How to keep your kids safe on Xbox Series X|S using a Microsoft Account Family

Heidi Nicholas - December 24th 2019

The holidays are coming up, offering a chance for the family to play games together. But if you're sick to the back teeth of board games and are dreading another round of Monopoly, you might have invested in an Xbox Series X or the smaller Xbox Series S for you and your family. Xbox owners can make multiple accounts, for the family, for the kids, and for themselves, so that once the holidays are over and everybody's starting to drift back to their own games, they can do so with relative freedom. But you may be wondering how to make sure that your kids or younger family members are still seeing age-appropriate content, once they go back to shopping and playing games for themselves.

Microsoft has been busy since we first published this guide on how to use parental features on the Xbox One console, and there is now, luckily, an app which streamlines the whole process. We'll run through the original guide first, since it also covers the basics of a Microsoft Account Family, and include the info about the app at the bottom, so you can skip straight to whichever bit you need. You can also check Microsoft's original video about parental features below.

This guide is part of a series aimed at first time Xbox owners. TrueAchievements is the largest Xbox community site on the internet, allowing players to track their gaming achievements, discuss strategies and compete in contests and leaderboards. Once you have set yourself up on Xbox, you can register with us for free using your gamertag.

How do I manage my child's access to the Xbox Series X|S?

The best way to manage aspects of your child's access to their Xbox console – what they can play, how long they can play it and what other features they may have access to – is to set up a Microsoft Account family with yourself at the top. Each of your family members can have their own Account tied to it, but the parent account will be able to access parental features. You can start by setting yourself up as the main account on the Xbox Series X|S itself.

How do I set myself up as the main account on the Xbox Series X|S?

Microsoft's own recommendation, if the Xbox Series X|S in question is going to be a Christmas present, is to open up the Xbox to set it up a few days beforehand, then re-box it – both to check it all works and also to sort out the account set-up process. We have a guide to setting up a Microsoft Account and a gamertag for those who aren't familiar – if you already have a Microsoft account via Outlook, or Skype, or another Microsoft product, you can sign in straight away. Just make sure that you select Lock it down on Sign in and Security Preferences during sign-up – you can also access these settings by hitting the Xbox Guide Button (lit-up central button on your controller), and heading into Profile & system followed by Settings. Head into Account, then to sign-in, security & passkey to change those settings. It's a good idea to set a passkey for yourself to quickly be able to jump into various settings on the system.

How do I set up a family Microsoft Account?

Once you have set up your account, you can now add additional accounts as part of a family. Press the Xbox Guide button on your controller and head to Profile & system, and then Settings. From the settings page, you'll find Family settings under Account. In here, head to Manage Family Members. Now you can view your existing Family on your Microsoft Account or add new members to it. There's also the option to remove your kid from the Xbox, and the slightly harsh "Remove your kid from family" option, too.

The process of adding a new family member is the same as setting up your initial Xbox Account – you can either sign in your child's existing Microsoft Account or create a new one for them. Bear in mind that this involves creating an email and password and a gamertag, so it's up to you whether you want to manage all of that too or give your kid some control over their settings. During this process, because you are signing in as the child, you will eventually come across a screen that asks you – the parent – to sign in to continue. This is the same screen your child will see whenever they try and access content or features you have restricted. Based on the date of birth you put in for the child, Microsoft will set up some automatic parental and safety features which you can then customise.

What parental features or restrictions can I put on a child or teen account?

Xbox are always updating and changing parental features, and the options available are quite extensive. You can, as the parent account, adjust purchasing settings, screen time, the content and age range available, and the communication settings. These can also be modified for each account individually, so that if you have a teenager and a younger child added as family members on your account, you can allow the older child to access more and different content than the younger child. The age limits are also quite extensive; instead of just content for five to seven year olds, or five plus, you can choose each individual year.

How do I restrict the age rating of games, apps and movies my child can access?

Head back to Family settings. Log in with your passkey again, and in Manage family settings, you'll see the list of all the younger family members you've added to your family group. Select the kid whose settings you want to change, and then select Privacy & online safety. Under that, select Access to content, which will then give you a dropdown menu of all the different ages you can select. This setting doesn't just affect the games your kid will see, but also all of the other media and apps. If your kid wants to access a game outside of their age restrictions, it'll pop up with a message saying that they'll need their parent's permission. The parent or family member in question can then sign in to either block them from this game, allow them access to it always, or allow them to play it just this once.

How do I restrict the websites my child can access?

It's important to understand that Xbox players can also access the regular old Internet through their Xbox – some games and apps might even prompt it unexpectedly. So it's important to restrict web page access too.
Underneath Access to content, you'll see "Web filtering", where you can change what kind of websites your kid will see or be able to access on the Xbox Series X|S. If you access this setting on the console, it'll take you to a Microsoft Edge webpage.

