Windows 10 Parental Controls Are A Bad Idea

Knowing what is posted publicly online about your child (posted by your child or someone else) is very helpful – we would say critical – in being an effective digital parent. Knowing every website that your child visits is an invasion of privacy that could do real harm. That’s exactly what just-released Windows 10 enables by default.

From Microsoft’s Windows 10 documentation page:

“When you add a child’s Microsoft account to your family, you’ll get regular activity report emails summarising how much time they spent on the PC, the websites they visited, the games and apps they used, and the terms they’ve looked up in search engines such as Bing, Google or Yahoo! Search.”

teen-laptopThe only thing about Microsoft’s new parental control initiative that we like is that it makes it easy to track how much time your child or teen is spending online. That is helpful, especially for families where both parents work. The one obvious shortcoming is that more than half of online time is spent on mobile, and Windows 10 is not a mobile operating system.

As for tracking and reporting every Google search conducted and every website visited, that’s just wrong. Some kids need to have secrets, particularly kids who are online searching for answers to very sensitive questions. From UK’s The Independent:

“Some worried that the feature could accidentally out young LGBT people, by sending details of their web browsing to their parents. That could then in turn put them at risk of abuse by their parents…”

Being a parent is a delicate balancing act. Perhaps you don’t want your child looking at porn or learning how to build a bomb. The latter is obviously a good thing for a parent to care about, but Microsoft can’t give you a report on that without giving you everything, and everything is too much.

The internet is full of answers, and kids need answers. We encourage parents to allow kids to find the answers they need without constantly looking over their shoulders. Sure, you can block select websites if you see them as a clear risk or problem, but allow some level of discovery – in private.




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