Cons: Only a one-year web filter subscription
Bottomline: Comprehensive software for any computer owner wanting better control over what their users do, be they children or adults
Controlling what children get up to on a computer is guaranteed to challenge even the most experienced of systems administrators, let alone devoted parents.
Even with the various extra controls that are built into Windows Vista, undesirable sites can slip through the net.
Parental Controls, from Webroot, does a very good job of giving an extra level of control, beyond what is already included with Windows Vista.
Creating user accounts in Windows is the only way to differentiate between members of the family and Parental Controls takes the sensible decision to use these Windows accounts, rather than demanding a separate username and password to access the internet – something that can result in the software being removed altogether.
The accounts are conveniently integrated into the Parental Controls interface, so there is no need to keep switching backwards and forwards. The only limitation is that the options only become available after the user has logged for the first time; however, this only adds a couple of minutes to the one-off setting-up process.
A special account is created to allow you to alter the software settings – this is required since it is not possible to change the settings for the account that that is currently logged in. There are five templates for user accounts, covering different age ranges.
The most obvious control requirement is web filtering, and Parental Controls comes with a one-year subscription for updates. There are more than 60 different categories that are well thought out and, should you need to, individual sites can be added to the block list on an ad-hoc basis. You can also add keywords to the block list.
Control over programs is important and this is laid out by the Start Menu, making it easier to find and control access to all the various programs installed on your PC. Furthermore, many users will want to impose certain restrictions on what users can get up to within the Windows environment.
Accessing the Task Manager or Command Prompt are common ways of getting around restrictions, and Webroot Parental Control can block these and more. Drives can also be blocked, although blocking optical drives is less important with the boom in USB memory keys.
Access to the Add/Remove Programs section in the Control Panel can be restricted, so certain users won’t be able to install or remove software, and you can even instruct the program to block attempts to log on to websites by entering their address into the Windows Explorer address bar.
Parental Control lets you specify the times when the computer can be used. While we don’t agree with the claim that setting the computer to automatically log children out of the computer at dinner or bedtime will prevent arguments, it at least puts the power back in the hands of the parent.
Should you want to temporarily lift some restrictions, single-use passwords can be granted which, when entered, can perform actions such as extending the amount of time allowed on the computer or temporarily allowing for extra software to be used.
Prevention is often better than cure, but it is still helpful to be able to see what children have been up to. Webroot Parental Control can compile reports on a variety of activities and these can be emailed to a specific address.