Windows 8 Family Safety Settings Help Keep Kids Safer Online

It’s no surprise that kids today are growing up online.  They use mobile devices to do their homework, play games, connect with friends, and access the wealth of information available on the Web.  Technology gives children access to a host of positive, educational and growth experiences; yet, parents face challenges when they look to monitor what children see online, the people they meet and the information they share.

At Microsoft, we want to help parents create a healthy computing environment for their kids. That’s why we set out to hear from parents about what matters most to them in helping young people stay safer online.

Before setting out to develop Windows 8 Family Safety Settings, Microsoft sought input from parents in five countries: Brazil, China, France, India and the U.S. We spoke to more than 1,000 parents of children ages five to 15 about what matters most in helping keep their kids safer online. Protecting children from online predators and offensive content tops the list of parental concerns at 87 percent, according to the study. Parents, however, were basically split when it came to choosing between the importance of monitoring their child’s online activity (43 percent) and limiting access all together (45 percent).

In general, findings revealed that:

  • When their children use a computing or mobile device, parents say Web filtering capability is significantly more important than other restrictions.
  • Parents who monitor their children’s Web activities without limiting access to certain sites select this approach because they say it allows them to better understand their children.
  • Parents who limit or block their children’s access to sites without monitoring say they choose this approach because it allows them to control what their child can access.

A safer Internet is just a click away

With Windows 8, parents and caregivers can monitor what kids are doing online, no matter where they use their PC. Simply create a Windows user account for each child; check the box to turn on Family Safety, and then review weekly reports that detail children’s use. No additional downloads, installation wizards or configuration steps are required – just check the box. 

The “monitor-first” approach
In the past, many family safety software solutions (including Microsoft’s) focused on Web filtering and other software-based restrictions, resulting in a complex setup experience and a constant stream of difficult-to-manage parental approval requests. Ultimately, many parents jettisoned family safety products and returned to in-person supervision only—a tactic that has proven less effective as computers have become more mobile.

Windows 8 gives parents an alternative “monitor-first” approach, providing them with unique, informative activity reports for each child.

Standard accounts for the kids

Microsoft has long recommended that parents remain the computer administrator and create separate standard accounts for each child in the household. In Windows 8, accounts that the administrator creates are automatically deemed standard accounts. This approach has several benefits. Children:

  • Won’t be able to access their parent’s e-mail, online accounts, documents, etc.
  • Can customize their own account settings without affecting the parental account
  • Won’t be able to download malware or other questionable files because the SmartScreen Application Reputation service automatically prevents it

For parents who want more control

Activity reporting, which is always “on” in the new Windows 8 Family Safety experience, is the perfect solution for many parents. If parents prefer tighter control, however, more powerful and customizable restrictions are available directly from links in the activity reporting e-mail, or on familysafety.microsoft.com.

At Microsoft, we are continually striving to help families create safer, more trusted computing experiences. That said, we know this means different things to different people. Some parents prefer to keep a keen physical eye on their children; others prefer to set up software restrictions to help monitor computing activities. We think the simplicity and power of the “monitor-first” approach in Microsoft Family Safety addresses both styles effectively. Moreover, it can help foster critical conversations among family members about staying safer online, while at the same time empowering kids and preserving parents’ peace of mind.

Microsoft can help you make Internet safety a family affair. Teach yourself and your family by using our interactive Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit; regularly visit http://www.microsoft.com/security for other advice and guidance, and follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/Safer_Online and Facebook www.facebook.com/SaferOnline.

About the Author

Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft

Jacqueline F. Beauchere is the Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. In this role, Ms. Beauchere is responsible for all aspects of Microsoft’s online safety strategy, including cross-company policy creation and implementation, influence over consumer safety features and functionality, and communications to and engagement with a variety of external audiences. She also currently serves as the chair of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Board of directors, and is Microsoft’s representative to the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) board, as well as INHOPE’s Advisory Board. Ms. Beauchere has spent almost 15 years at Microsoft leading various groups and efforts that evangelize the company's commitment to help create a safer, more trusted Internet experience for people of all ages and abilities. Before joining Microsoft in December 1999, Ms. Beauchere was an attorney in private practice in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. A second-career lawyer, she spent 12 years as a real-time financial news correspondent and Editor in Charge, most recently with Reuters America Inc. in New York.