Screen time is something so many families think about every day, including me, both at work as the product and strategy lead for family at Microsoft, and at home as a mother of two. I’m excited to share the next step in our efforts to empower families to strike the right balance of technology use in their lives with new app and game limits. Starting today, you can access this new feature in preview within our existing family settings across Windows 10, Xbox One and Android via Microsoft Launcher.
You may already be familiar with our existing device screen time feature, which allows parents to set limits at the device level. For instance, I can give my kids one hour of screen time on their Windows 10 PC devices, and another hour on their Xbox One console. Alternatively, parents can also choose to set a combined allowance of two hours, giving kids the option to spend it whichever way they want across both Windows 10 and Xbox One devices.
With the new app and game limits feature, we introduce two new key elements to screen time:
- You can now set how much time your children spend within specific apps or games. Rather than a blanket time limit for time spent on device, you can now set limits at the app or game level, enabling you to be more specific with how your kids are spending their time with technology. This can be extremely helpful as parents struggle to balance the needed screen time for homework or education purposes when children use the same devices for gaming and entertainment.
- The app and game limits you set will apply across Windows 10, Xbox One and even your child’s Android phone running Microsoft Launcher. We want to provide families the convenience of setting this up once, and letting it carry over across your child’s devices. This means one hour of Netflix per day is one hour of Netflix per day – my daughters can no longer pull a fast one by switching from one device to another.
One thing we learned from our research is that families tend to agree to different screen time allocations for weekdays and weekends. For example, you may want to allow your child to play a game until 9 p.m. on Saturday but want them done before dinner during the week. That led us to design the app and game limits feature with additional granularity to allow for both a variety of set time limits and different windows during which those limits apply, depending on the day.
Ultimately, our goal is for the app and game limits feature to provide flexible and customizable tools to meet each family’s unique needs. You as parents know what’s best for your children — no technology can ever replace that — but we’re hoping these tools can help you to strike the right balance.
To get started with app and game limits, and the many other family features we offer, the first step is to create a family group and ensure each child or teen in the family has their own Microsoft account. This is an important step for you to be able to manage their safety settings. We have recently made significant improvements to the child account creation, and credit cards are no longer required.
Once the family group is created, we encourage parents to have an open conversation with their children about their use of technology, how to empower them to learn and grow, connect with family and friends, play games and have fun; and at the same time, place guardrails to help them stay focused on their goals.
When children begin using an app or game, they are reminded of how much time they have. They will also get a reminder when they’re within 15 minutes of reaching the limit, and another reminder at five minutes, at which point they will have the option to ask for additional time. You, as the parent, can grant or deny that via email or more conveniently, via the Microsoft Launcher notification on your Android phone.
Starting today, you can access this feature in preview across the devices tied to your child’s account, which is connected to your Microsoft family group. The new app and game limits feature completes a large set of family features we’ve been developing over the past few years to empower families to develop healthy digital habits, including weekly activity reports – sent to both parent and child as a great opportunity to foster a dialog – content filters, device screen time, spending limits, child location and Xbox privacy and online safety settings.
Check out Xbox Wire for more information. We hope you will give this new feature a try and let us know what you think so we can continue to build experiences and tools that meet the needs of today’s families. (Go to any of the family web pages and click on Feedback in the bottom right.)