Microsoft Family Safety: How To Set Up Parental Controls in Windows

Control and monitor your child’s computer usage with Parental Controls

Figure 1-1: A screen shot of children at a school using computers.
Figure 1-1: Parental Controls are available in all recent editions of Windows. Getty Images

Microsoft offers parental controls to help keep children safe when they use the family computer. There are options to restrict what kinds of applications they can use, what websites they are allowed to visit, and how much time they can spend on the computer and other Windows-based devices. Once parental controls are set, you can access detailed reports of their activity. 

Note: Parental Controls, as outlined here, are only applied when the child logs in to a Windows device using their own Microsoft Account. These settings will not prevent what they do on their friends’ computers, school computers, or their Apple or Android devices, or when they access a computer under someone else’s account (even your account).

Enable Windows 10 Parental Controls

To use the most recent Windows Parental Controls and Microsoft Family Safety features, both you and your child need a Microsoft Account (not a local one). Although you can get a Microsoft account for your child before you configure available parental controls in Windows 10, it’s simpler and more straightforward get the account during the configuration process. Whatever you decide, follow these steps to get started:

  1. Click Start > Settings. (The Settings icon looks like cog.)
  2. In Windows Settings, click Accounts.
  3. In the left pane, click Family & Other People.
  4. Click Add a Family Member.
  5. Click Add a Child and then click The Person I Want To Add Doesn’t Have An Email Address. (If they do have an email address, type it. Then skip to Step 6.)
  6. In the Let’s Create An Account dialog box, type the required information including email account, password, country, and birth date.
  1. Click Next. Click Confirm if prompted.
  2. Read the information offered (what you see here depends on what you selected in Step 5), and click Close.

If you obtained a Microsoft Account for your child during the process above, you’ll notice that the child has been added to your list of family members in Windows Settings, and that the status is Child. Parental controls are already enabled using the most common settings, and the account is ready to use.

Have the child log on to their account while connected to the internet to complete the process.

If you input an existing Microsoft Account during the process above, you’ll be prompted to log on to that account and follow the directions in the invitation email. In this case, the status for the account will say Child, Pending. The child will need to log on while connected to the internet to complete the setup process. You might also need to apply family safety settings manually, but this depends on several factors. Read the next section to learn how to determine if controls are set or not.

Find, Change, Enable, or Disable Parental Controls (Windows 10)

There’s a fair chance that the default Windows Family Safety controls are already turned on for your child’s account, but it’s good practice to verify this and to see if they meet your needs. To review the setting, configure, change, enable, or disable them, or to enable reporting for a Microsoft Account:

  1. Click Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & Other People, and then click Manage Family Settings Online.
  2. Log in if prompted, and then locate the child account from the list of accounts included with your family.
  3. Turn On Set Limits For When My Child Can Use Devices to make changes to the default Screen Time Settings using the drop down lists and daily timelines. Turn off this setting if desired.
  1. In the left pane, click Web Browsing.
  2. Turn On Block Inappropriate Websites. Read what types of content are blocked and note that Safe Search is on. Turn off this setting if desired.
  3. In the left pane, click Apps, Games, & Media. Notice that Block Inappropriate Apps And Games is already enabled. Disable  if desired.
  4. Click Activity Reporting. Click Turn On Activity Reporting to get weekly reports of your child’s activities while online. Note that the child must use Edge or Internet Explorer, and that you can block other browsers.
  5. Continue to explore other settings as desired.

Windows 8 and 8.1 Parental Controls

To enable Parental Controls in Windows 8 and 8.1, you first need to create an account for your child.

You do this in PC Settings. Then, from Control Panel, you configure the desired settings for that child account.

To create a child account in Windows 8 or 8.1:

  1. From the keyboard, hold down the Windows key and press C.
  2. 2.Click Change PC Settings.
  3. Click Accounts, click Other Accounts, click Add An Account.
  4. Click Add A Child’s Account.
  5. Follow the prompts to complete the process, opting to create a Microsoft Account over a local account if possible.

To configure Parental Controls:

  1. Open Control Panel. You can search for it from the Start screen or from the Desktop.
  2. Click User Accounts And Family Safety, then click Set Up Parental Controls For Any User.
  3. Click the child’s account.
  4. Under Parental Controls, click On, Enforce Current Settings.
  5. Under Activity Reporting, click On, Collect Information About PC Usage.
  6. Click the links provided for the following options and configure as desired:
  • Web Filtering – to block certain websites and prevent downloads.
  • Time Limits – to choose when and on what days your child can access the PC.
  • Windows Store and Game Restrictions – to set age, title, and rating limits on the apps the child can use.
  • App Restrictions – to set the apps that the child can use (or not).

You’ll receive an email that includes information about the Microsoft Family Safety login page and what’s available there. If you use a Microsoft Account for your child you’ll be able to view activity reports and make changes online, from any computer.

Windows 7 Parental Controls

You configure Parental Controls in Windows 7 from Control Panel, in a similar manner to what’s outlined above for Windows 8 and 8.1.

You’ll need to create a child account for the child in Control Panel > User Accounts > Give Other Users Access To This Computer. Work through the process as prompted.

With that done:

  1. Click the Start button and type Parental Controls in the Search window.
  2. Click Parental Controls in the results.
  3. Click the child account.
  4.  If prompted, create passwords for any Administrator accounts.
  5. Under Parental Controls, select On, Enforce Current Settings.
  6. Click the following links and configure settings as applicable and then click Close:
  • Time Limits
  • Games
  • Allow And Block Specific Programs