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Make your PC kid-friendly with four custom operating systems

Marco Chiappetta | March 15, 2013
Parental controls are outdated. Make your PC fun for all ages using operating systems designed specifically for tech-savvy tykes.

Teaching little kids to use computers is a great idea, but the thought of exposing innocent minds to the drek that flies across the Internet is enough to make a sane parent think about relocating to Amish country.

I'm a new parent myself, and as a long-time tech enthusiast, I'm struggling to find the best way to teach my kids about PCs. Letting a kid run wild on a computer with an online connection is a recipe for disaster--there's simply too much inappropriate content and too many ways to reach it, even accidentally.

Sure, you can spend a few hours setting up Windows parental controls, blocking certain content, and installing software to monitor what your kids are doing online. But not only is that a lot of work, it's beyond the technical capabilities of many PC owners.

Luckily, the solution is out there, though it's in the place you'd least expect: the world of Linux. The good people of the open-source Linux community have created specialized operating systems and environments that make the process of setting up a kid-friendly PC a breeze.

For the purposes of this guide, we're going to run through Qimo, Edubuntu, DoudouLinux, and KIDO'Z. All of these operating systems limit what your PC can access, so it's easier to keep tabs on what kids are doing. Of course, none of these tools are an adequate substitute for real hands-on parenting with tech-savvy tykes, but they're far more powerful, user-friendly, and educational than the parental controls baked into Windows.

Qimo For Kids 

If you're setting up a PC for very young children, then Qimo is the operating system you want to use. Qimo is a free, kid-friendly OS based on the popular Ubuntu Linux distro, with a custom interface designed for very young users. Qimo also comes with a bunch of educational, kid-friendly applications preinstalled, and offers built-in content filtering controls to ensure young users are less likely to encounter unsavory content while they're playing on the PC or browsing the Web.

It's a relatively lightweight OS that requires only 256MB of RAM, 6GB of storage space, and a 400MHz CPU to run. Qimo is available as a free download from the Qimo4Kids website, and you can install it on your PC as your primary operating system, install it alongside Windows, or just run it directly from a Live CD or bootable flash drive.

To do so, you must first download an ISO file from the website and either burn it to a CD or extract it to a bootable external drive. When done, simply boot to the disc (or external drive) and follow the on-screen prompts to either install or run the OS. Keep in mind, if you install the OS to a system it will wipe out whatever OS already resides on the machine. If you don't have a spare CD handy you can buy a custom-printed installation disc from Qimo for a small fee, which covers the cost of printing the disc and shipping it to you.


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