Current solutions for limiting a child's screen time, blocking websites, and creating a safe browser area can be cumbersome. You may have to pay for software like Norton Family Premiere, use an app like Kaspersky Safe Kids, or manually set up and manage family accounts in Google Chrome.
Microsoft has heard these complaints and is now looking to help make the Internet safer for children. Microsoft Edge version 90, now available as a free update, is a new exclusive feature called Kid Mode.
As the name suggests, kids mode is designed to keep parents safe by providing a protected online environment while their kids surf the Internet on a shared device. According to Microsoft, Microsoft Edge is also the first major browser to offer a free native browsing mode specially designed for children aged 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 years old.
I had the chance to preview the feature, chat with Divya Kumar, Microsoft Edge Product Director, about kid mode, and talk about what makes Microsoft's approach so unique.
The numbers show that child mode is required
At the beginning of our discussion, Kumar shared some numbers that surprised me quite a bit and made me happy that kids fashion is being introduced in the latest version of Edge. She tells me these numbers are part of the reason Microsoft put a lot of time into the feature and tested it with Edge Insiders over the past few months.
According to Microsoft, 50% of US parents are affected by a so-called "hand-off scenario". This allows a child to access the web from a shared device while a parent is working or otherwise busy. According to Microsoft, this is especially true in situations where not all families are able to provide each child with a unique device and need to share PCs.
Kumar also mentioned that 58% of U.S. parents with children ages 12 and younger are addressing the issues their children face while using digital products and services. She also pointed out that while the majority know about parental control solutions, only about half actually use one.
The concern is true and real with the parents, even for Kumar himself.
"We'll be standing in the kitchen together, my nephew will come running and ask to borrow a computer or PC. My cousin will just hand it over because she doesn't want what's on the stove to burn. Children know." the exact time to ask about this, because you're right. It's just a common occurrence in households with children, "she said.
Our discussion then shifted to problems with current ways to protect children while surfing the Internet. According to Kumar, Microsoft has researched other solutions on the market and found that they take a long time to set up and are not as light weight and tailored for children. This is the other big inspiration for kids mode.
“Child mode specifically tries to address a much more temporary need. Perhaps, as a caregiver or parent, you don't want a subscription, just something that is very immediate or immediate. Child mode can be very useful in those moments, ”said Kumar.
Getting started with kids mode is easy and straightforward
Microsoft is no stranger to putting parents in control of their child's activities. Microsoft Family Safety already exists to help parents create a safe and healthy environment for a family by monitoring digital content through a child or family's Microsoft account.
However, Edge's kids mode actually builds on it and is intended to complement each other. Kumar tells me that while Microsoft Family Safety has richer controls, the kids mode is supposed to be easier for the device handover scenarios I addressed earlier.
It can even be used independently without the need for a child-specific Microsoft account or an adult-created family group. This is what makes Edge's kids mode unique. For example, the Google Chrome solution must use the Family Link app and a separate sub-account.
It looks different in child mode. You can find a toggle switch in the Microsoft Edge profile menu. Kumar showed me how seamless the experience really is. Just tap the profile icon, then tap Browse in kid mode. A parent then has two options to enter either the age group 5-8 or the age group 9-12.
According to Kumar, the experience will be slightly different in the two modes (we'll get to that later), but both have Tracking Prevention set to Strict by default and Bing SafeSearch to Strict by default. These controls are designed to ensure that adult text, pictures, and videos are blocked from your children’s online search. Also, most trackers are blocked for maximum privacy and minimal personalized ads.
Regardless of age group, Child Mode limits the websites that children can access. There are around 70 popular children's websites that are allowed. However, you can fully customize the list with just a few clicks in Microsoft Edge settings.
"Our goal is to provide children with a fascinating environment that they would love to explore. At the same time, we need to make sure that parents have peace of mind." This is the latest example of Microsoft's commitment to keeping family and children safe online, ”said Kumar. "We believe this is another tool for families to chat about developing healthy digital habits."
Delve deeper into the features of kid mode
However, there is much more to the kids mode. Microsoft has put some thought into the design and appearance of Child Mode, as well as the ways a child might try to bypass and exit Child Mode without a parent's permission.
Since kids mode is part of Microsoft Edge itself, the Edge web browser will appear in full screen mode after switching to the feature. This will block access to both the Windows taskbar and the Start menu. To exit child mode, a parent must enter an administrator password or authenticate using Windows Hello.
If a child tries to navigate to a site that is not on the allowed list, they will see a child-friendly screen suggesting that they request adult permission to continue. In principle, children do not have access to other web browsers or inappropriate content.
For the older age groups from 9 to 12 years of age, Edge's kids mode offers an age-appropriate news feed on the new tab "Specially curated articles from MSN for Kids". Topics include animals, science, and fun facts. Kids can personalize the look of their browsing experience with new browser themes that unlock wonder and discovery.
Kumar pointed out how Microsoft has worked with Disney on cool new topics to make sure kids mode doesn't match parents' web browser. You'll find themes from Disney & # 39; s Frozen and Pixar & # 39; s Cars, Toy Story and Coco.
"We had to create an environment that was attractive to children. Bright colors, fun characters, approachable language and a touch-friendly layout that was easy to navigate. We worked with top artists and design agencies," said Kumar.
Part of Edge 90
Child mode is now available in Microsoft Edge version 90 on Mac OS and Windows 10. Kumar tells me that I'm working on rolling it over to the iOS and Android versions of the web browser as well.
The Edge 90 version also has other features, such as: B. a password monitor that allows you to keep an eye on your passwords to see if they are compromised. There's even an improved history search page.
You can learn more about Child Mode at Microsoft and download Microsoft Edge here. If you're already running Edge, you can upgrade to version 90 by clicking the three dots at the top of the screen, selecting Help & Feedback, and then selecting About Microsoft Edge. From there, you will see the prompt to refresh in order to restart your browser.