January 22, 2012

setting up a computer for my son to use

B (who is now 6 y.o.) recently requested his own çomputer space’ where he could save files, surf the internet, send email, play his favourite games and keep things safe from his brother. 

We have an old laptop that the boys use when they are on the computer.  So, I spent about an hour last week setting up user accounts for the boys, an email account for B and a safe internet search.

Setting up separate user accounts for your children allows you to protect your files and programs (and theirs) from access and accidental deletion and prevents children from installing unwanted programs on the computer.  You can also add parental controls to each user account to control what games and programs they may access.  It is also possible to set time limits on computer use for each user.

To set up a new user account on a Windows computer, go to the Start menu and open the Control Panel.  Look for and open User Accounts, then Add or Remove a User Account

At this point, if you don’t already have a password for your Admin account you need to set one (otherwise your children can bypass everything you’ve done and log on as the Administrator).  Do that by clicking on the Admin account name and looking for Create a Password.

To set up a new account click Create a New Account.  Create a new standard user account and name your new account. You can then click the icon for your new account and personalise it with the icon of your child’s choice and a password.  You can also turn on Parental Controls, which allows you to
  • set up daily time limits for computer time (children can’t log on outside the allowed time limits)
  • set a rating for allowed games or block specific games. I initially tried setting a rating for games for my son, but many games (for example, card games) are then blocked because they have no rating.  So I went in and manually selected which games my son could play.  We have had trouble with some of the inbuilt games on the computer which require or incite purchase after a certain amount of time, so I wanted to block some of them.
  • block or allow specific programs.  This applies to programs that are not games.  For example, I wanted to block Skype and this is where I did that.
I then created shortcuts on the desktop (when logged on to the computer as my son) for my son’s favourite games to make it easy for him to open them.

Next I wanted to set up email and internet access within my son’s account.

I chose to use Google Chrome as the browser.  I knew I could set up safe search criteria within Google searches and Google Chrome fas a very simple interface with fewer visible buttons to accidentally click and do something unexpected.  And it has a great opening screen which displays icons for your most visited sites – meaning my son can find them without needing to type addresses or pull up bookmark menus.  You could also add bookmarks to the bookmarks bar at the top of the browser, but as these are text they are less easy for my son who is not yet a fluent reader

To set up Google SafeSearch, click on the cog wheel icon at the top right of and then click on Search Setting.  Look for the SafeSearch filters on the page that appears.  Strict filtering filters both explicit text and explicit images and the default Moderate filtering filters explicit images only.  If you have a Google Account you can click on Lock SafeSearch to ensure strict filtering is always in place.

To create an email address for my son I followed this advice to create a personalised address linked to my email account.

All that set up, I feel comfortable to let my son search and use the computer independently without me sitting next to him.  I do, however, have the computer in the living room and will be nearby when he is using the computer to monitor what he is doing (since no safety software can do everything) and lend a hand if needed.
I have found that this computer set up has motivated my son to do a lot of new reading and writing as he tries to search for his interests and interacts with family via email. 

What sites is he visiting? You might like to visit a list of my son’s favourite games.  He is also a big fan of Reading Eggs and National Geographic Kids.  And he his web searching has led him to a variety of Mario Brothers games.

I got a lot of useful ideas about children using computers, phones and other electronic media from Vodafone’s free magazine, Digital Parenting (available in Vodafone stores). {NB. Thanks to Vodafone for sending me this useful resource} This is where I first learnt about Google’s SafeSearch.  The magazine also has a lot of information for parents on the pros and cons of social networking for children.

You might also like to visit Google’s Family Safety site to learn more about protecting your child online.

How do you monitor your child’s computer use? What games/programs does your child like to play?

1 comment:

Man with Van said...

The web is an information treasury, but can also be a quite dangerous place, especially for young children. Thats why parents must devote plenty of time to educate their kids and frequently monitor their internet surfing.