A time limit is shown on screen during the game Ark

Microsoft gives parents the power to limit the time their kids spend on specific apps

Microsoft is enabling parents to limit the time their children spend on specific apps and games on Xbox, and Windows and Android devices.

Following an update to the company’s Family Settings, adults can now choose how long family members spend streaming films and music, messaging friends and playing games. Limits can also be set on Android devices if they have Microsoft Launcher installed.

For example, they parents can choose to set one hour of game time for ARK: Survival Evolved each day and two hours for Netflix. Previously, they could set broad screen time limits (three hours on Xbox One), whereas now they can choose which specific apps or games are playable or not playable within that timeframe. These app and game limits are shared across all Xbox One, Windows 10, and Android via Microsoft Launcher devices – so the time limits will apply even if a child switches from a PC to a Surface laptop, for example – and work on all child and teen accounts.

The update is aimed at helping households develop “healthy habits” with technology, so children can still use their devices safely and inclusively for tasks such as homework without being distracted by videos and social media.

“Parents have told us that they like their children using devices and Windows 10 PCs for homework but want limits on what they can access,” said Mouna Sidi Hida, Principal Lead Program Manager at Microsoft. “It’s important that we help adults include younger members of their family in their decisions around screen time. That starts conversations, builds trust and allows parents to find out what their children are watching, listening to and are interested in. This update to Family Settings helps to instil the right habits among youngsters, so they can learn as they grow.”

To set an app limit, go to family.microsoft.com and sign in with your Microsoft account. Then:

  • Find your child’s name and select App limits
  • Find the app you want to set limits on. If you’ve never set limits, it’ll show how often your child uses the app, on average.
  • Set how much time your child is allowed to spend on an app each day, and when they’re allowed to use it.

Parents can use their Family Group to see all the games and apps a child has installed on Xbox, Windows 10 and Android devices running Microsoft Launcher. Clicking on a game or app lets them see more detail on how the child is using that game, and easy-to-use sliders let them set limits. Different restrictions can be applied to weekdays and weekends, so children can focus on homework from Monday to Friday, and have more gaming time at weekends, for example.

Once a limit has been activated, the child will receive a pop-up notification detailing how long is left in that session. They will then get reminders when there is 15 minutes and five minutes left, at which point they can click on an onscreen box to ask the parent for more time. The parent will receive a notification on their device and can either agree to an extension or refuse.

Every Microsoft family account can choose to receive a weekly activity report – sent to you and your child – which contains an overview of how much time was spent on apps, games and websites. The activity reports provide transparency in how your children are engaging with Xbox One, Windows 10 devices and Android running with Microsoft Launcher and empower parents to set limits and features that they feel are the best fit for their family.

A drawing of a family sitting on a sofa at home

The update is aimed at helping households develop ‘healthy habits’ with technology

Microsoft’s Family Settings will also let adults set age ratings, so young family members will only have access to games and movies that are appropriate for them. Certain apps can be blocked entirely, and children can ask for exceptions, while the “white list” option blocks everything unless the parent unlocks specific apps and websites.

Other features include allowing parents and guardians to enable or block their child’s access to play or communicate with players on other networks.