Microsoft is launching a dedicated new app, Family Safety, designed for managing kids’ screen time and app usage. The app is available now in preview form on both Android and iOS, Microsoft announced in a blog post on Monday. To access it, you have to fill out a form here and specify how many family members you intend to have on the same preview account.
There’s location tracking as well, which adds a twist to the usual digital-only focus of these apps not that it’s of much use during a pandemic with lockdowns still very commonplace.
One big benefit is that Family Safety syncs with Windows and Xbox devices. “Now when you say only one hour of a certain game, that really means one hour of that game — whether that’s being played on a Windows PC, Xbox, or Android phone,” explains Aimee Sudeck, a product manager for Microsoft 365, the in the announcement post. “And if they run out of screen time, they can ask for more. You have the choice to add more time or not based on what is right for your family.”
Microsoft hasn’t said when the app will be widely available in the App Store or Google Play Store.
You’ll currently have to sign up to be included in the preview. This is potentially very helpful if you’re hoping to foster healthy device usage, although its reliance on Microsoft apps limits its appeal. It makes sense if you’re deep into the company’s ecosystem and know your kids would love to play Minecraft on the family Xbox all day, but it won’t be of much help if your kids use other platforms you may have to manage their behavior on a platform-by-platform basis.