A Microsoft Family snapshot

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One aspect of the Microsoft ecosystem which we've never covered on AAWP is Microsoft Family. This is a cross-device, cross-account monitoring system for you to manage what your family gets up to on their Windows smartphones. It had been heavily re-engineered and rebranded for Windows 10 and, thanks to reader Julian Grail, we've been sent a real world report of what one of his kids has been getting up to (suitably redacted). Very interesting.

Of course, one of the main reasons why we've never covered this (or similar) on AAWP is that the prerequisite of one or more of your family also using a Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile handset) is rarely met - I've been battling wife and daughter with iPhones and Blackberrys for a decade now!

However, Julian Grail has his son, at least, organised with a Windows 10 Mobile (upgraded, I assume) phone in this case, and he's sent in what Microsoft sends him each week, if you see what I mean - I've converted the HTML report to a graphic, for clarity and to stop the formatting being altered:

Family report example

Very useful for a parent to see what their son or daughter has been up to. I guess there are privacy concerns as your child gets into their teenage years, but the exact age at which you decide that you don't need to monitor them anymore will be a personal call. And the various threats and worries change over time too, from worrying that they're bankrupting you through in-game purchases (having spotted your password!) through to inappropriate content through to seeing who they're interacting with.

Microsoft Family can't help with all of this, but it goes quite a long way and the insights given above do make the service worth setting up if your family and their smartphone stable qualifies(!) Note that Microsoft family also works with tablet, laptop and Xbox, though a) we only cover the phone side of things here, and b) if the child also has (say) an Android phone then there's not much point in monitoring the rest of their digital life - this has to be an end to end Microsoft solution.

Which is, admittedly, not that likely in 2016, but it's a USP for worried parents, at least.


Getting started is easy enough, just opt to 'add a child' and then enter their Microsoft account details:


As the screengrabs suggest, there are extra benefits to hooking all this together. Simply being able to load up a kid's account with some prepaid Store credit and not having to worry about them spending excessively is worth the set-up hassle alone. Having rated content handled properly is a bonus, and then the geolocation of their phone is extra again.

Then add in the comparative wealth of data that gets collected and emailed to you weekly and Windows 10's 'Microsoft Family' feature starts to look really compelling.

I'll return to this feature in due course. Although there's no way I can separate my daughter from her iPhone, I guess I could set up a spare handset and err... pretend. Your comments welcome - have you had more luck in switching your family to Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile? Have you used Microsoft Family? Care to share any of its insights or your favourite features?