Windows 10 brought a massive raft of new security options with it, and many people have been bamboozled by the 13 pages of settings. We’ve also seen a number of privacy issues erupt as consumers realize Microsoft is never far from your data and, even with privacy-breaching settings turned off, Windows 10 likes to touch base with Redmond all the same.
Now we have seen instances of parents receiving emails regarding their children’s computer usage, offering details of where they’ve been, what software they’ve been using, and exactly what they’ve been clicking. Some parents are horrified, some don’t understand, whilst others welcome the chance to keep a watchful eye on little Timmy.
Let’s look at the settings, and how to use them to secure your computer.
Changes to Parental Controls
Windows 10, like predecessor Windows 8.1, allows for the creation of child accounts. The child accounts can have a number of limitations imposed upon them: software access, website access, context-menus, and more can all be limited.
Unsurprisingly, this is a welcome feature for many parents worried about what their children might access when left to their own devices. However, following the switch to Windows 10 many parents are realizing that the new operating system is monitoring more than they thought, and one of the central features of the child account-the activity email-is now opt out, rather than opt-in.
Child Account Activity Reports
The activity report is a weekly direct email to the primary Windows 10 account holder. It sends a list of websites visited, how many hours per day the computer has been used, and the length of time spent in particular apps. Boing Boing reader, Kirk, received a surprise after upgrading his 14-year old son’s laptop from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10:
“Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled ‘Weekly activity report for [my kid]’, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.
I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting.”
Unexpected, unwanted. But an email notification likely to be appearing in countless parents inboxes following their upgrade and consequent setup of a restrictive child account.
Whilst the email activity should undoubtedly be an opt-in service, the email may well expose important information for both children and parents. Children on the receiving end of cyber-bullying may find some unexpected respite if their parents realize the extent of the abuse.
there are so many queer and trans kids that are going to be beaten, kicked out of homes, or cut off from support networks. thanks microsoft.
— Dykestra's Algorithm (@morganastra) August 24, 2015
Others struggling with identity or sexuality issues may find a new pathway to conversation where there was previously none. Similarly, parents may pick up on the opening signs or progression of grooming tactics and be able to stop any malicious advances before any serious event.
Ultimately, it is up to any parent to talk to their child and discuss safe Internet practices. In our digitized world, exposure to the Internet begins earlier and earlier, and as with most other parent/child issues the sharing of knowledge and building of trust around the subject is often the best answer.
Managing Windows 10 Parental Controls
If you manage a child account for your small person and would like to opt-out of the activity email, I’ll show you how, right here, right now, as well as how to setup the initial child account.
First, setting up the child account. Head to Settings> Accounts> Family & Other Users. Here you can Add a family member, as highlighted in the below image. This will open a new dialogue box allowing you to choose either an Adult or Child account. Select Add a child.
The final box asks for an email address for the child (which we find odd). If they have an email address, you can add that, create a new email address for them, or add your own. Press Next, then Confirm on the next page. You’ll then need to confirm the invited email address to enable the family settings. Do that, and we’ll continue.
Once confirmed, you’ll be able to edit the child account security and privacy settings. Head to Settings> Accounts> Family & Other Users, where you’ll note the additional option to Manage family settings online. On selection, a new browser window will open, and you’ll be able to edit the numerous settings:
- Recent activity: settings for the weekly child computer activity email covering web browsing, apps and games, and screen time.
- Web browsing: block inappropriate websites, with individual options for adult content, InPrivate browsing, Bing SafeSearch, plus individual URL whitelist tool.
- Apps, games & media: block inappropriate apps and games from the Windows Store. Drop down option for age limits, restricting apps and games to specific ratings.
- Screen time: set limits for the amount of time your child can use the computer, teaching ‘good screen time habits‘ in the process. Each day can be individually programmed to allow evening study time and weekend gaming time.
- Purchases and spending: add money to your child’s Microsoft account so they can choose which apps and games to buy. This also keeps a purchase history, and can be used in conjunction with the restrictive Windows Store settings to ensure nothing nefarious is being purchased.
Microsoft says anyone upgrading from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 to Windows 10 with active child accounts should receive a notification to commence a family audit following installation. Microsoft have also confirmed that the upgrade does wipe your existing family privacy and safety settings, so if you are worried it is probably best to check over and implement any new settings. And, if you read this article ahead of time, make sure to note down any screen time settings to copy over!
The major change to the child accounts are their configuration. Previously, you could allot individual local accounts to your children, and manage the privacy settings individually. But many new Microsoft features such as the consolidated wallet require an official Microsoft account, so local accounts are out of the window.
One major advantage to this new setup is the universal application of the child account through your Windows 10 computers. The privacy settings will also follow them around, but it does mean creating each of your children a new account, and creating new settings.
Parental Control Roundup
The opt-out nature of the weekly activity email isn’t ideal for many parents, or indeed their children, but I’m not sure it is the absolutely horrific privacy blunder many have insinuated. It does raise another question though. Are we okay with a digitized society where we have to hammer into our children that someone, somewhere, is always watching?
Were you startled to receive an email? Or do you use it to keep a watchful eye? Let us know what you think below!