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Although no technology can be a replacement for parental involvement, there are ways to use Microsoft software to help protect your children from inappropriate content.
Here are some tips for protecting your children's privacy and safety when they're using the computer.
 
Step 1: Decide where your child can and can't go on the Internet
It's a good idea to check out some sites for kids. Pay particular interest to sites that collect personal information.
If you don't agree with the privacy statement of a particular site or if you don't want to give away any of your child's personal information, do a little searching and you may find a similar site that doesn't request any information at all.
Block inappropriate content One of the best defenses against inappropriate content is to block it before it gets to you. With Microsoft software there are a few different ways you can do this.
Windows Vista Family safety settings. As a parent you have a unique opinion on what kind of content is appropriate for your child depending on his age, maturity, and your personal beliefs. Windows Vista introduces a rich and powerful set of parental control features to help parents monitor, manage, and administer their children's computer use—and help keep them safe. For more information, see Windows Vista family safety settings.
Windows Live OneCare Family Safety (currently in beta). Software that helps you filter information based on each child's age to help protect them from content you don't want them to see. You can also limit searches, block or allow certain Web sites, and monitor what your kids are doing online. You'll also have access to guidelines on how to help a child use online communications safely or how parents should talk to children about inappropriate Web browsing. For more information, see Windows Live OneCare Family Safety Beta.
Xbox parental controls. Xbox includes similar parental controls that help you restrict your child's ability to play inappropriate games and watch inappropriate DVD movies. For more on keeping your kids safe when they play games on the Internet, read Safety tips for kids and gaming.
 
Step 2: Increase your security and privacy
In addition to blocking inappropriate content, it's a good idea to block sites and downloads that may be a risk to your security and privacy.
Create different user accounts. With Windows Vista and Windows XP, you can create multiple user accounts for your computer. Each user can log on separately and has a unique profile with his or her own Desktop and My Documents folder.
As a parent you can give yourself an Administrator account with full control over the computer, and give your children Limited User accounts, with restricted controls.
Limited Users cannot change system settings or install new hardware or software, including most games, media players, and chat programs. To learn more about how to set up different user accounts, read How the right user account can help your computer security.
Adjust Web browser security settings. You can also help protect your child through your Web browser. Internet Explorer helps you control your security and privacy preferences by allowing you to assign security levels to Web sites.
Internet Explorer 6 also helps protect your privacy while you're on the Web by providing features that help control how Web sites track your activities.
 
Step 3: Keep track of where your kids go online
It may not always be possible to be present while your children are surfing the Web. But it is possible to check later to see where your children have spent their time online.
By reviewing the History list in Internet Explorer, you can see all the places your children visited on the Web. To view your Internet History, click the History button on the browser toolbar. Learn more by reading Find and Return to Web Pages You've Recently Visited.
Click on a folder to expand it and view the individual pages your child visited at a certain site.
With MSN 9 parental controls you can receive a weekly e-mail report that details your child's recent online activity, including the total time spent online, Web sites he visited or tried to visit, e-mail addresses and MSN Messenger IDs of people with whom he corresponded, and files he downloaded.
 
Step 4: Remind kids not to talk to strangers online
Real-time chats and instant messaging can be a great way for children to discuss their interests and build friendships. But the anonymity of the Internet can also put children at risk of falling victim to imposters and predators. To help minimize your children's vulnerability, teach them to take precautions such as:
Using only a first name or nickname to identify themselves.
Never disclosing a phone number or address.
Never sending photographs of themselves.
Never agreeing to meet someone they met online without supervision.
To help protect your children from being contacted by strangers while instant messaging, configure your software to allow only approved contacts.
To block unknown contacts in Windows Messenger:
1. Click Tools.
2. Select Options.
3. Choose the Privacy tab.
4. Add people you know to the Allow list and block all other users
An "approved list" to help parents limit their children's e-mail exchanges is also a feature of MSN 9.
Set family rules for Internet use
Although software can help you protect your family from inappropriate content on the Web, there is no substitute for teaching your children a few basic rules. Talk to your children about the risks of going online, and teach them how to handle uncomfortable situations. And finally, set limits, and discuss them with your children. Together, you can create a fun and safer environment for your children online.
 
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SAFETY TIPS BY AGE
Ages 2 to 4
Ages 5 to 6
Ages 7 to 8
Ages 9 to 12
Ages 13 to 17
A parent's guide to online safety Ages and stages
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