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Configuring Parental Controls (part 4) - Managing Application Restrictions & Reviewing Activity Reports

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Managing Application Restrictions

In addition to game-related software, parents might want to restrict which programs a child can run. One example of a restricted application might be a financial management application. Although the product does not necessarily contain any inappropriate content, the program is generally not for use by children. Other examples might include e-mail, instant messaging, and other online-enabled tools. By default, application restrictions are disabled. To configure these settings, in the User Controls dialog box, click Allow And Block Specific Programs. Figure 18 shows the options that are available when you select the Child Can Only Use The Programs I Allow option.

Figure 18. Enabling application restrictions

The complete list of programs is based on the executable program files registered with Windows Vista. Parents can click Browse to locate any programs that are not automatically included. When enabled, application restrictions work based on a list of allowed programs. For convenience, all of the items can be selected, and then certain programs can be removed from the list. When children attempt to run a program that is restricted, they receive an error message.

Reviewing Activity Reports

So far, you have learned about ways in which you can restrict the types of content and programs that children can access. Part of the process of ensuring that children are using the computer in approved ways is to review reports on their actual activity.

Note: Reviewing computer usage

It is important to keep in mind that the Windows Vista Parental Controls features are primarily designed to assist in managing children’s access to content. It is not meant as a replacement for parental oversight. Activity reports provide an easy way for parents to review how their children are using a computer running Windows Vista.


In this section, you’ll learn how to configure activity reporting and how to analyze the information shown in reports.

Configuring Activity Reporting

The activity reporting feature is designed to provide parents with an easy way to collect a wide variety of information about children’s usage patterns. When Parental Controls are enabled, activity reporting is also enabled by default. To verify the setting, see the Activity Reporting section of the User Controls dialog box. When selected, the On, Collecting Information About Computer Usage option tells Windows Vista to keep track of which programs are accessed and which content is used.

System tray notifications can remind parents regularly to review activity reports. To configure this option, in the Parental Controls window, click Family Safety Options. Figure 19 shows the available options for notifications.

Figure 19. Configuring Family Safety options

The options enable parents to specify how often they will be notified to review activity reports. These settings do not, however, affect the actual collection of usage information. The Reset button is designed to help users reconfigure Web-based filtering if it has been replaced by a third-party program or other settings change.

Viewing Activity Reports

Windows Vista includes a convenient built-in method for reviewing users’ activity based on Parental Controls settings. To access the report, select a child’s user account, and then click View Activity Reports. Figure 20 shows an example of a typical report.

Figure 20. Viewing an activity report for a child account

The information is categorized based on the type of activity. It includes a wide variety of details, ranging from which Web sites were accessed to which games were played. Parents should review this information regularly to detect whether changes to current Parental Controls settings might be required. The report data itself is managed automatically, using features of Windows Vista, so there is no need to save the report files.

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