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How to set up a computer for kids

Block inappropriate websites, set screen time limits, and prevent children from installing games, apps, and programs without your permission.

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Whether your kids have a dedicated gaming PC, or it’s the family computer that’s being shared, there are useful settings that parents can use to make it child-friendly. This time we’ll look at computers that use Microsoft operating system.

Microsoft has introduced parental control to make your PC a little more child-friendly. However, it is important to note that these restrictions do not apply to others, permitted websites, and games and programs that are not owned by Microsoft. The parental control of Microsoft also has clear limitations and disadvantages that we will get back to at the bottom of the article.

What you can limit

Kids & Media does not believe that parents should use all the restrictions mentioned below. Parents must find out for themselves what restrictions are appropriate for their child and must take into account their child’s age and needs.

Mobile phones and game consoles have better parental controls than a computer can offer.

Apple and Sony (PlayStation), for example, control everything from your device’s browser to the gaming store. So, a selected parental setting will apply to far more places than on a computer (note that one can download other browsers, games, and apps that are not covered by such parental settings).

With a computer, it’s much more common to download new browsers and games from other game stores that aren’t manufactured by Microsoft — as a result, the restrictions won’t work there.

For example, if your child wants to download Fortnite, they can’t buy it from Microsoft Store. They must download another program that also opens up access to other games, chat, and in-game purchases.

Then it is important to check out which parental settings are available from these manufacturers, if any.

Here are the possibilities of Windows 10’s or 11’s built-in parental controls:

  • Get an overview of websites your kids have visited, as well as apps and games that have been used and the child’s screen time.
  • Choose different time limits for specific apps and programs— for example, your child will be on Skype for only an hour on the weekdays (Monday to Friday), but longer on the weekend.
  • Schedule and limit screen time — the child can, however, ask for more time and parents can allow this (appears as a popping up message on your Microsoft email).
  • Set screen time within a period, or total screen time. You can also choose your own plans for each day of the week – only two hours on weekdays, or as much as the children want between ten and four o’clock on Saturdays, for example.
  • Choose what your kids can download from the sites they visit, what games they can play, and create a wall for purchases in the Microsoft Store so the kids can’t shop without your permission (applies in the Microsoft Store only).
  • Block inappropriate games, apps, and media as per child’s age (Microsoft Store only).
  • Block inappropriate websites, or only allow websites that you select in Microsoft Edge, for example, whether your child should only be allowed to use NRK Super and Aftenposten Junior.
  • Transfer money that your kids can use to buy games and apps in the Microsoft Store.
  • Prevent your children from changing system settings.

How do Microsoft accounts work?

For computers with Windows 10 or 11 operating system, we will consider three types of accounts:

  • Administrator account. This is the account of the «boss». It is this account that has access to everything and can change settings and install new programs.
  • General accounts for adults. Created after the administrator being created. These accounts are restricted by not being able to install new programs or change important settings without first entering an administrator password.
  • Child account. These have even more restrictions if parents choose to set up that way.

When starting up a computer for the first time, you are guided through an installation. This account becomes the computer’s administrator account. Afterward, one can add multiple users and each user account has its own desktop and saved files. Some installed programs are shared across accounts, which can be problematic if parents should have access to a program but the children should not have.

In a way, such accounts also help to give each other privacy, and you can lock access to the login of the accounts with a password. A security tip is that adults typically should use an account that is separate from the administrator account. Among other things, as an additional layer of protection to prevent unauthorized persons from being able to change important settings on your computer.

How to create a user account for children

Just as you have family groups and child accounts with Google and Apple, Microsoft has something similar called Microsoft Family Group. This allows parents to bring the family together as a whole so that the adults can keep track and choose good settings for their child’s PC use (also works for Xbox One).

Your child gets their own email address and you can share activities in a family calendar as well as storage space in the One Drive cloud service.

To create a family group, go to the Microsoft page and sign in with a Microsoft account:

In the family member list, select Family > add a family member > child in the next dialog box.

If your child doesn’t have an email account, you can create a new one. It is also possible to create accounts locally on the PC:

Press the Windows icon at the bottom of the desktop. Right-click your Profile Picture (user account) in the menu. Click Change Settings. Select Family and Other Users. Select Add a Family Member.

The child must then accept an invitation to join the family group. This will pop up as an email in your child’s account.

«Disadvantages» of Microsoft parental settings

  • Purchase and download limits apply only to the Microsoft Store (kids can easily purchase in-game content and download games with an 18-year limit if they use Steam or Epic Games, for example). Parents should then avoid downloading these programs or make sure that there are parental controls enabled inside these programs.
  • Restrictions on websites, such as if your children have access to Netflix or YouTube, are not covered by Microsoft’s content restrictions. Parental controls must be set up individually if a website/program has such options.
  • Not all downloads will be blocked. We were able to install the WhatsApp app from the service’s own website even though other programs were stopped by the parent’s password restriction. Alternatively, parents can ensure that certain pages will be blocked, or allow the children to access only certain websites to prevent them from accessing other programs (but there are ways to get around this as well).
  • Getting a full overview of the websites the children visit, location history, and time spent can be perceived as monitoring and can create distrust between parents and children.
  • Parental controls do not prevent viruses, hackers, from entering dangerous links, etc.
  • If the children have access to other browsers, they can browse any pages they want, but it’s possible to block other browsers so that the kids can use nothing but Microsoft Edge.
  • No filter is 100 percent secure. Children can find ways to avoid technical solutions. Parental controls cannot replace dialogue with the children!

(Written on 26 February 202o. Translated from Norwegian to English by Ratan.)

Utviklet som en del av Erasmus+ prosjektet «TeachingTools».