Family Safety on Windows Vista

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Family Safety on Windows Vista

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My name is Brian Trenbeath, a Program Manager on the Windows Vista team, and I would like to take a quick moment to tell you about the new set of Family Safety features coming with Windows Vista.

First, many thanks to the IE team for allowing me time on their blog to tell you about this exciting new feature area that is coming with Windows Vista!

Parental Controls on Windows Vista is a new, much anticipated part of the overall Microsoft Family Safety story. With Windows Vista, tools are now built into the operating system that will not only let parents apply limits to the way their children can use the computer, but additionally, tools that will let parents be able to keep better track of what their kids are doing on the computer.

So let’s dive in and see what Parental Controls on Windows Vista is all about!

The first thing you will notice, is we have created a centralized location in Vista where Parents can go to find all Family Safety related settings for their computer.

Control Panel

Here is where you will be able to find all of the settings for Windows parental controls settings. Additionally, this Family Safety section of the operating system extensible, which means that other software applications, can put their Parental Controls settings here as well. End result will be that parents won’t need to go looking in several places to find and configure these settings for their kids, they can just go to one spot and configure everything from there!

To use these settings, first a user account for the child is created. Then Parental Controls panel is used to turn on settings or monitor activities for that user.

Parental Controls User Select

One of the first things you’ll notice in this screen, after the large on/off toggle, is the second toggle for activity reporting.

Parental Controls User Hub

As I mentioned before, one of the goals of Parental Controls is to give parents better tools to monitor their children’s computer usage. Being able to know what your child is doing on the computer is a critical part of that story. Once you choose to turn on activity reporting for the child, you can know, in detail, when they were on the computer, what programs they were running, what games they were playing, even what websites they have been visiting!

 Parental Controls Activity Report

Then there are the restriction settings.  Windows Vista offers a range of ways that parents can limit how their child uses the computer.

  • Time Limits – Parents can set limits as to when their child can use the computer
  • Web Restrictions – Using an online service, a parent can restrict what types of web sites their child can visit. Use of this service comes free with Windows Vista. They can either do this by category (eg. My child cannot go to pornographic sites, or gambling sites), or they can get very specific and choose by URL, what sites are allowed and which are not. These restrictions will work automatically with any web browser.
  • Game Restrictions – Partnering with Computer Game rating systems from around the world (like the ESRB in North America), we allow a parent to restrict the types of computer games that their child can play.
  • Application Restrictions – If a parent chooses, they can apply limits such a their child can only run the applications that the parent has approved.

Technical information on how application can interact and utilize this new functionality is available latest Windows SDK on MSDN in the Windows Vista and WinFX Beta page.

We expect that we will be able to add more granularity and addition features into the Parental Controls feature set.

We hope, that with these features now built into Windows Vista, that we can make parents feel safer and more comfortable with what their kids are doing on their home computers.

 - Brian Trenbeath
   Program Manager
   Windows Vista

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