We live in a time of both great opportunity and great responsibility. Our children have access to more information, entertainment and more ways to connect than ever before, but with that comes plenty of new things that parents like you and I need to worry about and new ways to distract their attention. Today, we are excited to introduce new features that make it easier and safer for families to interact with technology and, each other, across devices and platforms.
Creating tools and features that empower both parents and kids has always been an important part of our work and is becoming increasingly vital, not only to us as a business, but to us as individuals – parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends. As a mother to a young and curious daughter, I deeply understand the need for tools to help balance the use of technology in the home as well as out of the home. It’s especially near and dear to me as leader of a team building experiences for mobile devices. We emphasize the idea of transparency as a guiding principle for these new experiences. Today, I am happy to share new features that will help create greater transparency between parent and child, as well as between Microsoft and parents in what to expect from our tools.
Updates to Microsoft Launcher for Android
We’re bringing new features to the popular Microsoft Launcher app for Android with two new mobile experiences, currently in preview, that give parents more peace of mind for their family and a look at your child’s activity across their devices – Windows 10 PCs, Xbox One devices, and now their Android phone.
With Microsoft Launcher installed on your family’s Android devices and a Microsoft family group of accounts set up, parents can:
- Stay up to date on kids’ whereabouts. At home and on the go, you can use Microsoft Launcher to get an update on your kids’ location and rest easier knowing they are safely where they should be. You can see your child’s (or children’s) last known location and time.
- Be aware of which apps your kids are using. Check in on your kids’ app activity on their Android device, including which apps are accessed and time spent on each app. With Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC set up in your family portal, you can also view their activities on those devices through Microsoft Launcher.
Microsoft Launcher is the only launcher that gives parents this visibility across Android, Windows 10, and Xbox One devices. Children and parents always have the option to toggle features off and on at any time and, best of all, it’s free. If you have a Microsoft family group, you can install Microsoft Launcher on your family’s Android devices. If you don’t have a family group set up yet, it’s easy – here’s how.
Site blocking in Microsoft Edge for Android
With Microsoft Edge, the ability to allow or block websites has always existed on your PCs. Now, we are extending this feature to you and your family’s Android devices. If you have set up a Microsoft family group, any websites you have already tagged as allowed or blocked for your kid(s) will carry the same settings as they try to access websites in Microsoft Edge on their Android devices. The update will begin rolling out today.
MSN Kids brings curated, kid-friendly news to the web
We are also excited to announce MSN Kids, currently in preview, a curated news site created specifically for children in the elementary and middle school age group. We saw a need for a place for kids to learn about the world in a safe, trustworthy and fun environment. The site offers editorially curated, age-appropriate news and features from partner publishers such as Time for Kids, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic, and USA TODAY.
Content is kid-friendly and helps children find things of interest to stay engaged, learn, and have fun – with no sponsored content or advertising. Kids can learn about animals, the world around them, kids like them doing interesting things around the globe and more. When using Microsoft Edge, kids can also use pen and read aloud to engage with puzzles or assist with reading articles. Check out the preview today at msnkids.com.
Family experiences across devices and platforms
These new experiences are the next step in a long history of creating products, features, and settings with families in mind, spanning gaming to mobile to PC and the web.
- Family safety settings in Windows 10 and Xbox One: With families today owning more personal devices than ever, including kids at increasingly younger ages, we’ve invested in family settings that work across devices and platforms. A core set of family safety settings – including the ability to block mature content and apps, set screen time limits, and review kids’ purchase requests – have long been available for Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One devices. These settings help parents keep kids safer, while also fostering independence and letting kids do homework, research, and be creative, using technology as a powerful learning tool.
- Safer online spending with Ask a parent: One especially useful setting, called Ask a parent, lets parents avoid surprise spending on Xbox or the Microsoft Store by receiving notifications when kids want to make a purchase. Parents can decide whether to approve based on the maturity level, cost, and whether it fits within screen time allowed. From the kids’ perspective, it’s a good way to let Mom or Dad know what cool new game they want. From the parents’ perspective, it’s a good way to help kids manage temptations (such as in-app purchases) and make good choices.
- Shared family notebook in OneNote: Earlier this month we released the new family notebook in OneNote. We know families are busier than ever and with a family notebook your whole family can stay in sync and organized – from shopping lists to vacation planning, the whole family can share, edit and access information in one place.
These are just some of the many great features across our devices and services that empower families with peace of mind, tools to learn, grow and, of course, have fun. More information can be found at this page. Please download Microsoft Launcher and Microsoft Edge for Android and give the new features a try. We look forward to hearing your feedback so we can empower you with the best tools to create the safest, most productive and fun experiences for our families.