30/09/2010 10:22 | By John Chapman, contributor, MSN Windows Live

Keep your kids safe with Family Safety

Windows Live Family Safety puts the controls back in your hands. Safeguard your kids safety when they are online.

How to stay safe online. Image PA

Every day there's a new horror story in the media about the internet - whether it's an ultra-infectious virus that transforms computers into "zombies", or the evils lurking in the shadowy corners of seemingly friendly social networking sites.

Hearing these tales of terror about what your kids might be exposed to online, you'd be forgiven for thinking the net's scarier than Stephen King's last novel.

In reaction, you could ban it outright, but that's a bit draconian, isn't it? Plus you'd probably end up making lifetime enemies of your loved ones. Luckily, this cautionary fable has a happy ending, as Windows Live Family Safety leaps to the rescue.

Download Windows Live Family Safety

Staying super-safe

Family Safety gives you superhero-like powers to control what your kids can do online. Keep them off sites you don't want them seeing. Decide exactly who they're allowed to chat to. And keep track of where they've been and what they've done. No, this isn't a fairy tale!

It works by stepping in before your child views a website or connects with a person online, and asks itself if the site or contact has been approved by you. If not, Family Safety blocks it, optionally firing off an email to you in case you decide to allow it.

Rigidly control which websites your children can visit.

Parents can approve or block websites.

When you first install Family Safety, you should change the filtering level to one that's appropriate for each of your children.

By default, it's set up to block just adult sites. But another option blocks all sites except those you've personally approved plus some 8,000 child-friendly sites evaluated by the Family Safety team.

A custom option lets you pick and choose which content categories to let through - for example, child-friendly, social networking, webmail, unevaluated.

For this reason, it's best to give your kids their own dedicated user accounts. Because unless you're physically with them at the computer all the time, neither you or the software will know who's who, and (more importantly) who's up to what.

On top of that, every account on the same computer should have a password - even yours. You don't want to go through all this, only for the little ones to surf freely using your unfiltered account!

Thought of a site you think your youngest should be fine with, but which is blocked by the filtering level you chose?Just add it to their allow list. On the other hand, if the filter lets your eldest visit a site you reckon is still too old for them, add it to their block list.

Download Windows Live Family Safety

Socially responsible networking

There are some special settings if they hook up with friends via Windows Live Messenger, Spaces or Hotmail. Simply leave unticked those services you don't want your children to use. If you do grant them access, choose whether they can manage their own contact lists. Otherwise Family Safety will ask you if it's OK for them to add new contacts as and when.

Match each Windows account with a family member.

Match each Windows account
with a family member.

That's all Family Safety needs to start working its magic. Next time one of the kids tries to visit a website that's blocked, instead they'll see a page where they'll have to ask your permission to open it.

You have the ability to give your blessing or carry on blocking the site then and there. But if you're not around -at work say - you'll get an email requesting access which you can allow or deny whenever's convenient.

Finding yourself inundated with requests? To help combat this, you might consider entrusting older children to decide for themselves whether you'd be OK with them looking at a certain site. A warning page will open, and should they continue past it you'll still get an email letting you know.

The latest version of Family Safety also makes searching the web that bit safer. It automatically switches on the SafeSearch feature in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and others. So those impressionable young eyes won't even see links to questionable content, let alone try to click them.

Quick check-up

Family Safety's activity reports not only list sites your curious kids have visited (or event tried to visit), but also the games they've played (on- or offline), files they've downloaded, programs they've launched, how long they've spent at the computer - pretty much everything they done on it, when and how often.

And if you don't like the look of something in the report, now's your chance to block it, so there's no next time.

Download Windows Live Family Safety

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