Review

Review: Windows Live Essentials 2011 - Family Safety

WLE_PromoBanner_FamilySafety

Microsoft has released the final version of Windows Live Essentials 2011 to everyone on a supported Windows based PC, which comes loaded with very useful and helpful everyday programs that make our lives a little easier and more entertaining. Over the next couple of days, Neowin will be taking an in-depth look at Windows Live Essentials 2011, covering a new program each day.

Windows Live Family Safety

In the second last installment of our review, we'll be taking a look at Family Safety, one of the programs that comes featured in Windows Live Essentials 2011. As there are some concerned parents and family members, we want to keep our children safe while browsing online. It's impossible to monitor your children every minute they are on the PC, and sometimes you may be distracted or busy, so Windows Live Family Safety can help put your mind as ease.

WLFS_MainScreen

Restricting

The neat feature about Windows Live Family Safety, is that you configure your settings for each computer online, through http://familysafety.live.com. Through this website, you can manage what sites people are allowed or not allowed to visit, view, accept or reject requests and see what your kids are currently doing.

WLFS_VisitedWebsites

WLFS_UsedPrograms

Family Safety works with all browsers, so there isn't any need to worry what your kids are browsing on the web. From the control panel, you can view what websites your kids visit, how often they visit and what pages in the website they were viewing. Depending on what you want your kids to view and not view, you can allow or block websites through an array of filters, or use one of the pre-set levels of safety for your children.

WLFS_WebFiltering

The great thing about Windows Live Family Safety, is it works with any Windows-based PC in your house, with any account. So if your children have moved to the family computer, Family Safety will use the same permission group for that account, when they are away from their own computer.

Blocking and Monitoring

After you set your level of security, that account will either be warned that the site they are about to visit may potentially be dangerous, or have to email or send a request to visit the website. Once your child has sent their request, you can accept or decline the suspected website, after you have verified if the website is secure or not.

WLFS_Blocked

WLFS_Requests

Make sure to check back tomorrow on our final day of coverage, when we review Windows Live Writer 2011!

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18 Comments

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I use this for my 4 year old. Not that I don't trust her... rather I don't trust the Internet. She doesn't want to do bad things online. She just wants to play Sesame Street games. So I use Family Security to prevent anything bad from popping up on her.

I wish there was a time limit setting. I know 7 has built in "hours" the kid can use, but sometimes i want to allow my kid (if i had one, i'm using my niece in this instance) 20 min or so at a time.

+warwagon and LarryW... you're right on the money. So many people forget, many parents as well, who is supposed to be running the home. Kids earn and lose privileges. If the kids are constantly trying to get out of restrictions on their computers there's a whole lot more they're also constantly trying... that's a relationship issue. And sure, even with excellent relationship they'll try things. But you're far more likely to know something's up because you actually have a good relationship.

It's like in the business IT world. Some owners feel they need to address a people issue with technology and I always advise against it. First deal with the people issue. Then use technology to help enforce if you need to; not the other way around. That is, if you feel User A spends way too much time on social networking sites during work hours address that with the person face-to-face, don't just throw in social network filtering in the network. Unless of course, you would rather have employees that resent you...

If you've raised your kids to trust you, and you've explained what you're doing and why, and you provide space for two-way communication there's a better chance you'll have both compliance and engagement. So Family Safety is excellent, especially since it's free and most of this kind of software is quite outrageously priced. And it's not THE solution, just part of your parenting solution.

syncrety said,
.

You're exactly right. I don't know how many times I've seen people ignore the issues and say lets do something to block their access to this or that. You need to deal with the people themselves and have the applications to help support those policies. My son's access is the first thing that is lost in any case he tries to do anything he's not supposed to be doing. Then I adjust my policies to make sure they deal with said issue(s). The parental controls are not there to replace us but just help enforce our rules or beliefs (whatever you wanna call it). But like you were saying, we have to deal with the people issues before we use technology to enforce it.

I use Family Safety to monitor my older kids' usage and filter sites for my youngest.

I would love to use time restrictions. However, like almost all family safety software solutions, this one only lets you block out time blocks. I would love to be able to set a 2-4 hour per day limit and be able to define certain sites and software for school that would not count against that limit.

As for advanced users getting around it; they would not only have to get around the software, they would also have to have to generate entries in Family Safety to made it look like they were online so a parent looking at the logs wouldn't suspect anything unusual.

