David Papp Blog

Parents Are in Control with Google’s Family Link

Here’s good news for parents of kids 12 and under. Google has created a way for young children to have their very own parent-controlled accounts. The new Family Link program offers a safer online experience that gives kids both freedom and safety.

According to Influence Central’s 2016 Digital Trends Study, kids are getting their first smartphones at an average age of 10.3-years-old. 64% have online access with their own laptops or tablets. And tablets are replacing tic-tac-toe and DVDs to make up 55% of family road trip entertainment.

Parents can now moderate their kids’ activities and information-sharing online by requesting an invite to the Family Link early access program. Once approved, they can create an account for each child and start using the free app.

A parent and one other adult can use the app on almost any android cellphone or tablet. Family Link allows a full range of control. At the same time, it encourages parents and kids to talk about online choices.

What parents can do with Family Link:

  • Manage settings for safe searching
  • Approve or block downloads from the app store
  • Track screen time or time spent on certain apps with monthly reports
  • Set turn-off times for bedtime, homework hours, or piano practice time
  • Control permission to use the mic, camera, location access, and contact access
  • Set content filters
  • Turn the search function on and off in the YouTube kids’ app

Users will be able to locate their children’s devices. Johnny leaves his tablet at school or wanders over to a friend’s home, his parents can know right away. They’ll also be able to set off-times and change passwords to cut off access completely.

The app is now in the Google Play store and has already surpassed 10,000 downloads. When applying for the program, Google will send a link and instructions for getting started right away.

To be eligible, parents will need to:

  • Be located in the U.S.A.
  • Have access to an approved device and operating system
    Kids will need a device running Android 7.0 or higher. Parents must be able to run KitKat (4.4) and up on Android or iOS 9 and up on Apple devices.
  • Have a Google account

While Google provides a safer early browsing experience, it does have limits. The program won’t give complete monthly tracking for music players and messaging. You’ll have to get your hands on the actual device and check playlists on your own. Also, if your child already has an account, you won’t be able to use it with the program – you’ll need to make a new one.

What about older kids?

13 is the age at which the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) no longer requires children to have parental approval for online activity. So if your 14-year-old wants to watch PewDiePie, it may be time to look for other software alternatives.

The internet is a big, wonderful place and it’s not going away. Google is taking one step toward helping families enjoy it more … by giving kids a safe, positive experience online.