How to use parental controls in Windows 8

Parental controls in Windows 8 are more configurable and robust than ever before. We'll show you how to use parental controls in Windows 8 to help keep kids safe while using a PC.

Ed Rhee
Ed Rhee, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an IT veteran turned stay-at-home-dad of two girls. He focuses on Android devices and applications while maintaining a review blog at techdadreview.com.
Ed Rhee
3 min read

Windows 8

Keeping kids safe while using an Internet-connected computer is an ongoing concern and a challenge for parents and technology companies alike. To help make it easier for parents to see and control what kids are doing on a PC, Microsoft has added some new parental control features to Windows 8.

Family Safety, as it's now called in Windows 8, can send activity reports via e-mail, set Web filtering levels, monitor and restrict apps from the Windows Store, and set time limits. Here's how to set up and use Family Safety for Windows 8:

Turning on Family Safety
When you log in to Windows 8 with a Microsoft account, it will automatically configure itself for remote management at the Family Safety Web site. To enable monitoring on a user account, click the Family Safety box at the end of the Add User wizard.

Enable Family Safety
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Configuring Family Safety
After creating a new account with Family Safety turned on, you'll automatically be taken to the Family Safety setup section in the Control Panel. Click on the user account you want to configure. Optionally, you can configure the user account by going to the Family Safety Web site.

Set up Family Safety
Click to enlarge. Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Once you've clicked on the user account to configure, you'll see the Windows settings you can control for that user.

Family Safety user settings
Click to enlarge. Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

  • Web filtering allows you to choose a Web restriction level and block file downloads. You can also allow or block specific Web sites. Turning Web filtering on will also enable strict mode for SafeSearch, which filters out adult content from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Time limits allow you to set a time allowance and a curfew. Time allowance is new to Windows 8 and it allows you to set the amount of time the user is allowed to use the PC per day. By default, it's set up in two sections: weekdays and weekends, but you can drill down and set limits for each day of the week.
  • Windows Store and game restrictions allows you to control which apps and games the user can use, based on ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings. You can also allow or block specific games.
  • App restrictions lets you set which apps and programs on the PC can be used by the user.

Viewing activity reports
You can view activity reports in one of three ways -- from your Windows 8 PC, from the Family Safety Web site, or via a weekly e-mail. If you prefer not to receive the weekly e-mail, you can turn it off from the Family Safety Web site.

Family Safety activity report
Activity report from Microsoft's Family Safety Web site. Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

That's it. Keep in mind that if you have more than one PC that you allow your child to use, you might want to consider setting up an online Microsoft account for them. You can use local accounts, but you'll probably have to set up their Family Safety settings for every PC, rather than just once with a Microsoft account.

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