Microsoft just launched a Kids Mode for its Edge browser. The mode limits websites and comes with two separate options, one aimed at those aged 5-8 and one for ages 9-12.
The update is free, available today across both Windows and macOS versions of the browser.
It's another example of how tech giants are shoring up their internet products and services amid growing concerns surrounding internet use, data privacy, and online harassment.
What Kids Mode does
The new Mode defaults to preventing most tracking, reducing personalized ads.
Kids will be restricted to Bing SafeSearch, without access to any websites or videos that don't pass muster. They'll have access to “about 70 popular kid sites” by default, although this list is customizable, so parents can add approved sites as well. A variety of Disney and Pixar themes are available.
How to launch it
Parents can launch Kids Mode by making sure their Edge browser is fully updated. Then, follow these instructions:
- Click the account profile in the upper right corner of Edge
- Select Browse in Kids Mode
- Enter the age range needed: 5-8 or 9-12
The browser will then switch to the Kids Mode version, with a “simplified browsing experience” for younger kids and expanded access to kid-friendly articles and news in the 9-12 age range, thanks to “specially curated articles from MSN for Kids.”
In order to exit Kids Mode, the parents' authentication must be entered.
Parents are looking for internet safeguards
In its announcement of the feature, Microsoft noted a few reasons behind the new functionality: 58% of U.S. parents with children aged 12 and younger are concerned about their kids' digital consumption habits, but only about half of them actually use parental control solutions. In other words, Microsoft knows there's a gap in the market.
That makes sense, since the harms of internet trolls and engagement-hungry algorithms have been making headlines for years.
Notably, YouTube has been trying to tamp down these problems for years, taking such measures as cutting out all targeted ads on kid-specific content, or disabling the commenting function for any videos featuring minors.
That said, there is such a thing as going too far with kid-oriented content, and some tech companies may be overplaying their hand. Look no further than the international coalition of 35 consumer groups that just called out Mark Zuckerberg for his planned “Instagram for children,” saying it would just expose young children to “the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”
They might well have a point. Luckily, there's a quick fix — parents can now just add any version of Instagram to their Kids Mode blocklist and move on with their lives.