Keeping your kids safe online can be a challenge. In most cases, they need access to a laptop or PC for their homework or to play games with friends, but it only takes a few words in a search bar for them to stumble onto material not suitable for their young minds (or any mind, for that matter). One way to limit these dangers is to use the parental controls Microsoft includes with Windows. We show you how to use these to control screen time, filter inappropriate content, and block certain sites altogether.
If you want even more control over what your children can access, especially if they use mobile devices, then you should look at dedicated packages such as Qustodio which give you quick access to settings via your smartphone or PC.
You’ll find a breakdown of its features, along with several other offerings, in our guide to the best parental control software.
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 appears 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 they 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 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.
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 aged 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 in the near future or possibly looking at a new PC if the budget allows.
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