As a parent, it's important to ensure your children have a safe and rewarding experience using the family computer, as well as making sure that your computer's files and settings are safe from a child's roaming fingers. Taking time to explain how the computer works is essential, but for those times when you can't be hovering behind them at every moment, you can limit what they have access to and monitor your child's activity as needed.
Family Safety Controls
Windows 8 includes Family Safety, a set of utilities you can use to keep an eye on what your kids are doing online, what games they play and how long they spend on each activity. To enable Family Safety you just need to create a parental administrator account. You can then create a user account for each child in your family.
Most home Wi-Fi® routers include features for restricting computer usage. If you enter a computer's MAC address -- the unique number assigned to each computer's media access card -- or its IP address, you can limit Internet access to specific times and dates. You can also restrict specific websites on a router. If you need to restore access, you can lift the restrictions by logging into the router with an administrator password.
As your computer's administrator, Windows 8 gives a parent access to all saved passwords on a computer through its Windows Credential Manager. You can use this tool to delete your own passwords so your children can't automatically access places like your banking website or social media accounts. If your child forgets a password, you can log in and retrieve it for her.
Managing Browser Histories
You can use your Web browser to see what your children have been up to online by opening the browser history options on most major Web browsers. This shows you what sites were visited as well as the time and date. You can also delete your own browser history and delete all of your stored cookies to ensure your children don't stumble on websites you don't want them to see.
For Web browsers that support it, when you open a browser window in incognito mode, what you do in that window is erased when you close it, including its history and cookies. The websites you visit and your Internet service provider still retain their records of where you visited, but your children won't be able to stumble onto the websites you've visited while researching ideas for an upcoming birthday party, for example.
Virus, Malware and Spyware Protection
You may know which links might be hazardous to your computer, but young children usually don't. When you buy a new Windows computer, it should come with some form of antivirus software that protects from viruses, malware and spyware. This is often Windows Defender, which is part of the Windows 8 operating system. Whatever anti-virus program you have installed, make sure it's up-to-date so it can protect your computer from the latest viruses.
Small fingers can have a difficult time with certain mouse and trackpad settings, like three-finger swipes or reverse scrolling. You can modify these settings by opening the Control Panel, selecting "Hardware and Sound" and then clicking either "Mouse" or "Touchpad," depending on what your computer uses. The Windows key on many keyboards is usually a quick way to launch applications or to change settings, but when a child accidentally presses it, he can easily embark on a whole new world of technical problems. You can disable the Windows key by manually editing the computer's registry if you have some technical expertise or install a third-party utility that can disable the key.
Most of the major search engines include safe search options to protect children from inappropriate Web content while they are searching online. Activating this is just a matter of going into the search engine's preferences and turning it on. When an adult is searching for information online, it can be temporarily deactivated and then turned on again.
Social Media Privacy
As your children begin to explore the World Wide Web through social media, it's important to explain the issues of online privacy. Social media websites like Facebook give you control over your privacy settings, including what is visible to close friends and relatives and what is visible to everyone else. For example, you can show your children how to make photos and other personal information visible only to the people they know.
Parental Guidance Suggested
The most important key to child-proofing a computer is to spend as much time with your children while they are at the computer. A good way to do this is to participate with them in their favorite games. For those times when you can't sit beside your child, always keep the family computer in a public area of the house with the screen facing the center of the room. Talk to your children about what they do on the computer, ask questions and encourage them to ask you questions when they need guidance.
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