Family Safety: FAQ

Family Safety is free technology from Microsoft that helps parents keep their kids safe when they use the PC.

Kids get to:

  • Know that they’re safer from content that would get them in trouble.

  • Learn safer online behaviors with monitored independence.

Parents get to:

  • Allow or block websites, games, and other content.

  • See websites their kids visit, and apps they use.

  • Limit their kids’ time on the PC.

  • Set defaults based on their kids’ ages.

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I have more than one PC. Can I still use it?

Yes! Set up Family Safety on every PC your family uses, and make sure everyone uses their own accounts. Then manage their Family Safety settings and monitor their activities at the Family Safety website. You may see different options when you sign in from different PCs, depending on the operating systems.

Does it work in the Windows Store?

Yes! Allow or block specific games and apps, and set the rating level appropriate for your child by age or by the content ratings. They’ll be allowed to see and install those games and apps from the Windows Store. Learn more here: Using Family Safety settings with the Windows Store.

Do I have the latest Family Safety update?

Updates to Family Safety are installed automatically as part of the regular Windows Update process.

To check that any upgrade is installed, open Settings, then Change PC settings, then Update and restore, and then use the Update history link to see which updates have been applied to that device.

Not every update can apply to all versions of Windows. For example, the June 2014 Family Safety update applies only to Windows 8.1, but PCs and tablets running Windows 8 can get a free upgrade to Windows 8.1 through the Windows Store.

Doesn’t Family Safety violate kid’s privacy?

We tell kids that family safety is turned on every time they sign in to their accounts. This gives families an opportunity to discuss using Family Safety, privacy, and security for safer, more family-friendly computing experiences.

For years, parents have turned on Family Safety to know what websites their kids visit, and what search terms they use on search engines. Our goal is to provide features and information that parents can use to create a healthy computing environment for kids.

What changes when I upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1?

You get more Family Safety features in Windows 8.1, but you may need to manually change from Windows Live Family Safety to Microsoft Family Safety. Learn how to make the change in the Family Safety area of the Windows Essentials 2012 Release Notes.

Is Family Safety working? How do I tell?

On a particular PC, when a child is signed in, the Family Safety icon should appear in the notification area. If the icon isn’t there, or if the icon is there but it isn’t working as expected, follow the steps under I can't connect to the service.

To check all of your child’s Internet-connected PCs, sign in to the Family Safety website. Each PC that has Family Safety turned on for your child is listed there, along with the date your child last used it. If you’re not seeing a particular PC listed, but you think it should be, follow the steps under I can't connect to the service.

I want to give my kid permission for a specific app or website.

When your child tries to use a website or app that is above the rating you set in Family Safety, they’re blocked unless you give permission to specific websites and apps at the Family Safety website.

You can give permission ahead of time, or if your child has requested permission from a Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 PC, we send you a request by email. Requests also show up under Requests when you sign in to the Family Safety website. You can approve or deny the request from either the email or the website.

Did my kid really ask my permission in the middle of the night?

When you have a request that’s been waiting for you, Family Safety sends an email to follow up—often in the middle of the night. It doesn’t have to mean your child is up that late. If we worried you, we're sorry! We wanted to make sure you got the request from your kid.

Why does it show my kid spending so many hours online?

If kids don’t sign out of the PC, they still look like they’re using the PC. Coach your kids to sign out, and then the time will be more accurate.

How do I block bad websites or chatting online?

Sign in to the Family Safety website, and click or tap into a child’s account. Choose Web Filtering from the list on the left, then use the slider to determine which categories of websites your child is allowed to see.

To see which websites your kid has been using, and the search terms they’ve been using on Bing.com, use the Family Safety website.

Get more info here: How do I prevent my child from seeing certain websites or chatting online?

How do websites get put into categories?

Websites are first categorized by computer analysis, and then the results are verified by real people. Get more info here: How are web content categories determined?

My child promises they didn’t visit a website, but it's showing on their report.

Many sites have content they pull in or push to a different site, especially to share on social media. For example, when you visit a page with a Facebook “Like” button, even if you don’t click it, the mere presence of the button may show up on the activity report as a visit to Facebook, because the button came from Facebook.

There's a website marked "suspicious." What does that mean?

A website is listed as suspicious if a child used a website that, under stricter web filtering settings, would have been blocked.

If a website appears on the suspicious sites list and you believe it should be blocked, you have two options: block that webpage, or set a stricter web filtering category.

For more information, learn how web content categories are determined.

Kids really need their own accounts?

For everybody to have the settings right for their own age (including parents!), everyone should have their own account.

If your kids use your account, you won’t be able to separate out what you and other adults in your home do from your kids’ PC and web activity. Having their own accounts lets you set different rating levels and permissions for different children.

Make sure your kids can't get into your administrator account, because then they'll be able to turn on and off their own safety settings.

If you have guest accounts on your PC, you should turn them off. Kids could use a guest account to bypass their own safety settings. For more information see Turn the guest account on or off.

What kind of account should my child have?

Local vs. connected account

For a young child, a local account may be fine: it’s an account that only works on one PC. For a kid that uses more than one device (like a tablet, PC, Xbox, or Windows Phone), needs to use email, wants to buy games, movies, or other content, or needs other services from Microsoft like Skype or OneDrive, it may be a good idea to create a Microsoft account so they can enjoy a personalized experience while staying safer online.

Whether a Microsoft account or a local account, kids should have a child account (not an administrator account) on the PC.

Adult vs. child account

Use your child’s actual birthday when setting up their account, and it will be easier to set smart defaults for what they're allowed to do on the PC, Xbox, Windows Phone, and online.

Never enter a false birthdate that would make your child appear to be an adult online.

In the United States, Microsoft has to make a small charge to the parent’s credit card to satisfy the requirements of the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). To learn more, see Why does Microsoft charge me when I create an account for my child?

Find more information about the types of accounts here: Which account is right for me?

What if my kid already has more than one account?

If a child uses more than one PC, link the reporting together at the Family Safety website so you only get one report from Family Safety for that child.

  1. Tap Link family members.

  2. Check-boxes will appear for each account. Check the accounts you want to merge.

  3. Verify you’ve checked the right boxes—this can’t be undone—then tap OK.

Can someone be in more than one Microsoft family?

No. Any Microsoft account can only be in one Microsoft family at a time.

I can't connect to the service.

If you can’t save your changes, or you see an error message that the service is unavailable, the problem could be between our systems and your Internet connection. Please wait a little while and try again.

To make sure you're connected to the Family Safety service,

  1. Press the Windows key on your keyboard.

  2. Type “family” in the search box, then choose Family Safety from the list that appears.

  3. Tap or click Manage settings on the Family Safety website.

  4. Your name should be in the list People who can manage these settings online, and you should now be able to control settings on the website.

Firefox tells my kid “This connection is untrusted.”

Firefox may show a warning when a website requires an encrypted connection. Follow the steps here to fix the problem.

Time limits aren't working as expected.

Time limits only work on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 PCs. If you use time limits, your time limit will apply to each PC, not to all the PCs together. For example, if you set a time limit of two hours, they can use the first PC for two hours, and then sign in to the second PC and use it for an additional two hours.

I get an error when I try to sign in as a parent.

Sign in to your account to make sure it’s a verified parent account. If you recently changed your email address, ask another parent in your Microsoft family to invite your new email address to the family.

I get an error saying an account is already in another family.

Follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to the Family Safety website.

  2. Tap on the account you want to remove from the family.

  3. Tap Remove family member.

  4. A message appears to ask if you’re sure. If you are sure, tap Remove.

Now that account should be able to join the correct family.

Need more help?