Plus for Kids is for parents, too
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1997. First
published in Computer Player, August 1997.
Microsoft Plus for Kids
Requires: 8MB RAM; 32MB hard drive space; Windows 95;
It gives you kid-oriented desktop themes, it gives you
control. It's for kids who like horses, kids who like snowboarding,
who'd rather their computer looks like a messy room. It's Microsoft's
Plus! for Kids.
Designed as an enhancement for Windows 95 and NT
family computer users,
P4K does a good job of appealing at the same to time to kids and their
Kids will like at least some of the ten desktop
themes. These themes,
as in the original, adult-oriented Plus! Pack, give you wallpaper,
sounds, screen savers, and even animated cursors built around a single
idea... space, baseball, rain forests, underwater, and a realistically
cozy messy room.
Kids will also enjoy the included applications...
Paint It! is not surprisingly,
a paint program with some way-cool clipart. Play It! gives a
keyboard, complete with recording capabilities... add your own melodies
to pre-fab rhythms. Talk It! plays back what your child types.
Mom and Dad will by happy with the control that P4K
gives them over
their children's use of the computer. Building on Win95's built-in, but
hard to control security capabilities, P4K makes it easy to give each
their own log-in. This lets each member of the family have their own
desktop-complete with their preferred theme. But more important, it
parents control access to documents and applications on their
the Protect It! utility lets parents ensure that their children can't
the system files or their work files, for example... and each child can
have their own, customized Start Menu.
(One glitch-P4K shuts off CD-ROM Autoplay, which
disks when they're inserted into the CD player... a nice feature,
for young children.)
P4K also tried to provide a similar level of control
and security over
children's Web surfing- with less success. Parents can restrict
access to sites that have been rated by the Recreational Software
Council (RSAC), screening out sex, violence, and bad language. However,
most sites are currently unrated-this doesn't mean they're
The option of limiting children's surfing to sites with acceptable
shuts off the Yahoo search engine, for example. In addition to P4K's
Web control, a trial-version of SurfWatch is included.
For under $30, Microsoft's Plus! for Kids provides a
nice mix of applications
and customization for kids, with well-implemented security features for
parents or teachers. Businesses with multiple-users on their computers
may want to take a look at Symantec's $99 For Your Eyes Only.