Use Windows Vista to help enforce limits on your children’s computer use

This week we highlight a special feature of Windows Vista Parental Controls—time restrictions.


If you’re a parent, you know there’s more to guiding your children’s computer use than shielding them from inappropriate content or contact with strangers.


You also want to ensure that they aren’t on the computer for too long a time or when they’re supposed to be doing something else.


With Windows Vista, after you and your family have agreed on a set of rules governing computer use, Parental Controls can help enforce those limits.


Windows Vista Parental Controls are included in the non-business versions of Windows Vista, which are Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows Vista Home Premium, and Windows Vista Home Basic.


Before you can start customizing Parental Controls for your children, you need to create user accounts for each of them. To adjust settings, open Control Panel and then double-click User Accounts and Family Safety. After you select the child you want to apply restrictions to, click Time Limits.


Parental Controls Panel



You’ll see a grid that shows the days of the week and the hours of the day.



Time Restrictions window


In this example, the white boxes represent the times of day that you allow your child to use the computer. The blue boxes represent the times of day that your child is not allowed to use the computer.


Before you start changing settings, the grid is all white, because the default setting allows your children to use the computer at any time.


Click the specific times and days that you don’t want your child to use the computer. 


As your child nears the end of an approved time period, he or she receives warnings that the time period is about to expire.


If your child’s time ends before he or she logs off the computer, Windows Vista suspends your child’s session and displays the logon screen so someone else can use the computer.


Your child’s session stays active in the background, so the next time your child logs on, he or she can pick up where they left off without losing their work.


To learn more about other features of Windows Vista Parental Controls, see Features Explained: Parental Controls.


About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. CSMR

    Great feature this. Using other products, it’s always tricky to set things up so they can’t be defeated, so having secure parental controls based on UAC is great.

    Do you know if there is work being done to make it more advanced, or if third party companies are making use of this technology to provide more advanced controls?

    Specifically the one-hour period is quite long, it would be nice to have finer intervals, 30,20,15 or 10 minutes. Also having time-limits (certain amount of time one can use the computer in a day) is a popular request.

  2. Marcelle Amelia

    Thanks for the great feedback. We forwarded it to the parental controls team.

  3. keona1995

    Parental controls are a great feature, but for some reason it has stopped working on one particular computer, since about February 13, 2008. The error message is “Unable to change parental control settings. If this situation persists, see your system administrator.” My account is the system administrator. No settings can be changed now. Security Event logs are showing an Audit Failure having to do with an unknown user or password. The time correlates to when the Parental Controls applet was started. It is as if UAC no longer understands that the administrator account is indeed an administrator. Created a new administrative account, but the result is the same. I don’t have the exact logs since I am not at home, but it appears that beneath the indicated administrative account there is a blank SID and blank Administrator line. Again, this seems to indicate that the account has lots its association or proxy for the Administrator account.

  4. Nikkita

    My son is able to access by right clicking and viewing the control panal then access parental controls and change the time limits. how can I stop him from accessing the parental controls please?

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