Keeping your kids safe online can be complicated, but Windows Live Family Safety helps make it easier for you. Family Safety provides a website and a free program that you install on the computers your kids use, so you can give them some independence but still keep tabs on their computer activities. Family Safety can also help keep your kids off websites you don’t want them looking at, and only let them talk to the people you're okay with them talking to.

How Family Safety works

Just like on a sports team, the different players in Family Safety and Windows make up a team that works together. The players are:

  • The Family Safety Filter. Software you install and set up on each computer your kids use. It monitors your kids using safety settings you select.

  • The Family Safety website. Where you choose and manage all the settings for each family member and view their activity reports. You can create settings on the website once and then they'll apply to every computer you’ve installed the Family Safety Filter on.

  • Windows Parental Controls. A feature in Windows that’s turned on when you use Family Safety. You can use Windows Parental Controls to set up more safety settings for your kids' computers. For more information on setting up Windows Parental Controls and Family Safety, watch the video about using Parental Controls.

Show all

Set up the Family Safety Filter

To monitor your children’s online activity, you need to install and set up the Family Safety Filter on each computer they use.

Hide all

Step 1: See if Family Safety is already installed on your computer

If you have Windows 7, Family Safety might already be installed on your computer. To set it up, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click All Programs, click Windows Live, and then click Windows Live Family Safety.
Picture of the Start menu where you can run Windows Live Family Safety
If Family Safety is already installed on your computer you can find it on the Start menu.

If Family Safety isn't installed on your computer, go to the Windows Live Family Safety download page, and then click Download. Follow the on-screen instructions to download and install Family Safety.

Step 2: Sign in to the Family Safety Filter with your Windows Live ID

Enter the Windows Live ID of the parent you want to be the primary parent, and then click Sign in.

To set up the Family Safety Filter and to use the Family Safety website, you’ll need a Windows Live ID. If you don’t have a Windows Live ID, click Sign up. (A Windows Live ID is an e-mail address you use, along with your password, to sign in to Windows Live services such as Hotmail, Microsoft services such as Xbox LIVE, and anywhere else you see the Windows Live ID logo.)

Note

  • When you set up Family Safety for the first time, you'll be asked to sign in with a parent's Windows Live ID. This parent will be the primary parent in Family Safety, and is the only family member who can remove the family from Family Safety. Be sure to use the Windows Live ID of the parent you want to be the primary parent because you won’t be able to change it later.

Step 3: Select who you want to monitor

Select the check box next to the Windows account of each family member you want to monitor on that computer, and then click Next or Save.

If you want to monitor someone who doesn’t have a Windows account, click Create a new Windows account, enter their name, and then click Create account.

Family Safety works best when every member of your family has their own Windows account and safety settings. If everyone in your family uses the same Windows account, you’ll all use the same Family Safety settings and you won’t be able to get reports of which website each child is looking at. To make sure all of your kids have their own settings, add a Windows account for each person.

If you have guest accounts on your computer, you should turn them off because kids can also use them to bypass safety settings. For more information, see Turn the guest account on or off.

Picture of screen where you can choose which Windows accounts you want to monitor
You can choose which Windows accounts you want to monitor.

Step 4: Match your existing Family Safety members to their Windows accounts

If you haven't used Family Safety before, you can skip this step. If you already use Family Safety, you’ll see a screen where you need to match each Windows account to a name on the Family Safety members list, and then click Save. If a Windows account doesn't have a matching Family Safety name, click the option to add it.

You’ll recognize the people listed on the Family Safety members list as the people in your family who already use Family Safety. When you match them to their Windows accounts, you're verifying for Family Safety that each person is matched to their own correct settings. For example, if your child's name is Ben, he might have a Windows account named Ben, and be listed in the Family Safety members list as Ben Miller.

If there’s a Windows account on the computer for someone that hasn’t used Family Safety before, you’ll see them at the bottom of the list, Add (name). When you choose this option, Family Safety creates a new Family Safety membership for them with their Windows account name.

Picture of screen where you can choose which Windows accounts to monitor
You can match your existing Family Safety settings to your Windows accounts.

Step 5: Add passwords

If you don't have passwords for Windows administrator accounts or accounts you're not monitoring with Family Safety, you'll see the Add passwords screen. Click Add passwords.

It’s important that all of your Windows accounts have passwords. If you have an unmonitored account without a password, your kids could log on to that account and bypass their Family Safety settings. Then they may be able to see websites you don’t want them to see, and you won't be able to see reports of their online activity.

Step 6: Verify your setup

Click Next and you’ll see the Windows accounts that Family Safety is now monitoring on the computer.

Picture of the Family Safety Filter screen that shows monitored accounts
See the Windows accounts that are monitored by Family Safety and what their settings are.

Customize your family’s settings

By setting up the Family Safety Filter you’ve got a good start on protecting your kids, but going to the Family Safety website to tweak their settings gives you all the bells and whistles. With the Family Safety Filter set up for the first time, your children will be monitored with basic web filtering (Family Safety will only block adult content), and activity reporting will be turned on.

To make it harder for your kids to see the things you don’t want them to see, you can go to the Family Safety website and change their settings, starting with the web filtering level. For younger kids, we recommend setting the web filtering level to strict so that little ones can only see websites that are child-friendly.

Here's how to customize your child’s settings

  1. On any computer, sign in to the Family Safety website with a parent’s Windows Live ID.

  2. Click Edit settings under the name of the child you want to adjust settings for.

  3. On your child’s settings page, you can see an overview of their current settings, and choose what you want to adjust.

    Picture of the Family summary page
    Use the Family summary page to see all of your family members, edit their settings, view their activity reports, and see if they have requests.

