In the modern technological world, it can be hard to keep track of what you're kids are doing online. A laptop or PC may be a requirement for homework or playing games with friends, but those functions often require an internet connection.
That means they're never more than a few clicks away from something inappropriate, or even dangerous. Fortunately, Microsoft has got a few parental controls built-in to Windows 10 that allow you to control screen time, filter inappropriate content or block specific sites.
Here's how to use them to keep your children safe. If you're looking for Microsoft's recently introduced Family Safety app, you can jump straight to that section.
How do I set up parental controls on Windows 10?
To access the various content filters offered by Windows 10 you’ll first need to set up a child’s account for your youngster. To do this, go to Settings > Accounts and select the Family & other people tab.
In here you’ll see the option to Add a family member. Select this then click the Add a child option, enter an email for them (you can create a Microsoft one here), give a phone number for security purposes, then follow any remaining instructions to complete the account.
With this done you can now either click Manage family settings online or open a browser head to Microsoft's website where you’ll see your child’s or children’s account listed. Under each account are several options: Activity, Screen time, App limits, and More options.
Activity is where you to turn on the reporting that keep you up to date with how much time your child is spending online, which sites they visit and the apps they are using.
Screen time, as the name suggests, allows you to set the hours in which your child can use their devices. This is done via a grid the shows each hour of each day and you just click the ones that you want available to them. The setting also has an option to cover the Xbox One as well (as do all of the family settings), so you can ensure your little ones don’t switch to their console once the daily allowance has been used up.
App limits appear to be preview only at the time of writing, but once enabled it will give parents the options of setting time limits on specific apps. Currently, this only supports those installed from the Microsoft Store, and even then there are exceptions such as Skype, Spotify, and WhatsApp.
Content Restrictions is the standard filter you’d expect to see in a parental control app. With this, you can specify, by age, the kind of material your child can access. A drop-down menu lets you set the upper age limit, and once this is done your child won’t be able to see anything rated above that parameter.
Next, there’s Spending. In here you can top-up your child’s Microsoft account with money that t can then use to buy things online. This could be in-game purchase or whatever else they choose. A couple of settings give you the option of requiring any transaction to be authorised by you or just to receive an email after the money has been spent.
Finally, there’s the Find your child feature. This is a somewhat limited location tracker as it requires the child to have an Android phone running the latest version of the Microsoft Launcher. If you meet these conditions then you’ll be able to see where your child is at any time. In all honesty, while this is a nice addition, you’d be better off using either the Find my device option in Android or a dedicated tracker such as Glympse or Life360.
All the core functionality will be available free of charge, although two exclusive features will be reserved for Microsoft 365 subscribers. Drive Safety will give insight and tips into how a young adult (or anyone) is driving, while location alerts will notify you whenever you child leaves or arrives at a defined location (like home or school)
The good thing about having mobile apps is that you can monitor your children's time online from anywhere. It also works across Windows, Android and Xbox, to give you a comprehensive overview of their screen time.
There are plenty of fully-featured alternatives though, which you can find in our roundup of the best parental control software.
Read more information here.
How do I set up parental controls on Windows 8?
As Microsoft introduced the family settings feature in Windows 8, you’ll find the steps above should be pretty much identical when it comes to getting them up and running.
Are there parental controls in Windows 7?
There’s no family setting option in Windows 7, as it was introduced in Windows 8, so it’s a lot harder to implement the kind of features listed above without going to dedicated parental controls software packages.
Another thing to consider is that Windows 7 support ends on 14 January 2020, after which point Microsoft will no longer issue security updates. This will open up PCs running the old operating system to potential risks from hackers and viruses, which could be a much bigger problem. With this in mind, we’d strongly recommend upgrading to Windows 10 soon, or possibly looking at a new PC if the budget allows.