Monday, August 21, 2006

Kid-proofing a PC

I recently bought Robin a laptop, which meant that her 3+ year-old PC is now freed up to do the thankless job of being the kids’ computer. It’s running WinXP home, and has a wifi connection to the home network, and before I let the kids run loose on the thing, I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve been through this process.

First, the stats: my oldest son is 6, his brother is 4 and Becca’s a couple years from being on a computer. The computer has plenty of RAM (half a gig), a decent processor (1+ ghz, if memory serves) and lots of hard drive space. Most of what the kids will be doing for the next year or so will be playing a handful of Windows-based games (educational, nothing too taxing on the graphics processor), visiting a few family-friendly websites, and, in Ricky’s case, possibly sending/receiving emails to family members. Basic Internet access for playing chess with me when I travel would be cool too.

I’m not particularly interested in locking this thing down tighter than a drum (that’ll just turn me into 24×7 tech support for yet another PC, something I really don’t want to have happen), but I am interested in taking basic precautions to keep them safe and in avoiding the inadvertent “oops, I deleted the hard drive” kind of stuff. So… what have you done?

Thanks for any suggestions.


  1. I have let my kids have free access to my old desktop for over a year - they are now 11, 6 and 4. They tend to unplug the mouse a lot, and keep 28 windows open with flash games going in each one... but so far, the hard drive is safe and sound.

    They don't care about going into weird folders that can crash everything down - they just want to know how to spell the URLs correctly so they can get to! :)

  2. besides for Net Nanny and Kidmail I kind of let my 8 year old go at it on the machine.

  3. My 4 and 6 year old have a desktop folder with their links and program in them. They know they can use that folder and are quite content just to click in there and don't care about the rest of the stuff on the computer since.

    Go with a keyboard and mouse you don't mind replacing. Juice and milk have adverse effects on keyboards and mice in direct proportion to their cost.

  4. Rick, I have a feeling kid proofing technique is something you just end up perfecting after the hard drive has been deleted.


  5. What do you mean a couple of years away for the little one? Us developers start 'em early. Here's a shareware link for the baby programmers:

    dl link:

    more info from:

    For my older one, I've setup graphic shortcuts to pbskidsgo, nickjr, cartoon network's websites and hoping good 'ol parental guidance will continue to work.

  6. When Saul (age 5 3/4) uses the Mac, he has a few things he knows how to do and tends to stick with those. (Flickr, Tux Paint, and watching Bob the Builder DVDs). I've been sitting with him and typing for him to do Walker Tracker too for the last couple of days.

    If he does figure out how to get to a Unix shell, I guess I'll teach him shell commands. How old do you suppose?