Many have tested Windows 8.1 but nobody paid attention to its revamped parental controls. In the writing of my upcoming book - Windows 8.1 Step by Step - I have noticed that Microsoft made huge changes to its Family Safety service, some of which hint to upcoming Windows Phone features that might be part of Windows Phone 8.1. Let's see what's new in Windows 8.1 and what Microsoft may include in Windows Phone 8.1.
1. There is a New Account Type for User Accounts - Child
When editing user accounts in Windows 8.1, you can assign one of the following three types: Administrator, Standard User and Child.
2. Parental Controls are Managed Completely Web Based
The Family Safety service has been completely revamped and turned into a web-based service. You no longer need to be on your home PC in order to view what your child is doing and manage his or her computing activities.
Log in to the Family Safety website and you can manage your child's computing activities and the devices he or she is using.
3. It Offers Better Controls for Windows Store Apps & Games
Microsoft took everything that Family Safety used to offer and made sure it is included in their new web based service. They also added some new features on top.
One of them is improved controls for the Windows Store apps and games your children are using or playing.
You can create general rules, using established rating systems like ESRB, or you can assign permissions at an app/game level.
4. It Offers Better Reporting
Other important updates were made to its reporting features. You can use a very good summary report, with stats about your child's web activity that includes the most popular websites that were visited, suspicious pages that were visited, blocked pages and the latest web searches. The summary report also includes visual stats about your child's PC usage, the most used apps and games, as well as Windows Store downloads and the time of his or her last activity.
Further web and PC activity reports detail the actions taken by Family Safety for each activity.
3. Upcoming Parental Controls for Windows Phone
What's even more interesting is that the new Family Safety website has many references to Windows Phone features that don't yet exist. For example, the homepage shares that it can also apply parental controls to Windows Phone devices.
Then, you will find a Phone downloads section, that should have Windows Phone Store settings for your child's account.
So far, Windows Phone 8 has a basic parental controls feature, named Kid's Corner, which we covered in detail here: How to Use Kid's Corner - Parental Controls for Windows Phone 8.
Kid's Corner doesn't offer any kind of filtering, monitoring and reporting features like Family Safety does on Windows 8.1. It would be great to be able to set rules for the apps and games used by your child on his Windows Phone, block suspicious downloads and his access to inappropriate websites.
As you can see from this quick overview, Family Safety in Windows 8.1 is even better than it used to be. In my view, it is a better service than many commercial products that offer similar features. Also, providing parental controls in Windows Phone 8.1 can be a great move that will help differentiate this platform. It would be the first operating system for smartphones to provide built-in parental controls that protect children when using their smartphones.