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Protecting Your Child
From Unwanted Computer Files

This article explains how to learn if your personal home computer contains files that are unsuitable for children.
You should contact your local police department in the event that something disturbing is discovered.
As a last resort you may contact us through our "Support" link and we will attempt to assist you.

Searching your Computer
This article uses examples from Windows XP.

To begin, you must ensure that you are the "Computer Administrator"
If you are not aware of this feature then you should perform the following steps:
1. Click the "Start" button at the lower left corner of the screen
2. Click "Control Panel" from the pop up list.
3. Click "User Accounts" from the Control Panel screen.
4. Ensure that your name is listed as the "Computer Administrator" see image below:
Setting user accounts in Windows XP
5. Not required but strongly advised is to set a password to protect your computer files.
6. Turn the "Guest" account on.  The guest account will provide full access to your computer but will not allow guest to change passwords.
7. Click "Create a new account" provides two type of accounts:
    a) "Administrator" account - this will be equal to your account and can delete your account.
    b) "Limited" account - suitable for children.  A limited account cannot delete or change the administrator's account.

Technical questions can be addressed here:

Recently Used Files
The most recently used files on your computer are kept in a list under: "My Recent Documents"
Parents may want to view this list to see what files their child has been opening.

To view the list on Windows XP:

  1. Click on the "Start" button.
  2. Select "My Recent Documents" from the list.
  3. A list of recently opened files appears.
  4. Click any file on the list to review it.
  5. If the file was on a removable disk it may prompt you for that disk.  A message will appear on Windows XP that looks like the following:

File is on external media

The "Recycle Bin"  - Looking in the trash
The "Recycle Bin" is on the Window's desktop screen.  It is an icon (a small picture) of a trash can.
When files are deleted they go into the Recycle Bin.  Files in the Recycle Bin can be restored until the Recycle Bin is emptied. 

Try this exercise:
Go to your Windows desktop and locate the "Recycle Bin"
Click on the  "Recycle Bin" to open it.
Look at the files that it presents.
Right click on one of the files and look at the pop-menu that is presented.
Select "Restore" from that pop up menu.

What just happened is that the file you selected to restore has disappeared from the Recycle Bin and is now on the Windows desktop.  You can now click the file that you just restored to the Windows desktop to see what it is.
(If the Recycle Bin has never been emptied it can take a long time for all the files to appear.)

If there are no files in the Recycle Bin
This means that the Recycle Bin has been emptied or no files have been deleted.
The Recycle Bin can be emptied by "right clicking" the Recycle Bin icon and selecting "Empty Recycle Bin"

You should check the Recycle Bin from time to time. 
Remember to empty the Recycle Bin if you have deleted files that you don't want your child to see.

Finding Hidden Files
 - Instructions for Windows XP

  1. Click on the Start button.
  2. Go to "All Programs"
  3. In the "Accessories" list find and select "Windows Explorer".
  4. Select "Tools" on the top menu.
  5. From the drop down menu that appears, select "Folder Options".
    This will bring up a screen with 3 tabs on the top: General, View and File
  6. Select "View".
  7. From the list in the visible window, scroll down to "Hidden Files and Folders"  - two choices are available:
    "Show Hidden Files and Folders" and "Do Not Show Hidden Files and Folders
    If "Show Hidden Files and Folders" is already selected then simply close out that window and skip the rest of this section.
  8. If "Do Not Show Hidden Files and Folders" is selected.  You must select "Show Hidden Files and Folders".  Click "Apply" in the tab at the bottom of that window - then click the "OK" tab.
  9. From the menu at the top of the page click "Views" - scroll down to the bottom and click "Refresh".

All files will now show.  Files that were marked "Hidden" will appear grayed-out (the color is slightly washed out in appearance).  You can still open that file by clicking on it.

The above is a good exercise even if the computer is new and should be carried out from time to time.  Look for anything unusual or that you did not intend to be loaded on your computer system.

Internet Browser
- Viewing its "History"
Chances are your that computer came with Window's "Internet Explorer" pre-installed and that's what you use for the internet.
Internet Explorer keeps a "History" that shows all the websites that your computer recently visited.
(Other popular internet browsers such as FireFox and Netscape also have a "History" file.)

Kids, adolescents and some adults use another popular Internet browser called  "Mozilla FireFox" or "FireFox" for short.  FireFox is free.  It can be downloaded from the internet for free and installed on your computer.  Look for it by using the following steps:
To see if FireFox is installed:
1. Click the "Start" button
2. Go to "All Programs"
3. Look for "Mozilla FireFox"
If you see it then you know that someone has installed it.
(This does not mean that it isn't installed.  This article doesn't go into the depth required to search the Program Files folder of the application directory.)

