Ahead of launches for the $500 Xbox Series X and $300 Xbox Series S, Microsoft has officially released a new app to help give parents and caregivers more control over the children's activity on the consoles. The app, which is now available for free for iPhones and devices powered by Google's Android software, has features to control children's screen time, set content filters and manage who they can play and communicate with.
"Gaming is a great way to unify and bring people together, but we also believe that gaming should be part of a balanced life as well as safe and welcoming for all, and we know this is especially important to families," Dave McCarthy, head of Xbox operations, said in a statement.
Microsoft's Family Settings App is the latest in a series of steps the company's taken to allow parents, caregivers and gamers to better take control of when and how they play. Last year, the company began setting new moderation rules for its online players. It also publicly discussed new tools it's working on like content filters, to help people avoid toxic chats.
It also comes at a time gaming is in the spotlight more so than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has forced people indoors, leading many people to use video games as an escape and a means of social connection. Internet providers around the world are reporting massive spikes in gaming traffic, and game companies say they're seeing sustained high numbers of players.
And that's all without even mentioning Microsoft's planned November launch of its new $500 Xbox Series X console, and $300 Xbox Series S, which themselves have drawn massive preorder frenzies.
Microsoft said its Family Settings App works with the current Xboxes on sale, as well as the new ones coming in November. And in addition to helping parents and caregivers control who their children chat and play with, the app will also include data on how often the child plays. Its activity report functions will show how long children played games, whether it was on a PC or an Xbox, and how long they spent playing various games. Parents and caregivers who want to limit play time can do so within the app, and they can also proactively grant more screen time if they're like.
"We know that one-size does not fit all and it's so important that as parents, you have the flexibility to decide and customize what the right access to gaming looks like for your child," McCarthy said in his blog post Thursday. "By bringing key family settings features right to your phone, we hope that families feel empowered to have important conversations about how to balance gaming with other responsibilities like school and time with friends."