As we move into year 2010 that marks the end of the first decade of 21st century, I happened to pause and look back at the last decade (of 20th century) where many of us were still in the process of completing our formal education. This reminds me of the time when having a PC at home was still a luxury and for those pursuing a career in IT, having a PC at home gave them a distinct edge over their peers. I still remember staying back in the college to work and access information on the internet in the computer lab, and week-long waits for a booking in computer libraries, till I got a PC of my own. We all have realized the power of having our own PC to work with, at different stages of our life by now. So much so that we now make sure to procure a PC or laptop for our own children, considering it an essential requirement in the development of a child.
It amazes me to see how easily a child from a very early stage, is able to understand the meaning of a ‘computer’ and starts using it just the way his parents do. Children today have got unlimited access to computer based games, xBox, iPods, PSPs, PS3s, and internet. I frequently interact with people telling stories of how proficiently their 3yr, 4yr, 5yr olds are able to use the PC and the internet. At the same time, we are all aware of the harmful effects that this unlimited exposure to internet may have on the children’s innocent thinking and views of the world.
At this stage, I think it becomes our moral and social responsibility to make sure that we guard our children against unwanted exposure to explicit content, violence, drugs, discrimination, abusive language etc. According to Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI – www.icra.org), formerly called as Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) –
“Different families will have different views about what is and is not appropriate for children of different ages. This is true within a single country but is even more of an issue on the internet and other digital media, which reach across all national and cultural borders.”
It is for this reason that I believe that even while we bring up our children and nurture them in localities and social circles of our own choice, it is the PC today that takes them beyond those physical boundaries and makes them interact and network with people and personalities of their choice, which in any way is not governed by their parents or elders. It is for this reason that i believe, that while it is important for us to let them make their own choices in life, but at the same time, make sure that they get exposed to the right people, right content and right things at the right time. So in the physical world for example, we often look at the ‘for ages’ mark on the toys before we choose them for our children. So even while the child is fascinated by that bigger toy, we make sure that we buy only what is appropriate for his age. Similarly, parents often wish that there were tools in a PC through which they could exercise such control on how their children used their PC and internet.
Moreover, I believe our approach should be proactive and not reactive in this scenario. If only we could take a few steps to ensure our online family safety, we could rest assured that the PC will really be a friend to our children and they will be able to realize their true potential with it, as soon as they enter the digital world.
Here are a few steps you can take to make sure the PC really helps your child develop his/her personality in a positive way:
Parental Controls is a feature in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (Home Premium and above) that enables parents to help manage how their children use
the computer. As a parent, you can set restrictions (different for each child, if you like) on which programs your children can run and which games they can play, and you can set hours of use for the computer. With the addition of controls from Microsoft and other providers, you can specify which websites your children can visit and you can view activity logs that detail each child’s computer activity.
The requirements for using Parental Controls are simple:
- You must have at least two user accounts set up on your computer—an administrator account for the parent and a standard account for the child. (More adults? More kids? Create a separate account for each person. Be sure that each child to whom you want to apply Parental Controls has a standard account because parental controls can’t be applied to administrator accounts.)
- All administrator accounts on the computer should be protected by a password. (This isn’t an absolute requirement, but without password protection, anyone can bypass or turn off Parental Controls. Note also that you need only one password-protected administrator account to manage Parental Controls. Other parents with standard accounts can use the administrator parent’s credentials to run Parental Controls.)
- Your computer cannot be joined to a domain. On domain-joined computers, the Parental Controls feature is disabled, even when you’re connected to your home network (or no network).
You can use Parental Controls to set limits on the hours that children can use the computer, the types of games they can play, and the programs they can run.
Set specific time limits on your children’s computer use. You can set time limits to control when children are allowed to log on to the computer. Time limits prevent children from logging on during specified hours. You can set different logon hours for every day of the week. If they’re logged on when their allotted time ends, they’ll be automatically logged off. For more information, see Control when children can use the computer.
Prevent your children from playing games you don’t want them to play. Control access to games, choose an age-rating level, choose the types of content you want to block, and decide whether you want to allow or block specific games. For more information, see Choose which games children can play.
Keep your children from running specific programs. Prevent children from running programs that you don’t want them to run. For more information, see Prevent children from using specific programs.
Watch this video to learn how to control when children can use the computer
In addition to technological measures in Windows 7 and other products, Microsoft also offers plenty of educational information for parents and kids to assist them in staying safe online. Visit the “Protect Your Family” page at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/familysafety/default.aspx to view parent’s guides, safety tips, and more.
So lets help children realize their true potential with a clean and safe online experience in Year 2010 and beyond.
Happy New Year !