Tony from U.S. writes:

Question: Hi! I would like your help on how I can set a timer like they do at the Public Library with their computers so that when my kids turn on the PC it will shut off or prevent them from using it after a certain time. Can you help me?

If you’re using Windows, you can control a variety of settings for the kids. First go either to the Start Menu in Windows 7 or the search function on the Windows 8 Charms Bar and start typing “Parental.” Windows 7 should show you Parental Controls while Windows 8 will bring up Family Safety.

You’ll be give the option to start a Windows Live Family Safety Account. This is a free service. You will have to log in with a Windows Live ID or create a Windows Live account. I’m not going to walk you step-by-step through the entire process as the set-up process for your family account does that pretty effectively. Once you’re set up, you can choose which users to set parental controls for on that device.

Among your options:

Web Filtering – which will control what sites your children can visit.

Time Limits – which control when and how long children can use the computer.

Windows Store and Game Restrictions – which can prevent your kids from playing games by either title or rating.

App Restrictions – which control what apps are allowed on that device.

The set-up process will walk you step-by-step through setting up the restrictions. You will be able to limit your children’s time in two ways. You can select how much time each child is permitted on the computer each day. You’ll notice you can have different settings for weekdays and weekends.

You can also set up a grid that precisely limits what times and days your child can use the PC. So, if someone is supposed to be practicing the piano, there’s no logging onto the Internet.

Windows Family Security has a lot of options for parental controls, and best of all, it’s free. You will also find options for tracking your children’s computer history. So, if you’re curious what they’ve been up to online, this is how to find out.

Sorry kids, but Mom and Dad know best.

~ Cynthia