Windows 7 Parental Controls are very similar to those found in Vista. Most of the functionality is unchanged or has changed very little. The walkthrough below is taken directly from a post I did in 2008 about Vista’s parental controls. I have updated the text and images where necessary, but the post is mostly the same.
The first thing you need to do is create a STANDARD user account for the child. You can do so by going to the control panel and selecting USER ACCOUNTS AND FAMILY SAFETY. Next, create a new user, fill in the name and make sure STANDARD USER is selected. Next, you are presented with a dialog box containing icons of the available users. Select the user you just created and then click the SETUP PARENTAL CONTROLS link under the Additional Things That You Can Do section. Another dialog box will popup containing the parental controls options. The first thing I did was set time limits. This is important, especially during the school year, as you can tell Windows just how long your child can use the computer. So, click the TIME LIMITS link. You will be presented with a grid. The grid is a laid out in days of week and hours in the day format. Simply click in the boxes that corresponds to the times that you DO NOT want your child to use the computer. The blocks will turn blue, indicating that that block of time is off limits. For my son, I have the computer log him off at bedtime and not allow login until after 6am, Sunday night through Friday morning. On Friday and Saturday, I am more lenient with the times.
Windows 7 no longer contains the built in web controls. You now have to select your own provider. Microsoft, for reasons unknown to me, has moved this functionality to its Windows Live Family Safety. It is a small and free download from the Windows Live Essentials bundle. It still works like the old integrated stuff that was in Vista. You set it up a bit differently, and can manage it from the web. To add an account, click the Windows Live Family Safety link. You’ll see the setup window. Select the user you wish to monitor and click Next. On the next panel, select what you wish to do for the accounts listed and click SAVE. That’s it. You can refine the monitoring by going to the web site. The link on the same panel.
The Web limits will work with Internet Explorer 7 and higher or the latest version of Firefox. Earlier versions of both browsers do not recognize the controls and, thus, can circumvent this. Also, Opera and Safari do not work with the controls. You add the browsers that are non-compliant to the program limits. Web Limits can be as loose or tight as you like. Microsoft maintains a list of ‘bad’ sites and will prevent your child from surfing to these site. Conversely, you can choose to only allow a certain site or sites. There is a list that you can maintain and the browser will only allow the child to visit these sites. Also, the language filter works very, very well. I’ve seen it prevent my son from going to certain forums that looked innocent, but were, in fact, full of foul language. It also appears to prevent him from visiting forums where certain words-not foul language-used in certain ways to allude or describe drug use or other more adult subjects. I have been very impressed by the filters. I feel much more at ease with him visiting his favorite forums and message boards. I have also locked out instant messaging. I don’t trust it and won’t allow it until he is older. I also preview new places he wants to go before I will allow it.
There is also a game limit section. This will allow you to prevent Windows from running games that are a certain rating or higher. It also allows you to prevent games that might fit your rating, but contain subject matter you do not wish your child from seeing. An example of this might some games like Street Fighter, which has a teen rating but is very violent. Or games like Grand Theft Auto. You have many, many choices.
Parental controls can log everything your child does. It is pretty thorough and shows things like how long they are logged in, what programs they run, what web sites they visit, games they play, how they played the games and more. If your child tries to do something they are not supposed to do, Windows 7 User Access Control dialog pops up. The child can then get you and you can decide to allow or disallow the action. Warning: the child cannot install anything without your approval. Why did I say Warning? Simple…anytime they get a game or a program, you must install it as they will not have permission. I suspect most people will just install it anyway, but I’m sure there will be times that you forget and then junior will be coming back to get you. The UAC message will also pop up if they try to go to a web site that has been deemed questionable. Sometimes, it does prevent some legit sites like NickJr. I have to figure that one out, but there was something that the filter did not like.
All in all, Microsoft did a great job with Windows 7 parental controls. If your child has a computer that can run Windows 7, I highly recommend installing Windows 7 and setting up the parental controls. Parental Controls alone make Windows 7 worth the upgrade. Of course, your child may argue that.