Family safety is important. Vital. Luckily, Windows 10 comes with a robust set of parental controls, the best included in the operating system. And thanks to the power of the cloud, you now can manage and keep little Timmy safe on all his devices.
Whether he is using a Windows 10 PC, a phone, or even the Xbox One console. Microsoft provides you with several options for filtering inappropriate web content, applications, and media.
These include limiting web browser in Edge and Internet Explorer, filtering mature content from search results, set age restrictions for apps, games, and media acquired via the Microsoft Store, set a schedule or a maximum number of hours of screen time, as well as receive reports on web browsing and application usage.
We’ll be taking a look at all this, and more, in this complete guide to Windows 10 Parental Controls.
How do Parental Controls Work?
Before we get down to the nuts and bolts of how parental controls work, let’s discuss a little about what they are in general, and why we use them. We’ll then take a look at what options you have available built into Windows 10, and how you can set them up to keep the little ones safe online.
The essential idea behind parental controls is to limit what children can do with an electronic device.
That is the most basic definition, and you will find that there are different forms of parental controls methods available that help you accomplish this. Some let you limit the daily screen time of your children; others allow you stop them from using a computer after a particular time.
There are others that restrict video or game content based on their ratings.
Furthermore, there are forms of parental controls that outright block websites or types of content that you specify. You can also set up monitoring to review what your children are doing on their devices, and Windows 10 helps you with this.
Point being, no matter your parenting style, you will find a control that works for you.
We’ll get to what parental controls are available in the Windows 10 operating system. Though one thing worth keeping in mind is that parental controls are not foolproof, while a toddler will not be able to bypass what you have set up, a teenager might be able to outwit your setup and get around the blocks.
Windows 10 Parental Controls
Microsoft first provided pervasive parental controls functionality in its operating system, starting with Windows Vista. Parents got a way to create and enforce settings related to computer usage, including a web filter, time limits, games, and applications. They could allow and disallow individual websites, downloading, or even prevent specific software programs from being launched.
This feature was carried forward in Windows 8, and a few useful improvements added, and the Parental Controls feature had its name changed to Family Safety.
Windows 10 actually bands together all these features in the newly created Windows Defender Security Center, which lists these Family Options under one screen. This program lets you manage, in detail, all the various parental control options — from deciding which websites your kids can visit when they browse the web to screen time limitations and even what apps and games they see and can purchase.
Everything you need to keep track of your child’s digital life, so to say.
And rather than running a program on your computer, Windows 10 lets you manage parental controls online from a particular website Microsoft has set up. This webpage allows you to monitor and access your children’s activity from your PC, tablet, or smartphone
How to Set up Parental Controls in Windows 10?
Just like most other things in the operating system, the process of setting up parental controls in Windows 10 is relatively straightforward. You just need to add a unique family user account to your device, indicating that they are a child under your supervision and then setting up content and usage restrictions.
Things you need to complete the process
- Internet Access
- Administrator privileges on a desktop or tablet
- At least one Microsoft account, designated as parent
- Individual Microsoft accounts for each child that will be using the device
- Access to your child’s email account
As you can see, you need a Microsoft account to set everything up; a local Windows account will not suffice. And while it is possible to set up parental controls on a Windows 10 Mobile handset, the process is much more natural on a large PC screen.
Follow these steps below first to set up your child's account.
Setting up your Child's Account
To apply Windows 10 parental controls, you will need to add a child account via the Windows Settings panel. Once their account is set up, you can then set up limitations and content controls through your own Microsoft account.
1. Open Settings, and go to the Accounts
2. Select Family & other people.
3. Under Your Family, click on Add a family member.
4. A wizard will open up that will allow you to add the account for your child. You will need to access their email to confirm, so create a new email address if you want here.
5. After a couple more steps, Windows will ask you whether you want to let your child use their Microsoft account online. Confirm to apply Windows 10 parental controls to these online services like Xbox Live and the Microsoft Store.
6. And finally, you will be asked for your consent to allow your child to use third-party apps, along with a charge of 50 cents to the credit card of an adult if you are in the United States. This cost, unfortunately, is not optional, and Microsoft donates this fee to charity.
Now, you just need to open your child’s email address, and you will find an email from Microsoft Family inviting them to join your family network. Accept the invitation by clicking the blue button. You may need to log out of your own Microsoft account first.
Accessing Parental Control Settings
With your child’s Microsoft account activated, and you recognized as their responsible adults, it is now time to set up and apply parental controls to your Windows 10 devices. As noted above, this is all done online, from a streamlined portal.
You can access the link to the portal from both the Settings app as well as the latest addition to Windows 10, the Windows Defender Security Center. For the latter, merely go to the Family option section and then click on the View family settings link to get started. You can also view and manage your devices from here.
The screen looks like this:
Clicking on the link will open up the Family Safety website, which is a section on the Microsoft Accounts page. Here, you will find all your family members, adult and children, neatly listed. And you can monitor your children, and set limits on their computer behavior, just by clicking or tapping on their name.
You can also directly invite your family members from this website. The company will send the emails and notify you when your children accept. You can, apparently, login to their accounts individually and set things up yourself.
Microsoft also maintains a little FAQ section on this website that you can use to stay informed and up to date on features that you can use, and options that are coming up next. It is very occasionally updated, but still is an excellent resource to learn about various options.
Managing Windows 10 Parental Controls
Although parental controls via Microsoft Family work well, few things in the world of computers are foolproof. These restrictions only monitor your child when he or she logs in via Microsoft account.
If you’re worried about your children’s computer use, it is always a good idea to cast an occasional eye their way.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of options for you to manage. The Microsoft Family website offers these categories that apply settings whenever your child access a Windows 10 computer, tablet or phone.
Activity monitors their recent actions, offering a quick rundown of your child’s computer usage. An instrumental section for parents that consider time.
Web browsing provides toggles to block adult content, disable browsing in private, and turn on the SafeSearch option on Bing to protect against malware and other threats. You can also add sites to an Allow or Blocklist below, and also define whether downloads are allowed or not.
Apps, games & media section can be used to block inappropriate apps and games, for any age between 3 and 20. It can also be used to set up age restrictions for download or stream content from the Microsoft Store, for both Windows and Xbox devices.
Screen time is where you will find settings for the maximum amount of time your child can have each day on the Xbox or PC. You can set up multiple timeslots per day for each, by the hour.
Purchase & spending provides access to the purchase history of your children, manage payment options, and also lets you set things up so that they stay within limits when buying apps, games, and media from the Store.
Find your child handles the simple task of showing you the location of your child’s device.
Your changes take place immediately, so when you are through, just close your web browser, and your setting will be updated. Do keep in mind that all these configurations above only apply to Microsoft products, services, and solutions.
For example, they will only work when your child is using Edge or Internet Explorer web browsers. They will not come into play when they fire up Firefox or Chrome. There is a selection of third-party applications like Net Nanny that offer enhanced content filtering and stronger parental controls.
Still, these are some convenient options that Microsoft has built for its platform, and should be enough for most parents with preteen kids in the house. The ability to define usage by hours alone is a dominant little control feature, as are the various options for the Microsoft Store.
Ultimately, it all comes down to parents to talk to their children regarding safe Internet usage, and the best practices to stay safe and secure online. The digitized world of today exposes young ones to the Internet much earlier than before.
While all these parental control options are good to have as an additional layer, the best way forward is to for parents to build trust with their child around the subject and sharing the knowledge of Internet safety.