Since this only works with Vista or Windows 7, any parent who gives their kids administrative rights, necessary to completely bypass Family Safety, is already asking for trouble. I wouldn't worry about those parents anyway, they already gave up supervising their kids.

LarryW said,
I use Family Safety to monitor my older kids' usage and filter sites for my youngest.

I would love to use time restrictions. However, like almost all family safety software solutions, this one only lets you block out time blocks. I would love to be able to set a 2-4 hour per day limit and be able to define certain sites and software for school that would not count against that limit.

As for advanced users getting around it; they would not only have to get around the software, they would also have to have to generate entries in Family Safety to made it look like they were online so a parent looking at the logs wouldn't suspect anything unusual.

Since this only works with Vista or Windows 7, any parent who gives their kids administrative rights, necessary to completely bypass Family Safety, is already asking for trouble. I wouldn't worry about those parents anyway, they already gave up supervising their kids.

+1

My parents aren't too tech savvy, and I know my 13-year old brother can get on the computer a lot more than he should. He's suppose to get on only 3 hours a day, but I sometimes think he sneaks in at night or early morning, or does it when I'm not home to catch him, or overextends his time. I don't want to be a strict overseer, and want to allow more flexibility to get on when he wants to, but only up to 3 hours max, and haven't found a good solution yet. Also, allowing certain sites or software that can go beyond the time limit is a good idea as well.

LarryW said,
I would love to use time restrictions. However, like almost all family safety software solutions, this one only lets you block out time blocks. I would love to be able to set a 2-4 hour per day limit and be able to define certain sites and software for school that would not count against that limit.

That is definitely the biggest thing missing for me too. Time blocks are one step but to be able to keep a healthy setting for the kids, you need to be able to setup those time restrictions too. Half hour (custom lengths) blocks and the ability to add safe applications or educational applications or sites that don't count toward their time restrictions. They would have to make it so that it only blocks the time restrictions if it's the main app/site being viewed is in the foreground and not just minimized or behind other windows. Kids would take advantage of that right away.

That was my biggest disappointment when they released it and has been with every version so far. I always open up the new versions right away and check that first and haven't seen it yet. It teaches the kids time management too.

Come on Microsoft/Windows Live team. Give us what we want/need. It's for the best and that's what you want for our children isn't it??? lol ha

All the parents have to is say, if you touch that ****ing application or remove it from the PC your ass is grounded for LIFE Then they just have to quote the drill Sargent scene from the movie Full Metal Jacket

warwagon said,
All the parents have to is say, if you touch that ****ing application or remove it from the PC your ass is grounded for LIFE Then they just have to quote the drill Sargent scene from the movie Full Metal Jacket

Or take away the computer.

Agreed with the above. The problem right now is a lot of the time, the kids know more than the parents. So anything the parents try, the kids can get around.

WelshBluebird said,
Agreed with the above. The problem right now is a lot of the time, the kids know more than the parents. So anything the parents try, the kids can get around.

I agree, as a child most simply go next door to do the things that they are not able to do at home. Children have been using that work around for centuries. You can influence your child's decisions best, simply by being their to nurture him, or her while giving positive examples with your behaviour and choices, do not delegate this assignment to anyone else in your community, or new computer settings. The end results will not be pleasing.

Only negative is it's easy to remove if you know what your doing.
Doesn't look like it uses any kind of Kernel Mode blocking, a quick app (userspace) that maps Family Safety's memory to it's own address space and zeros it out killed it effectively. And while the chances of most kids having any idea what that means or how to do it are slim, someone could easily distribute a program that disables it for them.

omnicoder said,
Only negative is it's easy to remove if you know what your doing.
Doesn't look like it uses any kind of Kernel Mode blocking, a quick app (userspace) that maps Family Safety's memory to it's own address space and zeros it out killed it effectively. And while the chances of most kids having any idea what that means or how to do it are slim, someone could easily distribute a program that disables it for them.

I find it kind of odd that a parent would go to such extreme lengths to just block websites for his child. It just seems like ineffective parenting.

Nathanael said,

I find it kind of odd that a parent would go to such extreme lengths to just block websites for his child. It just seems like ineffective parenting.

You must not be a parent. Just think about all the stuff you got away with as a kid that if your parents knew at the time, you would have surely been grounded....