At this point you may find it easier to hop on a PC, laptop or mobile and head to your Microsoft Account family settings, instead of trying to navigate a web browser on the console.

Web filtering is adjusted in the same way as games and apps, and Microsoft automatically turn on web filtering for children under eight. From the Family page on your Microsoft account you can head to Content restrictions to alter what websites can and can't be accessed on a more granular level.

How do I restrict my child's screen time on their Xbox Series X|S?

This one might cause a little outrage amongst your younger family members. Screen times and limits can be set for anyone in your Microsoft Family. Select the Screen time option, which can be found with your child's name on your family page. Here, you have the option to set the screen time limits you're about to make so that they're across all devices, or you can make individual schedules for PCs and Xbox, by choosing either Use one schedule for all devices, or else toggling PC and Xbox on. You'll be presented with options for when your child's screen time can start and end, as well as the option to set up individual screen time limits for each day of the week; for instance, if you wanted to allow them less screen time on the weekdays, but more on weekends. Bear in mind that the screen time limit starts to be used up as soon as they sign in, and not only when they're playing; so even if they're signed in but not using it, their screen time will still be counting down.

You can also set up your Xbox to notify your kids when their screen time is almost up, which, unfortunately for your kids, makes the "that wasn't ten minutes" argument redundant. Do this by pressing the Xbox Guide button on your controller and heading back to Settings. In the Preferences sub menu, choose Notifications. Select Xbox notifications and then System, and switch System notifications to On.

How do I restrict what my child can buy on Xbox Series X|S?

Microsoft seem to be pretty on it with making sure kids can't sneak purchases past their parents. Not only can you choose whether to allow them to purchase items or not, you can also add content restrictions, put money in their accounts to allow them to shop with your restrictions in place, set adult approval settings in place for items they want to buy, and request to be notified via email each time they make a purchase, so you can see what they're buying.

To turn on adult approval for purchases, press the Xbox Guide button on your controller and go to Settings. Head to Manage family members again and then select the name of the child or children you want to use this feature with. Select Privacy & online safety, then Xbox Live privacy and View details & customize, then Buy & download. From here, you can turn on the Ask a parent option. It's worth bearing in mind that this works for everything your kids want to buy in the Microsoft store, except for items they buy with gift cards or money in the Microsoft account; these purchases can be monitored with the usual shopping restrictions.

If you want to give your child some amount of autonomy in terms of what they choose to purchase, you can add funds to their account directly. Head back to the family page on a browser and select Spending from your child's summary menu. From here you can toggle those Ask a parent settings mentioned above, but from here you can set it on Xbox and Windows. You can also Add Money – your kid will be able to use this to make purchases, but only within the content restrictions you have already set out. Underneath, you can see their purchase history and keep an eye on things. Speaking of keeping an eye on things...

How do I monitor my child's activity on Xbox Series X|S?

Aside from the app (we'll get to that below) the easiest way to do this is on a PC, using the family page. Head to your child's Recent activity, and you will see a section called Keep an eye on kids online. Toggle on Activity Reporting here and you will be able to see a breakdown of app and game usage, web browsing, searches and spending. You can also choose to have a weekly report sent to your email.

How can I remove or change parental settings?

Depends who's asking. If you're a ten-year-old reading this, we can't help you; you'd probably be better off going and finding the parent who has the Xbox powers. Plus, a passkey is needed to change anything, anyway. If you're a parent: all of these options can be managed from your Manage family settings option on the Xbox, your family settings page on a web browser, or on the app.

How the Xbox Family Settings app helps to manage your child's gaming experience

Within the app, available on the App store and Google Play, you can add your children to your family account, allowing you to manage their gaming activities and interactions. The app offers a more streamlined method. For instance, heading to the app will immediately bring up your family members, letting you navigate from there to manage every aspect of the process. Your list of notifications will, for instance, allow you to manage your child's friend list. Since you will be able to see your child's list of followed friends and manage approvals, setting it so that they will 'Ask a parent' before adding a new friend, you will receive a notification each time your child wants to add a friend, letting you either 'allow' it or 'review' it. You can also remove friends from their list, as well as set their online communication settings to let them speak to 'everyone,' 'friends only,' or 'no one.'

For online multiplayer specifically, you will first have the option to allow your child to play with others in the Xbox online community. From there, you can set it so that your child will only play against other players on Xbox or PC, and adjust the settings to allow them to use voice or text chat. The app also lets you easily access all other management aspects, including content restrictions, so that you can apply age filters. You can set specific screen time limits for each day, and view a summary of your child's gaming activity. Once screen time limits have been sent, your child can quickly send a message asking if they can play for longer. This will pop up as a new notification, allowing you to add time or refuse the request.

Which games should I get for my family?

Once you've got all those options sorted, you might want to know what you can actually play. Check out our list of all the best family games you can play with your kids this holiday.