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Windows 8 Lets Parents Track Kids' Internet Use

Microsoft's Windows 8 Family Safety tool generates reports that keep parents informed about their children's online activities.

X Windows Annoyances That Windows 8 Will (Hopefully) Solve
Windows Annoyances That Windows 8 Will (Hopefully) Solve
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Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system will include new tools designed to make it easier for parents to monitor their children's computer and Internet usage without having to peer over their shoulders.

The new Family Safety features built into Windows 8 include weekly usage reports that are emailed to parents or guardians, and tools that allow them to block certain websites and apps, set time limits, and review Windows Store purchases.

"Computers give children access to many positive experiences; however, parents face challenges in monitoring what their children see online, the people they meet, and the information they share," said Phil Sohn, Microsoft's senior program manager for family safety, in a blog post.

Microsoft recommends that family PCs be set up in a common room so that parents can keep an eye on what their kids are doing online. "Parenting techniques like this are important, but they may be difficult to employ if your household has multiple PCs or if your kids use laptops and tablets. And glancing over a teenager's shoulder can be awkward for both parents and kids," said Sohn.

[ Get expert guidance on Microsoft Windows 8. InformationWeek's Windows 8 Super Guide rounds up the key news, analysis, and reviews that you need. ]

To give parents less intrusive ways to monitor online behavior, Microsoft has added several new tools to Windows 8. The OS allows parents to set up an administrator account, from which they can establish individual accounts for each of their children. If they check the "Family Safety" box while doing so, they will receive weekly emails that detail their kids' computer usage.

The reports show which websites a child has visited and the number of pages viewed there, search histories, total time spent on the PC, and which apps and games they used most. Parents can activate Web filtering and other safeguards directly from within the email. The reports contain data from all devices on which a child logged into to his or her Windows account.

"Windows 8 gives you a 'monitor first' approach, which provides informative activity reports for each child," said Sohn. "With the simplicity of activity reports, we believe more parents will adopt Family Safety, resulting in a safer computing environment for children."

Windows 8 is expected to be available later this year. Microsoft is developing two main versions--one that runs on PCs, laptops, and tablets powered by x86 chips from Intel and AMD, and a tablet-only version, known as Windows RT, that's designed specifically for tablets that use ARM-based processors. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 1:04:17 AM
re: Windows 8 Lets Parents Track Kids' Internet Use
Is this going to be an option on the mobile version of Windows 8 as well as the standard desktop/laptop version?

I also have to wonder how long it will be before someone out there gets malicious with this little option and starts logging what people are doing on their systems, without their permission.

The option says that the parent will be receiving a weekly e-mail... does that mean that Windows 8 is shipping with an SMTP server onboard or relying on an external third party to relay that e-mail? That could be a SERIOUS nightmare waiting to happen.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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