Review of Microsoft Family Safety Installation

Today im reviewing Microsoft Family Safety with a consideration on e-Safety for parents

“With Family Safety, you decide how your kids experience the Internet. You can limit searches, block or allow websites, decide who your kids can communicate with when they’re using Windows Live Messenger, Hotmail, or Spaces and monitor what websites they’re visiting…”

In this review I will be installing the package and looking at what this really means in real life.

The product is easily downloadable from

Once you have downloaded and run the package you get this installer screen:

I was shocked to see Photo Gallery, Toolbar, Writer, some outlook and some Live Add ins bundled. Also SQL Server CE 3.1 is required and some of my applications will be updated.
For me this is bloatware already. I want an application that does what it sais in the blurb so I am going to remove all of the additional programs except from Family Safety (However you may want some of this functionality).
With everything else removed the install is a quite large 109 MB. I hope this disk space usage is justified.
I needed to close MSN messenger to proceed and the install process took 8 minutes to complete on a machine with with an Intel Core2 6600 & 2 GB ram.
Once install is complete you are presented with this screen:
I have already set my search provider to google safe search and my home page to Primary School Safe Search so I don’t want to do that. I also don’t want to help improve Windows Live, not right now.
Now for a restart… Microsoft never seemed to learn that this is the most frustrating thing about most of their products for IT professionals however parents might not mind this restart as much.
After the restart I was prompted to “Sign Up” to Windows live but I already have windows live so I clicked Close. Nothing has been placed on my desktop or start menu and Windows Live Messenger has not opened as it usualy does. Very bad first impression.
I had to browse to Start – Windows Live – Family Safety, here I tried to sign in as a parent using my hotmail/live username/password. I was given an Error That I have not yet ereviews the Windows Live Terms of Use. No link was provided. I logged into my hotmail to look for the Live Terms of Use.. I clicked More then Family Safety and then clicked “I accept”.
Then I clicked Sign in again, now im in. Already im convinced this is too complicated for parents.
I am going to leave it here for today, it has been 30 minutes so far and the install is done but the configuration isn’t.
In my opinion most parents would simply not go through this entire process as it is too complicated.
Part 2 of this post will review configuration. Expect it in a few days.

eSafety – Software for schools, have we gone too far?

In the education sector there has been a massive push towards software that makes children using the internet a safer experience. eSafety is commonly taught in all schools and interestingly enough there is also an approach to “schools must teach more” with the recent formal introduction of PSHCE. From an outside point of view that seems to me that the 2 angles of approach must meet in the middle.  

It seems to scream to me “Teachers must teach more eSafety!“.

Consider a man wanting to cross a road, he can be instructed by the signs to a safe place to cross or we can only allow him to cross in one place. By allowing children to be educated into where we cross the road we don’t restrict them to closed options. It seems to me that we actively encourage them to make decisions and therefore learn.

Is our current approach correct?

In many ways no. We still have a compulsive fascination with ways to protect our children. Being that I was brought up in the soils of Yorkshire, I find it hard to understand a constant barrage of rules, regulation and “health ‘n safety”. We are not doing enough to empower pupils to make decisions in eSafety and this is mostly to blame on Software houses and the demand on software houses to make overly protective environments for children to learn in.

Are we confusing eSafety with a need to have extended controls?

The example I like to use is a teacher asking his or her pupils to sign into their hotmail accounts which they created. The pupils begin logging, suddenly a scream from the back bellows “Miss I can’t remember my password!”. The teacher is Shocked and now baffled by the puzzle they face. The teacher doesn’t have time to run through the registration process all over again and they can’t reset the password.

The only way this could be resolved quickly is by giving the teacher the means to reset a pupils password or by having a helpdesk type system.

Another great example where extended controls is Primary School Safe Search. With Primary School Safe Search you can Google search any site you want. Instead of displaying a set of search results from a few hundred sites, Primary School Safe Search displays all the safe search results but prioritises the educational and school related materials to the top of the search – filtering only websites catagoriesed explicitly.

My final example is that if a teacher wants to open a pupils mailbox and its with gmail/hotmail etc. to find out if that pupil is being bullied, can they?

We must educate the pupils, and empower the teacher.