As a kid, my favorite thing to do after school was to come home and ride my bike or run around with the other kids in the neighborhood. Now as an adult with younger siblings, I see how much this has changed. They grew up with a computer in the house which is something I didn’t get until high school. The internet is more easily available and is connected the world in new and ever-changing ways. This created a generational gap between me and my younger siblings when it comes to understanding how and when they use the internet.  I imagine for many parents; this same issue exists.

I speak to many parents who wish that they could keep up with what their children are doing online. I don’t have kids myself, but I do have a younger brother and sister. I am trusted to look after my siblings, and over time watching over them online has become a part of it too.

I found Microsoft Family a few years ago and it has made it much easier to keep an eye on my sibling’s online activity. It gives you powerful tools like screen time limits, web filtering, managing privacy settings, and purchasing & spending limits. For any parent or adult in a family, this is a valuable resource to use. The best part is that it’s already built into your Xbox and Windows 10 devices. You don’t have to download any software to make it work! All you need is a Microsoft Account for yourself and each adult or child that will be part of your Microsoft Family. If you don’t have a Microsoft Account, it only takes a couple minutes to create.

Microsoft Family benefits

Photograph of a laptop in a living room

Safer web browsing: Turning this on will block inappropriate websites and enables safe search, which will filter out adult content on Bing, and other search engines. This also provides you with the ability to add specific websites to either an Allow or Block list. If a child needs access to a specific website, they can request permission from one of the adults within Microsoft Family. An adult can accept or deny the request from a Windows 10 PC or from the Microsoft Family website.

Games, Apps, and Media: Making sure a child in your Family can only see age appropriate content is easy with Microsoft Family. Just set the child’s age and Microsoft Family does the rest. When a child in your family visits the Windows or Xbox store, they will only see age appropriate content.

Purchase & spending: Let the child in your family spend without any unexpected surprises on your credit card! Add money into the child’s account instead of linking a credit card. You can easily add money to their account anytime. A child can then spend their allowance without overspending. You’ll be able to see the child’s recent purchases. If you prefer, you can also limit downloads to free downloads, or disable downloads all together from the Windows or Xbox One stores.

Screen time limits: Do you want to make sure a child in your family isn’t on their computer at 4am? Specify the time intervals a child is allowed on the PC. In addition, you can give a child a time allowance for their computer. If you want a child to only use their computer for 2 hours each day, Microsoft Family makes this simple. If you have an Xbox One console, you get separate controls to assign screen time on Xbox.

Activity reporting: On the Microsoft Family dashboard on https://account.microsoft.com/family, you have the option to enable activity reporting. This gives you an easy way to see what a child in your family is up to. You can see website visits, apps & games that were used, and a breakdown of how long the child spent on a device. You have the option to receive this activity report as a weekly email.

Screenshot of screen time settings

As the child gets older, you can adjust the Microsoft Family settings accordingly. Each feature can be independently turned on or off.

How to setup

If you already have a Microsoft Account, you are ready to setup Microsoft Family. If you don’t have a Microsoft Account, it’s easy to sign up. It will only take a few minutes to create an account, and it unlocks many benefits in addition to Microsoft Family. If you have a Windows 10 device or Xbox you are ready to setup Microsoft Family.

Screenshot of Microsoft Family website

Microsoft Family account dashboard: The easiest way to setup Microsoft Family is by logging into your Microsoft Account at the Microsoft Family website. On this page, you can click on Add a family member, which will ask if you want to add an Adult or Child to your Microsoft Family. Just enter their Microsoft Account email address and press Send invite, or if they don’t currently have a Microsoft Account press create one for them and go through a few quick steps to set one up. Once the account is setup the adult or child is now ready to start using the devices in the home with their Microsoft Account.

Windows 10 PC: You can start the setup process from your PC, but keep in mind that managing the child account is done from the Microsoft Family website. If you are an adult that has already signed into your Windows 10 PC using your Microsoft Account, you can go to Settings -> Accounts -> Family & other users. If you’ve already added a child or adult in your family through the website or Xbox, you’ll see them on this same page. It’s easy to allow your other family members to login to this computer. Just make sure it says, Can sign in next to their name. All they will have to do is select their profile at login and enter their password. If you want to add someone new, select Add a family member. This will ask if it’s a Child or Adult account, and then ask for their Microsoft Account if they have one, or help you create one.

Xbox One: Setting up from the Xbox is a little different due to needing to be familiar with the Xbox controller for navigation. It’s often easier to setup through the website first. On your Xbox, logon with your account then, go to Settings -> Account -> Family. If you have already setup family members through the website or your Windows 10 PC you’ll see them here. You can select their name and choose the option that says, Add to this Xbox. This will add their profile to the Xbox so they can log in. If you want to add someone new, select the option that says, Add to family. It will walk you through entering the Microsoft Account of the person you wish to add, or creating a new account. As you add new Windows 10 or Xbox devices into your home, Microsoft Family makes it easier to get your whole family setup and using these new devices. Your devices will know your family just by signing in with your Microsoft Account.

Creating an account for a child under the age of 13

Screenshot of Microsoft account sign up page

You can create an account for children of any age but if the child is younger than 13, certain rules apply. Microsoft complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) regarding online account creation for children under the age of 13. To verify that an adult is giving a child permission to create a new Microsoft Account, COPPA requires that a small amount be charged to the adult's credit card. We charge 50 cents for this verification. Microsoft donates this fee to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. More information on Parental consent and Microsoft child accounts. Microsoft Family is an amazing option for families. It has made it easier for me as an older brother to keep an eye on my brother and sister. It can certainly help your family too.

Learn more about Microsoft Family features across devices Microsoft Family features across devices