Configure Parental Controls in Vista

Before you start

Objectives: learn where can you configure Parental Controls, and which restrictions can be set.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: block, parental, controls, rating, games, web, level, account, allowed, programs, restriction, activity


Parental controls are designed for controlling home users with standard accounts. Parental Control is available in Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, or Ultimate. Parental controls are not included in the Business or Enterprise editions of Windows Vista. Also, when you connect a computer using Windows Vista Ultimate to a domain, the Parental Controls are by default no longer accessible. We also have to have at least two user accounts – an administrator account for the parent and a standard user account for the child. Parental Controls are configured by someone using an administrator account, and apply only to standard user accounts. Administrator needs to be protected with password. There are four main things that we can restrict for our computer users.

Logon Hours

The first thing that we can control is the logon hours. We can restrict what times of day the user is allowed to access our computer. If a user tries to log in to Windows Vista outside the allowed window of time, the login will fail. If user login stretches outside the time allotment, the user is automatically logged off.

Web Access

We can also control Web access, which means that we can configure ‘block’ and ‘allow’ lists for certain websites. We can also set web restriction level to high, medium or none. Web restriction level of ‘high’ is designed only for children. It is going to block all websites except those designed for children. Web restriction level of medium will block unrated contents and malicious websites. In web restriction area we can also block file downloads. Malicious software (also known as malware), adware, and viruses are often downloaded by unknowing children or inexperienced computer users. When limiting browser settings, the browser itself does not matter (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and so on).


One way to restrict games is rating based system using the ratings designed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). There are different ratings and the first one is Early Childhood rating EC. This rating means that the game is designed for those ages three and older. Second rating is Everyone or E which is designed for those ages six and older. Everyone 10+ or E10+ is designed for those 10 and older. Teen or T is designed for 13 and older, Mature (M) for 17 and older, and Adults Only or AO is not intended for anyone under the age of 18. We also have the option to block games with no rating. Rating settings are cumulative, which means that, for example, AO rating will include all other ratings, or M will include EC, E, E10+, T but not AO.

Another way to block games is content-based. We can block games with inappropriate sexual content, violence gambling etc. We can also block specific games installed on the system.


We can also restrict specific programs from being used. We simply specify the path to the program that we want to restrict.

If the user attempts to access restricted sites, he will be prompted for the admin credentials. This allows us to allow the user to do specific tasks. As administrators and parents we can do activity reporting and find out what websites our users are going to, look at their e-mails, Instant Messenger, and we can look at what media were they looking at. There are some legal issues here. If we are dealing with a child, then we have to make sure that we are their legal guardian. These parental controls could be used in a small business environment, but the computer can not be a member of a domain. In this case we also have to ensure that we are not violating user rights.


To configure Parental Controls we can go to Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > Parental Controls.

Parental Controls

Image 201.1 – Parental Controls

Remember, parental controls only work with standard user accounts. If the second account also has administrative privilege we can not assign parental controls to that account. Also, our administrative account has to be password protected.

Now, we need to choose a user on which to set up parental controls. In our case we will select Kim.

Selected User

Image 201.2 – Selected User

The first thing to do is to turn on Parental Controls. We can also choose to turn Activity Reporting to collect information about computer usage. Next, we can filter out what websites they are allowed to go to, specify what time of day they are allowed to log on, we can restrict games and specific programs. First, let’s block some websites by clicking on the Windows Vista Web Filter.

Web Filter

Image 201.3 – Web Filter

Here we can allow all websites or block some websites. We can setup specific lists by clicking on the ‘Edit the Allow and block list’. Here we can also select to only allows websites which are on the ‘allow’ list. We can also block web content automatically were the browser will attempt to figure out the rating level and then block sites based on the rating level. The default restriction level for automatic blocking is Medium. This will block unratable content, mature content, pornography, drugs, hate speech and weapons. The High restriction level will block all web content except websites approved for children. We can also select the None level, which will remove any restrictions. If we select Custom we can choose categories that we want to block. Here we can also block file downloads.

Next, we can configure Time Restrictions. This way we can configure exact time when the Kim is allowed to use our computer. We can simply click and drag the hours we want to block or allow. Blue color means blocked.

Restricted Time

Image 201.4 – Time Restrictions

Let’s configure Game Controls. We can block all games or block or allow games by rating and content types. We can allow games with no rating or block them, and specify what level of rating the child is allowed to play. We can also block games based on content. We can also block specific games.

Game Ratings

Image 201.5 – Game Ratings

Next, we can block specific programs. In this window we simply check which programs we want to block.


Image 201.6 – Allowed Programs

Next, we can check Activity Monitor for Kim. We can use activity reports to display information about what was done online and offline, including visited Web sites, instant Messenger recipients, downloads and accessed programs.

Activity Viewer

Image 201.7 – Activity Report


Parental controls are designed for controlling home users with standard accounts. Four main things that we can restrict are logon hours, web access, games and programs. Parental Controls can only be applied to standard user accounts. Parental Controls are not accessible in domain environment.

Paths that are mentioned in this article
  • Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > Parental Controls