Struggle with Parental Control


I have struggled with the parental control since Gavin started remote learning about a year ago. The unprecedented pandemic imposed a great challenge for a third-grader: how to keep focus with massive screen time?

The parental control complements when the will power fall short. It is hard to get it right though due to the comprehensive attacking surfaces:

  • The user should access the school-approved resources, such as EduTyping freely.
  • The user should not engage non learning-related activities with the computer, such as gaming, and web surfing.

Microsoft Windows has a built-in parental control solution, called Microsoft Family Safety. It can filter the web content based on the Allowed Sites and Blocked Sites. We started from the Blocked Sites then quickly moved to the Allowed Sites, — there were more distractions in the internet besides Youtube and Roblox. When accessing unauthorized web site, the browser will block the request, and send a notification for the parent to evaluate. However, this policy only applies to the first-party browser, Microsoft Edge; ensure all other browsers are explicitly blocked in the App and Games.

Gavin soon figured out he could install browsers from Microsoft Store. Unlike Apple’s block-all-and-ask-permission policy, Microsoft Store allow the child to install app as long as it is free and with no age restrictions. I had to apply a group policy to disable the Microsoft Store as instructed here. I also turned on Disable all apps from Windows Store option to block the bundled Candy Crash Saga. Also remember to restart Windows to for these policies to take effect.

Disable Microsoft Store in Group Policy Editor
Disable Microsoft Store in Group Policy Editor

Gavin logged into Windows as a Standard User, so he could not install any application system-wide; but he could install them, such as Chrome, into his user account. Luckily he has not figured out this yet. Otherwise, we may want to try the AppLocker.

After several rounds whack-a-mole, we found Gavin still managed to waste time on Google doodle games, or just zoned out. At the end, we asked Gavin to go downstairs and stay in the living room for all the school activities, so we can have an eye on him.