How to Control the Apps & Games Used by Children on their Windows Phone

Windows Phone 8 doesn't yet have a complete Parental controls feature and you cannot create rules for the websites your child uses on their smartphone, or the social networks he or she is allowed to use. However, Windows Phone does have a basic My Family feature which allows you to set the kind of apps and games your child can download, purchase and use. Here's how it works:

Things You Should Know Before Using My Family

There are a couple of prerequisites you should be aware of, before moving on to the next steps:

  • Your child must use a smartphone with Windows Phone 8. My Family is not available for previous versions of Windows Phone.
  • Microsoft accounts are mandatory, both for you and your child. If the child doesn't have a Microsoft account, you will get the chance to create one while setting up My Family.
  • Xbox games are handled separately from normal games that are found in the Windows Phone Store. For your children to have access to these games, you'll have to accept different Terms of Use, on the Xbox website.
  • If you live in the United States and have a child under 13, you might be charged a small fee, so that you can prove you are an adult. More information on this matter is found here.

How to Set My Family so that Your Child Can Download Free Apps & Games

To begin, you'll have to open the My Family section on windowsphone.com.

Sign in using your Microsoft account.

If this is the first time you land on this page, you'll see a link named Get Started. If you already went through the process of configuring a child's account, then the link will be called Add a kid. Click on it


Next, you are instructed about the need to sign in with your child's Microsoft account. In order to continue, click Go.


Now, login using your child's credentials. This should be the same account your child uses on his/her Windows Phone 8 smartphone.

On the My Family page you'll see two sections: Parents and Kids.

If you didn't yet give permission for your child to download and install apps from the Windows Phone Store, you will see a message saying "Windows Phone Store Terms of Use not accepted".

Until you accept these terms, your child won't be able to download and install apps and games on his/her phone. If your child tries to download an app from the Store, a message asking him/her to ask for your permission is shown on the phone: "The Store Terms of Use must be accepted before you can buy this item. Ask your parent to go to windowsphone.com to accept the Store's Terms of Use."


On the My Family page, on the right side of your child's name, you'll find a link named Fix it. Even if this link's name is not very intuitive, you'll have to click it in order to be able to accept the Windows Phone Store terms of use for your child's account.

Once you click on it you'll are directed to a new page. Here, check the "I have read and accept the Terms of Use for [the child's account]" box and click save.

Now you are brought back to the My Family page, where you'll see your kid can now download free apps and games from the Windows Phone Store.

How to Allow or Block Your Child from Downloading Paid Apps

To further control what your child can download and install on his/her Windows Phone, click the Update link.

A small popup is shown, with additional settings.

In it, you will notice that the default value for "App + game downloads" is "Allow free only". This means that your child cannot download paid apps and games, nor make in-app or in-game purchases. I you want to give him/her access to paid apps and games, you'll have to check the "Allow free and paid" box.

Close the Settings popup and your settings are saved automatically.

Set the Kind of Games Your Child Can Play in Windows Phone

You'll notice that the Settings pop-up mentioned earlier also lets you configure the "Game rating filter".
Even if it's not a really safe option for your child, you can choose to completely disable the rating system. To do that, set the corresponding switch to Off and you will allow your child to download and install games with any ratings.

As I live in Europe, the default rating is PEGI 3, which means that my child can only download games bearing the label "suited for all age groups". To change the allowed rating, click the link that says "Microsoft Family Safety Settings". This takes you to the Family Safety website where you have more options to choose from. But more on this subject in a future tutorial.

If you want to allow your child to play unrated games, check the "Allow unrated games" option on the bottom of the Settings pop-up.

Conclusion

As you can see from this guide, the My Family product can do a decent job in making sure that your child doesn't play games thare are not suited for his age and in controlling what apps and games he or she can download. Try it out and let us know how it worked for you.