Fri, August 19, 2022

MS New Family Safety App Now Available for Preview

Microsoft logo is seen on the new office building.

Families are working and learning from home now, spending a lot of time on their computers and phones. They are constantly looking for ways to ensure their loved ones are safe.

Microsoft, the Windows giant, is launching Family Safety. It is a dedicated new app designed for managing kids’ screentime and app usage.

The company has announced this in March and it’s now available in preview form on both Android and iOS. This helps you protect what matters most with digital and physical safety.  

They first announced the app as an extension of the company’s existing family group features for Windows and Xbox.

One has to fill out a form to access it. And then specify how many family members you intend to have on the same preview account. 

Microsoft’s principles on the digital safety trend have plenty of familiar features. Parents can get reports on screentime and app usage, set time limits, and content controls. They can also turn on location sharing. 

A sleek design, dark green color scheme, detailed and color-coded breakdowns in activity monitoring graphs look great. It also has other infographic sections.

The Family Safety App syncs with Windows and Xbox Devices

Now when the parents say only one hour of a certain game, that really means one hour of that game. And that’s whether one plays it on a Windows PC, Xbox, or Android phone. 

If they run short of screen time, they can ask for more.  It’s the parents’ choice to add more time or not, based on what is right for their family. 

Aimee Sudeck, a product manager for Microsoft 365 has explained in their announcement post.

Microsoft hasn’t said when it will be widely available in the App Store or Google Play Store. But Sudeck said participants in the preview will “gain early access to the app.

They get to help shape the product by sharing feedback about their experience. Microsoft is looking for families with children of all ages to join the preview and actively provide feedback.

Family Safety App: Dialogues, Limits, Restrictions, Control 

Computer user touching on Microsoft word icon to open the program.

A weekly summary of activity will “facilitate a dialogue” involving debate on the pros and cons of “Animal Crossing” videos. Such videos can be YouTube or something animated on Netflix versus the unbounded joy of homeschooling.

A user can set limits on certain apps and games. That is assuming a user plays these games on a Windows PC, Xbox, or Android phone. Microsoft does struggle a bit with iOS.

Restrictions can be placed on using the browser. It comes with the option to block mature content. 

“Family Safety provides you with tools to begin talking about the type of content that is right for your kids.” This is what Microsoft would say.

A user can also place age restrictions on downloads from the moribund Microsoft Store. The movements of family members can be monitored with Location Sharing.

What might have seemed a bit creepy previously in March has taken on an entirely new meaning. This is as societies get to grips with stay-at-home orders and restrictions on movement.

They are in limited preview for the time being and due for launch. 

There is little that one cannot accomplish using existing tools. A child’s activity in Chrome can be controlled easily. Those in the Apple ecosystem (with App store) can set limits as well as manually permit “deny download” requests.

The Windows maker has attempted to cover all bases and provide some unified reporting of everything from a single portal. The ease of use will appeal, even if the requirement to wade neck-deep into the company’s ecosystem may not.

Kids’ Screen Time and Browsing Habits

The unveiling of this new app is part of the rebranding exercise that saw Office 365 morph into Microsoft 365. Since its announcement in March, it has taken until this week to launch in limited preview for Android and iOS.

This allows a family’s activity to be monitored. It’s not only going to show members’ screen time but the top websites each person visited. It will show the parents what their kids are searching for. 

After long weeks in lockdown, they can well imagine what those results will look like.


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