Parental control software recommendations

A good friend of ours gave her 12 yo kid a modest PC laptop for school work. Unfortunately, she’s having trouble controlling a) his internet access and b) his game access. It seems whenever she turns her back he’s got Minecraft open again, or Runescape, or whatever other internet game he’s downloaded / playing in a browser.

So she’s asked me if there’s suitable parental control software that will block access to certain websites / games / installed software between verbatim “school work” hours, something that’s easy for her to use (possibly even remotely from her laptop) so that she can change times on special occasions, add new sites / apps herself, temporarily override it etc.

I thought I’d approach the QT3 parental hivemind for recommendations. Trying to search Google for this stuff is headache-inducing.

His laptop’s running Windows 7 btw.

Windows 7 has build in parental control features. Have they tried using that? I know the basic parental controls in Windows 7 allows a person to control what applications are run as well as amount of time they are able to spent on the computer.

They can also install an addon called Windows Live Family Safety from Microsoft that gives you more options such as tracking what websites are being visited or restricting access to particular websites among other things.

Family Safety 2011

Thanks Contrai that looks like it could work. I’ll fess up and say I’ve never used Windows 7 at all, so I didn’t realise this stuff was in there. My brief look the other day didn’t lead me anywhere useful.

I’ll give this a shot and see how long it takes him to figure a way around it.

The problem with the built-in parental control is that it’s either too draconian or pretty weak. I had set it up to limit file downloading, but it ended up disallowing printing from google docs, so my kids couldn’t even do their homework.

But at the looser setting, it lets the kids play pretty much anything they want.

(Having said that, I didn’t investigate it too much; I have it turned on more to prevent accidents than to stop them from doing things on purpose. There’s nothing like prohibiting an activity to get kids to find a work-around).

You have to download Windows Live Essentials I believe.

I installed K9 on my kid’s laptops ( Seemed to work pretty well when I set it up 8 months ago. I haven’t looked at it since, though.

K9 is only for restricting internet access, though.

I set my cousin up with the Microsoft Parental Control software and she absolutely loves it, but she also doesn’t want her kids just randomly downloading crap either so that’s handy for her as well. I really haven’t played with it, but if she can figure out how to change settings and that for people on it then from a user standpoint it’s pretty easy to setup as she’s about as dumb as it comes to computers.

I am very disappointed that this thread was not about crocodiles using the internet.

Ok, we’ve tried the Live Family Safety software, and it doesn’t have enough control. It only blocks access to programs that are installed in the registery, so it doesn’t work for a game like Minecraft which is just an executable. I’ve tried blocking access to to see whether that will block the program (which needs to log on to an account) but I ran out of time to test it.

What we really need is a specific time control for any specific application or even executable, so he can play games between allocated hours and outside of that they are blocked. Having this automated would be ideal.

He still needs access to the internet (although Family Safety has definitely helped there) for school work, including downloading files (documents etc). It would be good to prevent him from downloading any .exe, .msi, .zip etc files.

They’ve already downloaded your personal details and have added you to the latest whatsfordinnertonight.croc website. Lock your doors at night.

I recommend using OpenDNS to restrict internet access and/or log. You can create a free account, set your router to OpenDNS’ servers, and then sites will be automatically blocked based on the restriction level. You can whitelist or blacklist any sites you want, in addition to logging stuff. Great way to control Internet access without having to install any software.

For those specific games you listed, you could block access to their servers.

I hate to sound like the childless guy proposing unrealistic solutions for child computer monitoring, but two points:

  1. The computer is always in a central place in the house, right? Not running in the kid’s room? If that’s not the case, perhaps the solution you need is not a technical one.
  2. When you want to lock down a machine this much, you probably can only do it with group policy + internet whitelist. Don’t bother trying anything less stringent.

This isn’t the place to discuss parenting methods for a complex situation, I’m just here on her behalf asking whether it’s technically possible. But let’s just say his mum has tried the non-technical approach.

I use Norton Online Family safety for my 12 year old twins and 10 year old. I really like it so far. It’s at:

It’s got a good web interface where 2 parents can define the access per child and review a log of what the child has been up to and when. If the child tries to access a blocked website (you can set this by category, with exceptions, or by specific website), he/she can either get a warning asking the child to get permission from the parent (he can type a message to explain to the parent and it’s sent to my email) or it can be blocked altogether. The default blocks are also set according to the age of your child.

When that happens, I also get an email on my GMail account which immediately lets me know what the child was trying to access.

I’ve personally gone for the warning solution. My children often legitimately go to a website which happens to be in one of the broad categories that generate a warning but I’m still OK with them using reasonably (Minecraft and Roblox will generate warnings by default, for instance). But we had a chat and they know to simply stop when they get a warning until I can decide what to do.

Between that and talking with them about what’s acceptable and not, this has been very useful.

Also, it’s true that it’s good to at least let them know you want to be able to take a look at their screen at any time. But, in my case, I’m divorced and they spend half their time with their mum. Using this software, we both can still keep an eye on their activity when they are not in our home.


Thanks for the suggestions guys, this is certainly helpful.

Are there any that log searches? I just built a far-too-nice computer for my 8-year-old (hoping to entice him to play flight sims multiplayer with me, so little nipper got a Core i3 with my old GTX 460), and I’m going to set it up in his room this weekend.

I want to give him access to search engines and YouTube, but I’d like to know if he’s looking up “boobies” so I can talk with him about such things. :)

Norton Online Family that Wendelius mentions definitely offers that feature Denny. For an easy-to-use web monitoring system it strikes me as a good choice.

Norton Online Family does indeed give that info:

You can see what websites they visited, what searches they ran in search engines and on Youtube, …

For instance, Tom obviously likes to blow up stuff in Minecraft. :)


Can’t you just give him a list of the best sites for such stuff or do you consider it an important part of his upbringing to find that out for himself like we did?

(I have two girls and live in what Spitting Image branded Pornoland when they made their Tories Map of the World in one of the books, so I don’t worry about these things ;-)

I think your girls will discover boobies on their own. Call it a hunch.

… but I’m not worried.