Set up web filtering

Busy parents don’t always have time to go surf the web and check out all the websites their kids might see. To make things easier, the Family Safety team reviews thousands of websites and assigns them to categories. The web filtering level you choose for your kids determines which of these categories they can view.

If you want to pick your own categories instead of using the preset levels, you can choose Custom. You’ll see a list of all the categories, and then you can choose what’s right for your kids. Under Web filtering, you can also make a list of blocked websites or allowed websites that will override the categories and filtering levels.

Here's how to customize web filtering

  1. Click Web filtering, make sure Turn on web filtering is selected, and then select a web filtering level:

    • Select Strict to block all websites that aren't child friendly or on the allow list.

    • Select Basic to allow websites except those with adult content and anonymizer websites.

    • Select Custom to allow and block website categories manually. To allow a website category, select it. To block a website category, clear its check box.

  2. Click Save.

    Picture of the web filtering page
    Turn on and customize web filtering for your child, and be sure to save your changes.

Allow or block a website

If you want your child to use the strict filtering level so they only see child-friendly websites, but you’d also like to let them see a certain website that's blocked, you can add the website to their allow list. Or, if you want to block a website that's allowed by their web filtering level, you can add it to their block list.

Here's how to allow or block a website

  1. Under Allow or block a website, type or paste into the box the web address of the website that you want to allow or block.

  2. Select an option from the list, click Add, and then click Allow or Block.

  3. Click Save.

    Picture of the web filtering page
    Allow or block specific websites for one child, all of your children, or your entire family.

What will my kids see?

“The website I want to see is blocked!"

Once you’ve got Family Safety set up, when your child logs on to their Windows account to use the computer for their homework, and they try to go a website that’s blocked, they’ll see a page like this:

Picture of the screen kids will see when a website is blocked
Instead of a website with inappropriate content, your child will see this page where they can ask permission to see the website.

If you’re at work when your child gets blocked from a website, they can e-mail you a request to see the blocked website. You can open the Family Safety website from the e-mail to approve or deny the request right away. Once you’re done, let your child know the website they wanted to see is now unblocked, so they won’t have any excuses for unfinished homework when you get home.

Here's how to view and respond to requests

  1. On any computer, sign in to the Family Safety website with your Windows Live ID.

  2. On the Family summary page, under Requests, click (number) requests.

  3. To show any comments your child added, click the arrow next to the web address.

  4. Click the arrow next to Select a response, and then click Approve for this account only, Approve for all accounts, or Deny.

  5. When you're done responding to requests, click Save.

    Picture of the website requests page where you can review requests from your children
    You can review your children’s requests and approve or deny them.

"What websites can I see?"

The Family Safety Kids' Sites website is a great place for young children to start on the web. The website has links to the most popular of the more than 8,000 websites Microsoft has categorized as child-friendly. There’s also a Search these sites box where kids can search only those websites that are child-friendly instead of the whole Internet. To make it easier for your kids to find child-friendly websites, you can set your web browser’s home page to the Family Safety Kids' Sites website.

Here's how to change your child's home page to the Kids' Sites website in Internet Explorer

  1. On each computer your child uses, log on to their Windows account.

  2. Open Windows Internet Explorer, and then go to the Family Safety Kids' Sites website.

  3. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, and then click Internet Options.

  4. On the General tab, under Home page, click Use current, and then click OK.

    A picture of the Family Safety Kids’ Sites website with links to child-friendly websites
    The Kids’ Sites website is a great place for kids to start their web surfing.

Check out what your kids have been up to on their computer

With activity reporting turned on, you can monitor what your kids are doing online and on their computers. The Family Safety Filter keeps track of what they do and save the information on the Family Safety website for you to look at.

Here's how to turn on activity reporting

  1. On any computer, sign in to the Family Safety website with your Windows Live ID.

  2. On the Family summary page, click View activity report next to the name of the child you want to turn activity reporting on for.

  3. Select Turn on activity reporting.

  4. Click Save.

Once you’ve been using Family Safety for awhile with activity reporting turned on, you can use the Family Safety website to look at reports of what your kids have been doing online. There’s information on the websites they’ve gone to or tried to go to, how much time they’ve spent on the computer, what games they’ve played, and more.

Here's how to view activity reports

  1. On any computer, sign in to the Family Safety website with your Windows Live ID.

  2. To view reports of your child's web activity, do one of the following:

    • To see a list of websites that your child has visited or tried to visit since activity reporting was turned on, click Web activity.

    • To filter the list of websites shown, select the computer, Windows account, and date range you want, and then click Show activity. To sort the list of reported websites by a particular column, click the column header. To show only the websites that were blocked, click Show blocked activity only.

      If you don't see any activity listed, try entering a larger date range, and then click Show activity.

    Picture of an activity report
    See what websites your kids visited, or tried to visit.
  3. To see a list of websites accessed by non-browser programs, such as auto-updater programs, click Other Internet activity.

  4. To view reports of your child's computer activity, do one of the following:

    • To see a list of times your child used the computer, click Computer activity, and then expand Sessions.

    • To see which programs your child used, click Computer activity, and then expand Programs.

    • If you don't see any activity listed, try entering a larger date range, and then click Show activity.

    • To see which files your child downloaded, click Computer activity, and then expand File downloads.

    • To see which games your child played, click Computer activity, and then expand Games.

    Picture of the Computer activity tab where you can see what your child did on the computer
    See what programs your child used, and how long they were on the computer.