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Tips for MSN Messenger users


A while back I shared a tip with you regarding a simple way to block access to AIM chatrooms using the PICS filters already bundled with MSIE. Many readers wrote back to thank me for that tip and I’m glad to have been of service. One reader wrote to ask if I had ever found a similar technique for restricting access to MSN Messenger chatrooms as well. Not having been a MSN user I honestly couldn’t offer any good advice. What I did reply with was that I would investigate and reveal my findings here. Today I make good on that promise.

MSN Messenger is basically an AIM rip-off. Some things are rearranged to look different but otherwise it’s very much the same. MSN chatrooms also work exactly the same way as AIM chatrooms. They’re both accessed by URLs with elements common to all of them. It’s these common elements that we prohibit which in turn prohibits entry into these Messenger style chatrooms.

Click Start / Settings / Control Panel.
Double click Internet Options.
Click the Contents tab.
Enable Content Advisor.
After choosing your password and Content Advisor is enabled, click the Settings button.
Reenter your password and click OK.

Internet Explorer comes with the RSACi PICS Internet filtering standard preinstalled. You can add others but for our purpose now we’ll just use this one. With Content Advisor enabled, the only sites allowed will be those that fall under the rating levels you set here, assuming pages you view are rated. If you don’t want to affect your general browsing, slide these 4 bars all the way to the right. Otherwise, set the viewing levels you desire.

Now click the Approved Sites tab. Here you can enter sites to always allow or always block. These take precedence over the ratings set earlier. To block access to MSN public chat rooms, copy this text into the Allow this Web site field:   chat.msn.com.   (FYI: Yahoo! Messenger should also be similar but I haven’t found the correct url to block yet. If anyone knows please tell me so I may share it with the others.)

Now click the Never button. This url is now added to the list that will always be blocked. Children can still IM each other through MSN and they can even invite friends into private chat rooms where only they interact. No public chat at all.

Now click the General tab. Here’s where we can have a little fun, especially if SurfSafely.com is your web directory of choice. If you uncheck the box next to Users can see sites that have no rating, users will not be able to view unrated sites unless you have added then to the approved list on the previous tab. For users of SurfSafely.com, this is no problem because all sites in the directory must be rated!   If you don’t want to be limited to our directory, then you browse the web at large where only about 0.1% are labeled. In this case, check the box so unrated sites can be viewed.

Finish by clicking OK, then OK again to accept Content Advisor settings. Your kids still get to IM their other friends. Just no public chat.

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