In addition to the family security tools present in Internet Explorer, Windows Live Essentials features further functionality in the shape of Windows Live Family Safety.
This means that now, not only can you prevent your young ones from straying into unsuitable websites online, you can also choose websites, games and software that they can access and setup restrictions when they can use the computer.
Available as art of Windows Live Essentials, Windows Live Family Safety can be downloaded either on its own or individually by visiting explore.live.com/windows-live-essentials and downloading the small installer file. The installation options will let you choose between the full install and the custom install where you can select the individual software.
How to Use Windows Live Family Safety
When you first launch Windows Live Family Safety (Start > Windows Live > Windows Live Family Safety) you will be prompted by User Account Control to allow the application to make changes to Windows.
Agree to this to proceed – you will then be prompted to sign in to your Windows Live/Hotmail account. Once this has been done, you will be presented with a list of current Windows accounts on your PC. Guest accounts should be disabled, and you can easily Create a new standard Windows account via this screen. To monitor accounts, tick the box next to the account and click Save.
Family Safety will then be setup, and the account to be monitored will be viewable from familysafety.live.com.
Managing Windows Live Family Safety
Via the online console at familysafety.live.com you can manage your Windows 7 users – click the Edit settings link next to the computer account you wish to configure.
Here you can select Web filtering, Activity reporting, Contact management, Requests, Time limits, Game restrictions and Program restrictions, pretty much allowing you to manage how other users can and cannot use the computer.
Web filtering will allow you to Turn on and Turn off web filtering, and while switched on Windows Live Family Safety with activate SafeSearch on Bing, Google, Yahoo! and other search engines; adult images are also blocked. A slider affords some further configuration options, ranging from allowing access to sites added to an “allow list” to allowing all sites but displaying a warning when adult sites are accessed.
Web filtering lists allows you to enter the URL of a website you want to be restricted or allowed – the site can be controlled for all users or a specific user account.
Activity reporting provides a set of reporting tools that display the activity of the selected user over the specified period. Web activity, Other internet activity and Computer activity can all be viewed.
With Contact management, you can specify a contact or list of contacts on Windows Live that the user is permitted to communicate and share information with. This is a particularly useful tool that should act as a barrier against those wishing to harm children.
If your child wishes to view a website that isn’t permitted in Web filtering, the Requests view will display the site for you to approve or deny.
Time limits can be applied at any time of day or night on any day of the week; all you have to do is highlight the times that access is allowed and the times access is blocked.
With Game restrictions in place, meanwhile, you can prevent your children from accessing games on the PC with a particular game rating level. Game ratings range from 3 and higher to 18 and higher, with a PG rating and others available to choose from.
However if you would rather block access to games on a title-by-title basis, the Program restrictions option offers the opportunity to prevent other users from running any installed application.
The Windows Live Family Safety online console can be accessed via a different computer as your children are online, meaning you can monitor their activity as it happens as well as retroactively.