It should come as no surprise that kids are spending more time on their devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how do you know they’re striking the right balance between remote learning, social media and Fortnite? Well, that’s where Microsoft’s new Family Safety app comes in. The free software, announced in March, is now out of ‘preview’ and available for anyone with an iOS or Android device to download.
You can use the app to set custom time limits for specific Android, Windows and Xbox applications, including video games like Minecraft. If a child requests an extension, you have the option of extending their allowance by 15 or 30 minutes, as well as one, two or three hours. The Family Safety app can also be setup so you get an email whenever they want to buy something through the Microsoft Store, and set up various web and search filters in the (now Chromium-based) Edge browser.
If you just want to keep tabs on your little one, the app can be configured to send a weekly ‘activity report’ email that breaks down their screen time by device and application. The idea, of course, is to help you know when there’s a problem and start a conversation with your loved ones. Finally, the app offers location tracking so that you can instantly see where all of your family members are in the real world. In the future, Microsoft 365 Family subscribers will also get alerts when a family member enters or leaves a specific location. The premium plan will offer some kind of ‘drive safety’ habit tracking, too, starting in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.
None of these tools are particularly groundbreaking, and they’re obviously useless if your family spends most of their free time on Macs, iPhones and iPads. If every member is invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, though, this could be a decent dashboard — or a first port of call, if nothing else — for ensuring they’re living a healthy life both online and in the real world.