Kid-proof your PC

IT literacy is a crucial skill set for children in today’s world, but you don’t want this learning process to put them at risk or to ruin your home PC. Windows has all the answers…

  • E-Mail
By  Cleona Godinho Published  July 1, 2006

|~||~||~|If you have a curious pre-schooler, it’s a good idea to physically protect your PC from your child and vice versa, to prevent harm from coming to either. Here’s how: • Place your PC on the desktop, rather than on the floor • Invest in a spill-resistant keyboard • Keep PC wires tied up using wire ties and put these out of reach • If you have a dedicated cabinet for your PC case, make sure this remains locked when not in use • Cover your PC with a plastic cover when not in use to prevent food or liquid from entering the case. Guard the gates If your child is old enough to use your PC however, it’s a different ball game altogether. This means you’ll have to limit usage of your machine to make sure your offspring don't install spyware or games that will hog up your hard disk space and slow it down. One way to stop your kids downloading programs or changing system settings is to provide them with a Windows version of an access card - a Windows Profile. To set this up in XP, navigate to Start/Settings/Control Panel and open the ‘User Accounts’ item. Create new accounts for each person that uses your computer, including you. Make sure that your account has a password, and that the account type set is to Computer Administrator. Set your kids’ account type meanwhile to Limited. (Limited users cannot, in many cases, alter system settings or install software - particularly software that tries to alter the way the computer system works.) Each user is provided with their own ‘My Documents’ folder. Moreover, Limited users can’t access your saved documents, which will come in particularly handy if you work from home or have important financial data stored on your machine. If you want to let your kids install an otherwise blocked program that you think is safe, after downloading the app’s .exe file, right-click on it and select Run As to authorise the installation of the file. (Without authorisation the file cannot run or be installed even if your child downloads the .exe file) Next, you’ll see a window, which states, ‘Which user do you want to run this program?’ Select the ‘Following user: option and enter your administrator username and password’, and click OK. The .exe file will now begin installing on your machine. Hire a web nanny If you have a home internet connection, it’s important to stop your offspring accessing inappropriate material on the web. We suggest using Kid Browser (see this month’s Windows CD). Kid Browser is, in essence, its own browser and equipped only with friendly and educational web pages. You can prevent any website from loading by defining keywords on the program’s ‘Manage Word Filter’ menu. Any attempts to access sites containing banned words results in a tiny pop-up window indicating that this site is blocked. This application’s layout is very similar to other browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox so kids will easily recognise how to surf the web using it. Kid Browser is also password-protected to prevent settings and restrictions being changed. Moreover, if you set the browser to ‘Safe mode’, the app won’t allow your child to return to the desktop, open other applications, or shut down the PC. Web watch Inappropriate sites are on danger, but they’re not the only one. To watch and restrict your child’s internet activity, including chats with other users then a web-monitoring app is what you need. Net Nanny 5 - also featured on this month's Windows CD - basically tracks your kid's cyber movements for you. Once you have installed Net Nanny, reboot your PC. Then when you fire up the app, you’ll see a configuration screen through which you can create accounts for different family members. When setting up an ‘Anybody’ account, we recommended restricting all internet access by changing the default blocking level from 1 to level 4 to prevent kids from using this account. When creating accounts for each member, you can define a different level of blocking and filtering as well as a distinct time schedule for each user. In order words, what they can surf, when, and for how long. Swap safe You can choose for instance to block any combination of file swapping, instant messenger and games applications, using the ‘Applications’ tab in each user’s profile. If you’re concerned about your children downloading or sharing copyrighted music, chatting with strangers or playing online games, this is an easy way to put your mind at ease. To block certain apps, select the User Settings button in the left pane. Next in the ‘Manage Users’ window, select one of the users account icons, followed by the Applications tab. Under ‘Internet Applications’, choose one or more types of applications to block. For instance, if you wish to stop your kids playing certain games, check ‘Block games on the Net Nanny list’. To protect your personal information from online predators and financial scams, set your personal information preferences in the Settings menu. This will allow Net Nanny to block the inadvertent transmission of your personal information using e-mail or via the web. You can also block the transmission of information such as phone numbers and addresses (which a predator could potentially use to hook up with your child), credit card numbers and bank accounts, so this information shouldn’t get into the wrong hands. Safe eyes Like Net Nanny, Safe Eyes (also available on this month’s Windows CD) is a parental control app. However there is one major difference; while Net Nanny only stores settings on your PC, Safe Eyes stores your settings on your PC and on the app’s own web server. This makes it much harder for kids to hack into the app and try to change settings or deactivate the program. Irrespective of which browser you use, the app can block access to websites in 35 different categories, including Adult and Games. Web browser page requests go through the app’s server and are allowed or blocked at that point. Moreover, there’s no local database that needs updating. Some children will spend hours on end on the net if you let them. To prevent this, Safe Eyes boasts two different time management options. The first is to map out a weekly schedule - in half-hour increments - of specific times during the day that each user can spend online. The second option is to specify a total daily online time allowance in five-minute increments. During restricted times of day, a user can’t log in to Safe Eyes, and therefore can’t connect to the net. If a daily allowance is defined, your child will get notification of how much time remains upon logging in; another notification appears when their time is almost up. You can give any user a one-time extension on this time allowance -up to an hour at a time - without affecting the overall settings. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code