Using the FireFox browser you would select "Go" from the toolbar menu.  A column will appear on the left side of the screen with a list of visited websites.  Netscape works in a similar way.  For this exercise we will use Window's Internet Explorer
On Internet Explorer:
A. Click "View" from the menu on the toolbar at the top of the page.
B. Scroll down to "Explorer Bar"
C. Click "History"

A list of recently visited website links appears in a column on the left side.  From there you can select any link to view what was visited.  At the column's top you should see three options:  "Favorites", "Feeds" and "History".  History should already be selected.  Look at the History tab at the column top - you can select to view by date, most visited and most recent.
If the "History" window contains no history of links then it could mean that someone has "erased" the history.

What "Cookies" can tell you:
A "Cookie" is like a name tag that you might be given to wear at a corporate party.  A "Cookie" lets a website recognize you when you return to it.  You can easily delete cookies but you might find it annoying when your favorite website doesn't remember you.
Bank of America, Vanguard, E-Trade, HarborClassifieds - they all use cookies to be more user friendly.  So do adult oriented websites.
A "Cookie" name tag is left on your computer.

Taking a look at Cookies on your computer (Using Internet Explorer XP):
1. With Internet Explorer opened to your home page, click "Tools" and then click "Internet Options"
2. From the window box that opens, look for  the "Settings" button under "Browsing History" - see picture that follows:

Looking at Cookies stored on your computer

3. Click the "Settings" button as shown above.  Another window pops open.
4. On the that new window click "View Files"
5. The next page tells all the websites that have been visited since the last time you cleaned out the temporary internet files. There could be thousands of files.  Give your computer few seconds to retrieve all of them.

What to look for:
1. The second column will give the "Internet Address"
2. That column will contain addresses that look like:  or
3. Scan that column -  names like http;// www . a dult sonly,com or http;/ \\ www. x xx rated,com should not be there.  (note: the above links are modified to protect this site from search engines)
4. Do not visit a suspicious web site for verification without first making sure that your computer anti-virus is up to date and that you are operating behind a firewall
5. Contact your local police department if you find anything involving your child that you find disturbing.

Searching for Graphics:
1. Click the "Start" button on the bottom left of your computer screen.
2. Click "Search"
3. In the Search window type in the following: .jpg
4. Click "Search"
5. It might take a while for the search to run.  And it will only look for graphic files that end in .jpg -- you should also search for files ending in .gif
6. Finally, your search results should look something like the following.  If they don't, then select "Views" at the top of the results screen and then select "Thumbnails" and it will provide you with a little picture of what each graphic looks like. 
My "Search Results" screen is reduced in size and shown below:

Seach for graphic files ending with .jpg or .gif

Other Searches:
You can search the computer for files with your child's, their screen name or their friend's name in the file.
For example:  To search for the name "Allison" do this:
1. Click the "Start" button.
2. Click "Search"
3. Enter the word "Allison" (use  your child's name) without the quotes in the second box down as shown and click "Search" - search may take awhile depending on how many files are on your computer.
4. Click on any file that shows in the Search Results and it will open in the appropriate program.
5. The file names have been changed in the sample below.
Search for names within files

Hiding Places:
Computer files (graphics, text messages, e-mails, etc) can be hidden in a number of places.
Besides your computer there are places to put files. 
Removable media
- floppies, CD's and DVD, flash drives (jump drives), memory sticks and memory cards all can store files.
The flash drive is a common easy to use solid state (no moving parts) electronic storage drive.  The flash drive simply plugs into any USB port on a computer and acts like a hard disk drive (but without any moving parts).
Here are two flash drives and a memory card:
Flash Drives and memory card

With the caps removed you can see the part that plugs into the computer's USB port:
Flash drives and memory card
You can plug the flash drive into the USP port of your computer.  Depending on how your computer is set up, it should open a new window with a view of the folders and files on the flash drive.  Search the flash drive using the "Start" and "Search" commands.  You will have to use the drop down selection box under "Look in" to find the flash drive.  The flash drive will be listed something like: "LEXAR (F:)"  or "SANDISK" (E:) - depending on how your computer is configured.

This article address only the personal computer but there are other resources available for storing computer files.  Do a Google search for "free online storage" and many choices will appear that provide free file storage online.  Additionally, free hosting services are available, free website tools and free hosting services.

Links to this article from outside websites are permitted.
 Reproduction of any form prohibited.