How to Parent Proof a Computer


Many of us take for granted just how lucky we are to have grown up in the age of the developing internet, and the dominance of computers. What many of us don’t take for granted, however, is how often we roped into the role of family tech-support. As obligated as we are, as necessary as we know it is, trying to repair or set up a computer for a less-than-technologically-adept parent or grandparent can be an exercise in frustration, so in this article, we aim to help.

Installing First

The first step to preparing a computer for the unprepared is to expect the worst. Dangerous things will be clicked, dangerous programs will get downloaded, and basic computer maintenance will not be applied, not without reminders. A good start is to find the sort of antivirus system which is the right fit for the host device. It is important to note that what works for you might be a bit too complicated for someone else, so check some of the more trusted review sites in order to find one which even the most amateur of users won’t confuse. You’ll also want to note down what happens when a program needs access, and what is and is not openly suspicious.


Ad blockers can also be a good start, though we do encourage the whitelisting of the more trusted websites in the interest of keeping guys like us going.

Use a Real Notepad

While it can be a big help to keep all of what you want to teach in a text file on the host computer itself, it should be noted that this text file will be lost or deleted. Instead, use an actual physical note-book which can be placed by the computer, or in a desk drawer. These are far less likely to get lost and help the slightly technophobic in finding their way. A simple solution, but one which, in our experience, has major payoffs in the long-term. This is especially the case if you want to teach something which requires multiple steps, like downloading torrents, and finding where these downloads actually go.

Assume Nothing

There are lots of little things which we experienced users tend to overlook when it comes to computer operations than the new or unfamiliar user will not. The level of harm here depends on the general behavior of the user themselves, but we can take steps to ensure safety by acting in the presumption that even the most basic of tricks will be fallen for.

The most common two examples of this we constantly see is first the installation of third-party programs which often come alongside ostensibly free or trial software. Things like browser add-ons or search bars are the most common, so be sure to teach the user that these sort of things will try to sneak in, and they will try to sneak in a lot. Likewise, effort needs to be made in explaining the difference between real error messages and fake messages through ads. While ad blockers will minimize this risk, they cannot eliminate them entirely. Far too many times we’ve had to explain that clicking an image which looks like the close window button is not the same as clicking the close window button, so be prepared.

Diligence is Key

We cannot fully predict the ways in which new users can mess up their systems, but by staying alert, we can at least mitigate the risks. Each time a new mistake is made be sure to not just repair the issue, but explain how the issue was created in the first place, and note down in the physical notebook how to avoid this problem in the future. The road is still going to be long and frustrating, but with these tips, at least we should be able to prevent our family from driving in a valley and exploding.