A Review of Windows Vista's Parental Controls

A Review of Windows Vista's Parental Controls

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I caught this via ActiveWin today:  Tommy from IMSafer Nerd Blog decided to give Windows Vista’s Parental Controls a closer look.  He outlines the Parental Controls features and explains what parents can do with the features.  He puts in bold his opinion regarding each Parental Control feature, and although he's rather critical of the breadth of control afforded parents, I think he's off base and that parents will ultimately grow to appreciate and use many or all of the available controls, especially when  they work together to better understand them via online forums and communities.  He does seem to like parents' ability to log everything their child is viewing, downloading, reading, etc.  He also mentions the ability for third party developers to tap into Windows Vista’s Parental Controls API, which is another key aspect of the functionality that I think will ultimately make these controls very compelling for a large number of parents.

Take a look at Tommy’s Windows Vista Parental Controls Review.

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  • very informative post indeed,keep sharing dude!

  • A_User
    1 Posts

    I'm a teen so my point of view will be different.

    It blocks almost everything! Everyday I go on I will see a Windows Parental Controls has blocked this page. It limits your computer usage on the internet by A LOT! I hate Windows Parental Controls. It blocks Google sometimes even if it is appropriate and with in the Parental Controls guidelines.

  • jonwu
    1 Posts

    ok these parental control features are available on Vista. AllowBlock software http://www.allowblock.com adds the same vista-like filtering options to Windows XP. It even loks like Vista parental controls

  • The Vista Parental Controls help with blocking some pages, but they do not give you complete control over the computer. I use Sentry Parental Controls: Total Family Protection and it works great on Vista. It allows me to monitor what my kids are viewing, block sites from them and control their computer and internet usage. I really suggest this product to any parent who wants a better way to control their kids computer and to stop them from visiting innapropriate sites. Here's the site to find out more about it http://www.sentryparentalcomtrols.com

  • Lisa
    1 Posts


    I have just bought a computer in France and when I try to enter random websites (eg Facebook, University of Oslo) it stops me and says Parental Controle. So I was wondering if I can turn it off in some way? I have an Orange Livebox, i think its called, and it always pops up Orange Parental Controle. Maybe that's "who" stops me?

    Hope you can help :)

  • Hey "Nick White",thx for share



  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey r3m0t:  I checked with my colleagues on your questions and get two pretty extensive answers:

    1) are children able to find out the extent (or existence) or any restrictions before they bump into them?  Additionally are they able to find out what is being logged?

    – Yes, the child can go to the control panel and see both restrictions and monitoring.  There is no covert monitoring or restriction.  The most visible indication of monitoring is a tray icon.  Clicking on it leads to the settings page for the controlled user.  All settings, including whether activity reporting is on, are readily discoverable, although the controlled user cannot see the actual log data.

    2) If a browser (say Firefox) does not use the API to check whether a child is allowed to visit a website, will a child still be able to load the site?

    - We insert a component in the network stack.  It inspects all outgoing HTTP traffic, regardless of port used, and blocks based on the policies set for a given user.  This ensures an acceptable level of protection with browsers such as Firefox and Opera, even if they are not Parental-Controls aware, and any other apps that "talk" HTTP through standard Windows APIs.  The apps can integrate via our APIs to improve the blocked site admin override experience, especially for sites where only a portion of the content is blocked.

    The Windows SDK documentation at http://windowssdk.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms711320.aspx does try to be as transparent as possible about goals & constraints of Parental Controls.  ecifically, see:

    - Requirements:  http://windowssdk.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms711750.aspx

    - Key design decisions:  http://windowssdk.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms711294.aspx

    - Descriptions of features:  http://windowssdk.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms711330.aspx

    Hope this helps !

  • raskren
    5 Posts

    The article states that parents can control logon hours as well as logon duration.  I do not see the logon duration option in build 5744.  Does it really exist?

  • Nick,

    Thanks for the response to my blog post.  I hope I wasn't too overly critical of Vista's Parental Control's features... I do think there is goodness in what's being done.  

    The point of my post was I think parents need to be focused on being parents... not system administrators.  I think we as a software community have decided that technology is about options and features... where most real world people who aren't heads down in technology every day, just want things to work without having to read the man pages... err... online help in Windows :)  

    The typical user of any Parental Controls technology isn't going to be reading this post, or worrying about how to get Parental Controls working on a Domain.

    IMSafer uses this philosophy in our products... "Simple and easy enough for our Grandparents to use, but effective enough for the tech savvy to adopt."

    Great dialog and I love the fact that people are discussing these topics and are becoming aware of the need to protect kids on their computers and online.

    Tommy McClung

    Founder, IMSafer, Inc.

  • r3m0t
    26 Posts

    I have two questions. Firstly, and I know this is imposing my own values on the whole thing, but are children able to find out the extent (or existence) or any restrictions before they bump into them? Additionally are they able to find out what is being logged?

    BTW everybody the API can be seen at http://windowssdk.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms711668.aspx . I was concerned MS might "lock out" other messengers from integrating with the logging (i.e. all the parents would disable those IM programs) but apparently not.

    The second question is about web filtering. If a browser (say Firefox) does not use the API to check whether a child is allowed to visit a website, will a child still be able to load the site? You could, e.g. restrict DNS lookups or port 80 connections. The problem if you *don't* do this is that parents must block all unknown applications for fear of some app "bypassing" (i.e. ignoring) the restrictions.

  • wilfis
    1 Posts

    Hey Nick White,

    We have three computers in my home that my kids use. My kids log in under domain-joined accounts. At least in my case, this is not a "business-only scenario" as you describe it.

    I'm looking forward to the Parental Controls in Windows Vista and will probably upgrade all 3 machines just to get these features.

    Thanks for the tip about making the Parental Controls control panel visible on a domain.

  • someone
    156 Posts

    Does Vista allow parents to control what contacts their children chat with or email?

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey Rich Lusk:  While Parental Controls are indeed disabled on domain-joined accounts (as this is almost entirely a business-only scenario -- yours is the first case where I've heard otherwise), there is a Group Policy setting that should unhide the PC UI on domain-joined machines:

    - Run gpedit.msc (Start->All Programs->Accessories->Run...)

    - In the left-side tree, drill down as follows:  Local Computer Policy->Computer Configuration->Administrative Templates->Windows Components->Parental Controls

    - Set the “Make Parental Controls control panel visible on a Domain” policy to Enabled

    - Exit gpedit

    - Log out and back in

    The Parental Controls UI will now be visible and may be used on non-domain-joined accounts.

    Hope this helps.

  • It's a good idea to have parental controls, my wife always said she wishes that there was a way to limit my use of the computer to 1-2 hours a night... with this it may be possible to do that easily!

  • ToughD
    2 Posts

    I think that it's great that Vista has Parental Controls.  Being a parent I find it very important to monitor my children's Internet activities.  I'm disappointed to find though that when Vista is joined to a domain the Parental Controls go away.  Why?  I have SBS 2K3 Premium in my home and I greatly enjoyed the article in the recent TechNet magazine about having an SBS network in homes.  Is there any way to enable the Parental Controls when Vista is on a domain? I need to control the duration of my children's computer time.  I can't just set Active Directory for specfic login times because the login times vary.  I need to limit the amount of time spent on the computer.