Because of limitations imposed by Apple, it’s far less useful on an iPhone or iPad because it can’t (yet) control screen time but for Android phones and tablets, Windows devices and Xbox the app lets you control how long individual apps can be used.
This is a key feature of any parental control software, and it’s the implementation which determines whether it’s any use or not. Family Safety lets you block or allow individual apps, set time limits per app and apply different times each day when that app can be used.
Kids can request extra time in specific apps, and parents can quickly grant that – or deny it.
It also filters web searches and websites on Android, Windows and Xbox, but only when using the Microsoft Edge browser.
The app will block purchases and send requests to you for approval, but again, this only works with the Microsoft Store, not the Google Play Store on Android or the App Store on iOS.
The other main feature is location sharing, so you can see each family member’s last known location.
You can keep tabs on activity via the app on your own phone, but you'll also get a weekly email report showing which are the most used apps, along with most visited websites and daily usage stats.
Family Safety Premium features
All the above are available for free, but Microsoft is planning to introduce a couple of features that you can use only if you have Microsoft 365 subscription.
The first is Drive Safety which will be available in the UK, US, Australia and Canada and will “help to build better habits behind the wheel with insights on driving behaviour”.
The second is location alerts which provide notifications for when a family member arrives at or leaves from a particular location (such as home or school).
Microsoft says it is working to bring features such as time limits and web filtering to iOS.
You'll find buying advice and recommendations in our roundup of the best parental control software.