Empowering Families with Online Safety Tools

Posted by Caroline Curtin
Policy Counsel, U.S. Government Affairs

On Nov. 9 and 10, I had the opportunity to join more than 400 educators, safety advocates, and industry representatives at the Family Online Safety Institute Conference in Washington, DC. The annual event focuses on innovative ways to keep kids safe online. The theme of this year’s conference “Internet Freedom, Safety & Citizenship: A Global Call to Action” brought together an international audience from more than 15 countries.  Peter Cullen, Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Strategist, delivered a keynote that addressed why these issues are so important to the successful growth of our internet economy.

Online SafetyOn the second day, I took part in a panel discussion about what companies are doing to equip parents with effective safety and privacy tools. While specific approaches varied, two key themes emerged: the need to provide busy parents with easy-to-use tools and the importance of helping parents and caregivers discuss online safety with their children. Recognizing that parents’ have limited time, Microsoft’s updated Family Settings now include intelligent default settings so that parents can set age appropriate controls quickly and easily. Based on parent feedback, we added a new feature called game title exceptions to give parents the flexibility to allow specific games they deem appropriate for their children. These new tools, along with the classic settings like the built-in Family Timer, give parents even more control over their family’s gaming and entertainment experiences. As we continue to develop new technology – like Kinect for Xbox 360  – we recognize that we need to innovate responsibly. That’s why Kinect was integrated into Xbox’s overall Family Settings, putting parents in control of their children’s safety and privacy.

While robust tools empower parents, it is equally vital that we raise awareness among families of the array of educational resources available to them. To this end, Microsoft is leading a public education effort with more than a dozen non-profit organizations called Get Game Smart. With tools like the PACT, Get Game Smart helps parents and kids talk openly about what is appropriate to watch, share and play, and with whom.  Get Game Smart also has a short, new video guide that outlines simple steps parents can take to encourage safer gaming.

Microsoft looks forward to continuing to make progress in this important area and to working with our partners to develop helpful tools and resources for parents and families as technology evolves and plays an even more profound role in our lives.

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