Xbox has launched a brand new app to help parents manage their children's gaming, by setting content restrictions, online gaming settings and adjusting how much screen time they get.
It's a very welcome new tool. It sure beats having to dig into the Xbox account settings and trying to do everything manually from there. By having this convenient tool always in your pocket, you can be sure that there's not too much screen time going on or - in future - that your child isn't inadvertently accepting friend requests from people they really shouldn't be getting requests from.
Get the app
Your first step to getting a simple tool to monitor your kids' Xbox usage is to download the app. It's available in beta/preview mode currently, and if you're an Android phone user, downloading it is as simple as heading to Play Store and downloading it to which ever devices you want it installed on.
If you're an iPhone user, there's a little extra step required, because in order to get access to the beta software you need to install Apple's TestFlight app. For years this has been the iOS way to test and install beta apps. You can download that here.
Once you have TestFlight installed on your iOS device, you can install Microsoft's Xbox Family Settings app by clicking this link. It's worth noting, Microsoft has only allocated 10,000 installs for this app, so if you're somehow unlucky and end up trying to install after 10,000 iPhone users have already downloaded it, you'll likely need to wait until the official app is available on the App Store.
When you first load up the app, the first few steps are similar to when you set up your child/children's account on Xbox. First, it'll ask you to set an appropriate content restriction age. Tap the little pencil next to the age, and then select one that fits the maturity of your child.
Next, it'll ask you to choose a setting for online communication, where you can choose to select whether they can communicate with everyone, friends only, or no one.
Then you get to confirm whether your child/children can play online multiplayer games. And once you've done that, you've completed initial setup.
If at any point you want to change any of those three settings, you can do so by just tapping on the user's account on the home screen dashboard, tapping the settings cog and then choosing which item you want to adjust. You can also just tap the settings cog on the bottom toolbar and selecting the account you want to adjust.
Time limits and screen time
One very useful feature is the ability to adjust how much Xbox time any child gets on their account. And managing it goes further than just being able to set an overall time limit. You also get to choose during which hours of the day they can play Xbox games. So if you want nothing before 9am and nothing after 8pm (or whatever your own family cut off is) you can set that.
On the home dashboard of the app, tap on the user profile you want to change settings for, and on the next screen select 'Screen Time'.
At the bottom of that screen is a 'schedule' window. Tap on arrow next to the range currently set, and on the next screen it breaks it down to 'Days of the week', 'Time limit' and 'Time range'.
Select the 'days of the week' and then choose the days you want to adjust the screen time for. Now select a time limit to choose how many hours in those days you want to allow Xbox access for. Lastly, in 'Time Range' choose the time slots within those days that you want to allow access for.
And that's it. Once that's set, your child's Xbox access will be allowed only during the times and for the duration that you've set.
From the home screen family dashboard, if you choose the account you want to manage again, you can also manually approve requests from accounts to get more time, or to allow screen time for the rest of the day unrestricted. So, while set as a schedule, there is some wiggle room here too. It's not a completely rigid screen limit, but any time extensions do need to be approved.