back to article Microsoft's Family Safety app drills into kids' screen time, browsing habits to help 'facilitate a dialogue'

As part of the rebranding exercise that saw Office 365 morph into Microsoft 365, the Windows giant has unveiled its new Family Safety app. Kind of. The app was initially teased back in March, but has taken until this week to launch in limited preview for Android and iOS. The app allows a family's activity to be monitored, …

  1. Julz Silver badge

    I Woke Up When

    I thought for a moment that the picture was of Stanley Tweedle from Lexx. I guess I'll go back to sleep...

  2. Tim Wolfe-Barry

    This will actually be useful...

    With 3 teenagers doing School From Home, the whole issue of screen time for Windoze has become much more of a problem for the last few weeks - how to block HouseParty (which #1 uses to talk to their mates) until after-school, but allow Zoom (which School use), plus granting extra time to compensate for school-time running over into playtime or when cadets run a late-evening online class.

    The latest updates on Win10 have allowed me to get this under control but I have to log-in to my MSFT account to do it, which either means opening up my LT after hours (which I'm not keen on as work inevitably intrudes), or navigating the rotten MSFT UX from my phone.

    So an App that brings all of this into one place and that is more responsive and more unified than currently available would be Very nice-to-Have.

    (Notwithstanding that, because it's MSFT, they will disappoint, but I live in hope!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This will actually be useful...

      I hate the idea that the way to manage what teenagers do with their time is primarily one to be addressed with technological constraints. Not only are the constraints not necessarily effective, and contaminated with the datarape approach of their providers, but one is training young citizens to (a) accept that sort of technological incarceration and (b) more importantly, not giving them the opportunity of learning how to manage their own time.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: This will actually be useful...

        On the plus side, it teaches them early how to bypass al this nonsense.

        Kid filtering is the modern version of the VCR clock blinking "12:00"

        For the rest I couldn't agree with you more.

  3. Dwarf Silver badge

    Of course all the telemetry they get on what people do will not be harvested an processed to see what they need to try and invade into next.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      That was my instant first thought too.

    2. Kane Silver badge

      "facilitate a dialogue"

      I do not think it means what you think it means...

      1. j.bourne
        Windows

        Re: "facilitate a dialogue"

        I think it means show targetted ads.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    How much of this ends up in the advertising database ?

    Is there something in the EULA that says that you agree to this or did MS forget to insert that paragraph ?

  5. IGotOut Silver badge

    So...

    ...what Apple have done for a few years now then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      Really, Apple can limit your usage of a Windows PC and Xbox - or any games console. How ?In fact is there an Apple app that controls Mac usage for various members of the family?

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: So...

        So can this magic MS one limit access to PlayStation and Linux?

        Mac no, but all iOS devices. Yes.

        1. HildyJ Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: So...

          So Microsoft covers Android smartphones, Windows PCs, and Xbox consoles.

          Apple covers Apple smartphones.

          Google covers Android smartphones and Chromebooks.

          Sony covers Playstation consoles.

          Linux covers Linux PCs, possibly.

          Whatever you think of the companies involved or the concept, Microsoft has the broadest solution and the only one that goes outside of their walled garden.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So...

            "Whatever you think of the companies involved or the concept, Microsoft arguably has the broadest solution and the only one that reluctantly goes slightly outside of their walled garden."

            Added more context for you.

          2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: So...

            Whatever you think of the companies involved or the concept, Microsoft has the broadest solution and the only one that goes outside of their walled garden.

            "...All your walled garden are belong to us..."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a family's activity to be monitored

    I thought that users' activity is already monitored by MS? Worse? WORSE?! How can it get any worse?! Monitoring! Monitoring! Monitoring!

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: a family's activity to be monitored

      It's a bottomless pit. No matter how bad it gets, it can still get worse.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: it can still get worse

        it WILL get worse

        There fixed it for you. Give them an inch and they'll take a dozen miles.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: a family's activity to be monitored

      it's like the online shops who demand a login and personal info before you can even browse to know if you are interested. There will come a time when you have to present your implanted chip to the reader to be allowed to do anything.

      In China your ability to do lots of things can be restricted if you are not a 'good citizen' limiting the scope of dissent.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Pirate

    Lipstick on a pig

    can't hide the fact that it is still a pig.

    How many companies come to regret re-branding a popular thing?

  8. LenG

    Turnaround

    And how many parents will be locked out of their normal online entertainment when tech-savvy kids steal the keys to the cage?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Turnaround

      And how many parents will be locked out of their normal online entertainment when tech-savvy kids steal the keys to the cage?

      Sorry, my kids aren't into anime pr0n, so they wouldn't even know what to look for.

  9. Ambivalous Crowboard

    Let me tell you why it's useful and isn't the same as Chrome's

    Chrome's family safety tools only monitor what happens inside of the Chrome browser (or their device, whatever) but the Microsoft Family stuff monitors the whole Win10 operating system.

    I have it in use on my kids' computers. I can control how long they spend in games (only an hour a day between 3pm and 6pm on Minecraft, for example) and generally how long their workstations are accessible for (only between 8am and 6pm) and that Spotify is always allowed, no other web browser is permitted, and it also permits age-based ratings for web browsing (although you can, and should, block youtube for example as typing 'sex' in the search box brings up unsavoury thumbnails, if nothing else).

    It'll also enforce Safe Search is on in your chosen search engine.

    What's more you can also combine a kid's screen time across Windows and Xbox devices, which means that if you only grant them 2 hours a day, that 2 hours is combined on both the Xbox and their workstation.

    Pretty neat all round tbh. Not bad for free.

    1. idiottaxpayerhere previously ishtiaq/theghostdeejay
      FAIL

      Re: Let me tell you why it's useful and isn't the same as Chrome's

      @Ambivalous Crowboard

      Thank fuck my Dad was not a self righteous fucked up control freak like you. And you are proud of it?

      Well, I can promise you that everyone that you "control" what they can do will have found ways around your controls.

      You need therapy… soonest

      Cheers… Ishy

  10. Kurt 4

    Microsoft has had this feature on android for years. I get a weekly report of all the apps my child has used along with screen time of each and the web filtering has always been there as well. Not sure what's new?

  11. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    Somebody thought of the children...

    They already did the voyeurism, now at last they can justify it with the old unbeatable "Somebody think of the children!" argument...

    Think of the children, let us collect your family habits and preferences! Let your children grow up with a complete marketing profile, reaching back to their youngest years, a goldmine for marketing and political manipulation!

    O brave new world / That has such suckers in't!

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