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How to use Microsoft Family Safety to manage your family members' app usage, screen time, and more

Submitted by Tech Insider on April 8, 2021 - 1:14pm

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Summary List Placement

Microsoft Family Safety is more or less just what the name implies: It's Microsoft's family safety and parental controls app that you can use to manage your kid's screen time and device usage. 

To use the service, you need to install the Microsoft Family Safety app on each mobile device you want to manage, and every family member you want to track needs a Microsoft account. 

What to know about Microsoft Family Safety

Once configured, Microsoft Family Safety monitors the screen time and time spent with specific games and apps on phones, tablets, and Xbox. Parents can do more than just monitor usage as well: You can turn on screen time limits and schedules, and filter specific apps and web browsing. The app also tracks locations using mobile device GPS, so you can see where your family members are.

Most of these features are free, though some premium features are only available if you have a subscription to Microsoft 365 Family, most notably location alerts and drive safety features.  

How to get started with Microsoft Family Safety

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To use Microsoft Family Safety, you'll need to install the app on each of your family member's devices. You can install Microsoft Family Safety for Android or for iOS. Start by installing it on your mobile device as a parent and sign in to your Microsoft account. 

Unless you've already created a family group, you'll initially be the only member of your family. Tap "Add a family member" and enter their email address associated with their Microsoft account. If your child doesn't yet have a Microsoft account, tap "Create a child account" and follow the instructions to create one for them. They will get an invitation to join your family group; if needed, help them accept the invitation and get started with Family Safety. 

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Be sure to install the Microsoft Family Safety app on each of your kids' devices, signing them into their own Microsoft accounts. 

How to manage the Family Safety app controls

Once each family member has accepted the invitation and is logged into the Microsoft Family Safety app on their mobile device, you can start to manage their screen time, which apps they are allowed to use, and more. 

  1. Start the Microsoft Family Safety app on your phone (the one that's logged in with the parental Microsoft account). You should see a list of each family member.
  2. Tap a family member you want to manage and then tap the Settings button (shaped like a gear) at the top right of the screen.

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  3. On the family member's profile page, choose which settings you want to enable in the Screen and Digital Health section. You can enable activity reporting, app and game limits, web and search filters, and apply an age filter. 

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  4. Choose your settings and then tap the back arrow at the top left.

How to set screen time limits on Microsoft Family Safety

After enabling screen time limits, you can fine-tune the way it works. 

  1. Start your Microsoft Family Safety app and tap the family member you want to manage.
  2. In the Screen time section of the family member's page, tap "Set limits."

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  3. Make sure the "Devices" tab is selected at the top of the page, then scroll to the kind of device you want to limit time on and then find the day you want to schedule.

    You can specify which hours your kid is allowed to have screen time. It will apply to all devices and Edge browsers they are logged into, so they can't switch devices when their time runs out.

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How to set limits on apps and games with Microsoft Family Safety

If you've enabled app and game limits in your kid's settings, then you can specify which apps and games are allowed. 

  1. Start your Microsoft Family Safety app and tap the family member you want to manage.
  2. In the Screen time section of the family member's page, tap "Set limits."
  3. Tap the "Apps and games" tab at the top of the page.
  4. Tap the app you want to manage.

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  5. On its limits page, choose whether you want to set a time limit for the app or if you want to block it completely.
  6. If you tap "Set app limits," specify how long the app can be used.

    You can choose how many hours and then indicate if that's daily, or only on weekdays or weekends. You can also choose which hours of the day the app is allowed.

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  7. If you want to prevent your kid from using the app entire, tap "Block app." To undo that, you can always return to the app list and tap "Unblock app."

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How to set up content filters on Microsoft Family Safety

If you've enabled web and search filters, you can control those filters from the Family Safety app as well. 

  1. Start your Microsoft Family Safety app and tap the family member you want to manage.
  2. Scroll down and choose "Content filters." Here you can choose to filter for apps and websites.

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  3. Tap "Apps and games."
  4. On the Apps and games page, you can change the age-appropriate filtering for Microsoft Edge by taping "Apps and games" and choosing the age level you desire.

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  5. The Blocked Apps section displays all the apps currently blocked. You can tap "Edit" and unblock apps.

    To block additional apps, though, follow the steps in the section "How to set limits on apps and games" above. 

  6. Tap the Back arrow and then tap "Web and search filters."
  7. Here you can choose how you'd like to filter web pages. By default, "Filter inappropriate websites" is turned on — the button should be slid to the right.
  8. You can choose to only allow your kids to visit a select group of sites you personally approve, or you can choose to allow most sites, and only block certain ones.

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  9. To block most sites, turn on "Only use allowed websites" by swiping the button to the right. Now you can add sites you personally approve.

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  10. Alternatively, scroll down and add websites to the "Blocked Sites" list. 

Using the map and tracking your family's location

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Microsoft Family Safety displays the location of your family members on a map, as long as you've enabled that feature in Settings.

To see the map, start Microsoft Family Safety and tap "Map" at the top of the screen. You should see pins for each family member.

If you want to, you can add saved locations to the map, which Microsoft calls "places." When someone goes to that location, you'll see it displayed on the family member's card on the home page, so you can tell at a glance where they are. 

How to set up a saved location

  1. Start the Microsoft Family Safety app and tap "Map" at the top of the page.

  2. At the bottom of the map, tap "Add a place."

  3. Use the Add a place page to enter the address of the location, and give it a name like "Work," "Home" or "Bob's house."

  4. Choose whether the size of the location should be "Small," "Medium," or "Large."

    If you're adding a space like a public park, for example, you might want to choose medium or large, while a house can be small.

  5. Tap "Save."

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