If you’re buying a new computer for a child, or even letting them use a new one for the family, it pays to have the right setup right from the start, to nip any problems in the bud.
Exposure to adult content, malware, or even the accidental deletion of all your precious family photos are just some of the risks you take if you don’t properly prepare a computer for a child.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to set up a Windows PC, Apple Mac, or Google Chromebook to minimize the risk of your child – or the computer – being harmed.
How to Set Up a Windows PC for a Child
The key to managing children on a Windows PC is not allowing them access to the main “admin” account. With administrator access, it’s far too easy for kids to install unwanted software, viruses, or inadvertently delete your own files.
Whether you’re giving an older child their own computer or just letting them use the family computer, create a separate user account for the child. To do this in Windows 11:
· Open Settings.
· Click on Accounts in the left menu.
· If you have already created a Microsoft Family account on another computer, click on Family, select the child’s name and click on Authorize connection. Once done, select Change Account Type and make sure Standard User is selected.
· If you’ve never used Microsoft Family, click Family, then click Add someone and follow the prompts to create a Microsoft account for your child.
Once the child account is set up, you can then manage their activity on the computer from the Microsoft Family website or mobile app. This has a huge range of options and settings. For example, you can set screen time limits, ensuring the laptop is only used between set times, with the option to give them more leeway on weekends.
You’ll also be able to see (and control) the apps and games they install, as well as apply some fairly basic web filtering for Microsoft’s own Edge browser. Your broadband provider may offer a more comprehensive set of web filters that apply to any device connected to home Wi-Fi, although none of these filters are perfect.
Microsoft will also send you a weekly activity report that shows what your child has been doing on their computer and how much time they spend there. This means you don’t have to constantly monitor the Family website or app.
What about security software? A few years ago, a third-party antivirus package was a must-have for any Windows PC. However, in recent years, the built-in Windows Defender has proven more than competent in a series of independent tests of security software. It is enabled by default in Windows 10 and 11.
How to Set Up a Mac for a Child
If you’ve read our guide to setting up a phone for your child, some of this information will be familiar to you, as Apple uses the same system for Macs as it does for the iPhone. And if you’ve already set up iPhone with parental controls, half the job is done for you.
As with Windows, first set up the Mac with your own administrator account, then create a separate account for the child. To do this on a Mac updated to the latest operating system, Ventura, follow these steps:
· Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen and select System Settings.
· Select Users and Groups from the left menu and Add Account.
· Create an account for your child and make sure you select Standard from the account type drop-down menu at the top.
Once the account is created, log out of your account and log in with the child’s username and password, which you just created. If the child already has an Apple account, you can enter their username and password during setup. Otherwise, you can create a new account.
Once you’re done setting up the new account, click the Apple icon in the top left again, choose Settings, and this time select Screen Time.
If you have previously set up Parental Controls on an iPhone, you will now be asked to enter the PIN you created on that device. Otherwise, you will need to create a new PIN to ensure that the child does not manipulate the settings themselves.
As you’ll see, there are a range of different settings you can apply, including limiting purchases, limiting Mac usage hours, and limiting web content. In truth, Apple’s web filters aren’t great – so it’s definitely worth looking at the filters offered by your broadband provider, or even considering third-party parental control software, to back up the rather limited options. from Apple.
When it comes to Mac security software, serious threats are so rare that we’d be hesitant to recommend paying for dedicated Mac antivirus software. Mac’s built-in defenses protect against most attacks.
How to Set Up a Chromebook for a Child
Chromebooks are a great choice for kids. This is because the locked-down nature of Google’s operating system means it’s much harder for them to do anything catastrophic like downloading malware that can’t be moved or deleting your files. Harder, but not impossible.
Again, the key is to set up the child on their own account, not use yours. If your child already has an Android phone, you can use that same user account to log into the Chromebook. Then, as a parent, you can use Google’s Family Link website or app to control what they do with the Chromebook and phone.
To add a child account to the Chromebook, first add your own account, then:
· Click in the lower right corner of the screen and select Log Out.
· Click Add Person on the screen that now appears and select A Child.
· On the next screen, you will have the choice to create a new account or sign in with the child’s existing Google account. (A quick tip here: if they have a school Google account, don’t use it because you won’t have admin rights to the account).
Google’s settings menu will then guide you through the various parental control options, but you can always come back and change them on the Family Link website or app.
Here, for example, you can ensure that your child must get your approval first if they want to download apps, movies, TV shows or books – or for those who only have certain classes of age. You can set limits on the YouTube videos they watch, apply safe search settings, and tell Chrome Browser to block explicit sites. As always, vigilance is still required, as these filters are not bulletproof.
With Family Link, you can also limit screen time limits on devices, whether it’s a set number of hours per day or only allowing access during certain hours. These time limits can also be applied to individual applications, for example if you have to deal with a persistent addiction to Roblox.