow below ‘Programs’ to display a list of the software they used; also see ‘File downloads’ and ‘Games’ for activity logs.

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Step 10. If your child visits a blocked site, Family Safety lets them request your permission for access via email or using Messenger. Email requests are sent to the Request section in Family Safety, where you can use a drop-down menu to either permit access or reaffirm your decision to block the site.

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Also see: How to set up parental controls in Windows Media Center

Security Advisor