For always we have wanted to have control over our kids smartphones, wanting to know what they do and who they chat to. There have always been a host of utilities to keep tabs on our kids, however, some of them are paid while others are free.
The Microsoft Family Safety app provides a set of reporting and parental control tools for people with Microsoft accounts. With filtering controls, location reporting, and app-usage recording, this app gives parents a way to monitor their family’s digital footprint.
Again, to use it, you’ll need a Microsoft Account, as well as an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Alternatively, you can head to the web dashboard to view your family members’ recorded data on a PC or Mac.
What Can the Microsoft Family Safety App Do?
The Microsoft Family app is a platform for parents to monitor how their children and other family members use their digital devices.
It allows you to monitor the screen time and app usage of each family member whenever they use a Windows or Xbox device. You can also limit access if someone’s screen time is excessive, or block certain apps (like games) if they become a problem. This feature isn’t available on Apple devices, however.
The app can also filter certain apps or websites so they can’t be accessed at all. If you have younger family members who use digital devices, this allows you to limit the kind of content to which they’ll be exposed.
If you’re worried about their safety, you can also take advantage of the built-in location-tracking feature. Using the GPS on someone’s iPhone or Android device, you can see where that person is. You can also save favorite locations so it’s easier for everyone to find each other.
The biggest downside of the app, however, is that any limitations you apply will only work with other Windows or Microsoft products. For instance, if you want to filter websites, you have to use Microsoft Edge on your smartphone or Windows PC.
Additional features, such as driver-safety monitoring, and travel departure and arrival notifications, are planned for future updates, though.
Setting Up the Microsoft Family Safety App
To set up the Microsoft Family Safety app, you’ll first need to install it on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. The first member of a family group becomes the “Family Organizer.” This person has the ability to add new members and change the settings for other family members.
You can download and install the app from the Google Play Store for Android, or the App Store for an iPhone or iPad. If you haven’t yet created a family group, one will be created automatically when you first sign in to the app.
You’ll need to give the app permission to operate in the background, as well as provide your location for monitoring. If you don’t want to provide this information, just tap “Skip” in each prompt.
After you sign in and accept or refuse the requested permissions, you’ll see the main menu called “Your Family.” It contains a list of your family members, along with their current locations if they’ve shared it.
You can switch between “List” mode, in which family members are listed by name, and “Map” mode, in which you’ll see where each family member is on a world map.
Inviting Family Members
When you first create a family group, you’ll be the “Family Organizer” and the only person in it.
To add new family members, tap “Add Someone” in “List” mode on the “Your Family” screen.
You can invite new family members using their phone number or email address. Anyone you invite will also have to have a Microsoft account.
If someone doesn’t have a Microsoft account, you can tap “Create an Account” to create one for them.
Anyone you invite has to accept the invitation within 14 days. After someone accepts, that person’s name will appear in the “Your Family Members” list.
You can then view information about this family member, including their screen time report. You can also enable content and app filters by tapping that person’s name in the “Your Family Members” list.
You’ll be able to see a family member’s screen-time usage for the current and last seven days in the “Screen Time” information tile. That person will need to sign in to a device before this information can be recorded, however.
Enabling Content Filters and App Limits
Once family members are added to your family group, you can set filters and limits to prevent them from accessing inappropriate content or certain apps.
To do this, tap a family member’s name in “Your Family.”
On the report page for that person, tap the Gear icon at the top right.
This opens the individual settings for that person. Here, you can set activity reports and app and game limits, and enable web filters. You can also limit the age range of apps and games someone can install on a Windows PC or Xbox.
Just toggle-On any of the options you want to enable.
If an option is grayed out, that means this family member is too old for those settings to be applied. For example, you can’t enable activity reports for any adults in your family (it might be possible to enable web filters, though).
For older children, you might be able to set up activity reporting, but you might not be allowed to limit their app or game usage. These limits are determined by the age set in someone’s Microsoft account.
Changing Content Filter Settings
If you’ve enabled a content filter for a family member, you can make changes to these settings by tapping “Content Filters” on that person’s report page.
To access someone’s report page, tap their name on the “Your Family” menu.
In the “Content Filters” menu, you can quickly see the settings applied to that person’s apps, games, and web content.
To change these settings, tap anywhere under “Apps and Games” or “Web and Search.”
Setting App and Game Limits
Depending on the age of a family member, you can set restrictions on the types of games or apps he or she can use on Windows or Xbox devices. Despite the slightly deceptive name, this will not restrict content on that person’s smartphone or tablet unless that device also runs Windows.
To set restrictions based on age, tap the “Apps and Games Up to” drop-down menu.
The Family Organizer must then approve any app purchases or installations within the accepted age range a family member makes using the Microsoft Store.
These requests will be sent to you via email, with a link to approve or refuse the choice.
Whenever that family member tries to install a new app or game, you can either add it to your “Always Allowed” list, or restrict it so it can never be installed. Your selections will then appear under “Always Allowed” or “Never Allowed.”
To remove an entry from either category, tap the Three-dot icon next to it, and then tap “Delete.”
Tap “Save” at the top right when you’re finished.
Setting Web and Search Limits
In the “Web and Search” section, you can enable a general web filter using Microsoft’s SafeSearch. To do so, toggle-On the “Filter Inappropriate Websites” option. This will block inappropriate or adult content on Windows, Android, or Xbox devices using Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer.
If this setting is enabled, that family member also won’t be able to use other browsers to bypass the setting. You can also completely restrict a family member to view only approved websites. To do so, just toggle-On the “Only Let Them Use Allowed Websites” option.
To add websites to the approved or blocked lists, tap “Add a Website,” type the URL, and then press Enter. That website will then be added to the list.
To remove a site, tap the Three-dot icon, and then tap “Delete” in the dropdown.
When you’re done, tap “Save” at the top right.
Adding Saved Locations
“Map” mode on the “Your Family” menu provides an overview of your family members’ current locations. Family members who have location settings enabled will appear as a blue dot on the map.
This is also a handy place to store any locations you or your family might visit. For example, if someone is at a friend’s house, you might want to save that location. That family member might also want to do this so you’ll know where they are.
To add a new location to the list, tap “Add a Place.”
When you start typing an address in the “Enter Address” text box, a list of suggestions will appear; tap one to add that full address.
You can also type a name for this location in the “Name This Place” text box.
You can also set the size of a designated area by tapping “Small,” “Medium,” or “Large.” For example, a large area might be appropriate for a school, while a smaller one would work for a friend’s home.
Tap “Save” when you’re ready to save a location. Whenever a family member visits that location, the name and address will appear at the bottom of the menu so you can quickly see where that person is.
This is another tool as similar to Google Family Link offering the very same idea of keeping tabs on our kids and their online activities.
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