Good news for parents! Google has come up with a new tool for parents called Family Link. This tool will help parents keep a tab on what their kids are doing on their devices, especially those younger than 13.
How the idea came into being?
About six years ago, a 5 year old daughter asked her mother that why her Google search for ‘train’ did not show her anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, the bold cartoon character that’s a favorite for kids.
It appeared to be a small limitation at that time, but it set in motion a project that now means the tech giant, Google is opening its doors to millions of kids in the US aged under 13.
Family Link App Icon
Kids wee earlier not allowed to use Gmail, YouTube, store pictures on Google Photos, download Android apps or anything that required a Google account. But now Google has opened up access in combination with the launch of a tool called Family Link for phones powered by Google’s Android software. It will allow parents to create kids’ accounts, monitor what apps they are using and establish limits for them.
“The goal in every area of Google is to improve what we do for kids,” said Pavni Diwanji, a Google engineering vice president. It was her own daughter, now 11 years old, who searched for Thomas the Tank Engine.
How to get Started with Family Link
Here’s how to get started with Family Link:
1. Download the Family Link app
The first step is to download the Family Link app and create a Family Group on Google, with the parent as the group manager. Now use the app to create a Google account for your kid, obviously with restrictions. If your kid already has a Gmail account, you still need to create a new account for him/her. You cannot use the pre-existing account. (Note: You need a credit card because Google uses a $0.30 charge as official parental consent.)
Sit down with your kid to create an account. Your child’s account will have its own password, but parents can always access a child’s device with the parent password.
2. Device set-up
Now that the kid’s account is created, you need to set up a device just like you would with any Google account. This is one of the biggest strengths of Family Link as it is not a new system for parents and kids to understand. It’s just Google, with more limiting rules. Once the device set-up is done, Family Link asks the parent to review Google’s pre-installed apps. This is an essential step, since most of the apps were not designed for kids, so parents need to take the time to review permissions for each. Parents can simply deselect the apps they don’t want their kids to use.
Even for the apps approved by parents, there are controls over the level of access. For example, Chrome allows three levels of access: unfiltered, SafeSearch (which filters porn and other types of sites) and restricted. So parents can choose their option. Another advantage is that parents can even block apps. They will be on the device but kids won’t be able to access them.
Google Play has automatic filtering by age, so kids won’t see mature content, whether it’s apps, movies or whatever. Parents can restrict what their kids can download.
3. Seeking approval
A very big advantage of Family Link is that it does not require parent’s physical presence for approvals. If your kid wants something, you will get a notification, and consent is just a tap away. Parents can approve every site their child tries to access on the browser, but they can use Google SafeSearch also.
Another positive aspect of Family Link is its broader controls. Every family is different and has its own rules for the screen time. Family Link takes this into account. It lets you set a different limit for each day of the week, and you can also set a specific Bedtime period, where the device will automatically lock up at a certain time of night. Isn’t it great!
As everything has its pros and cons so does Family Link. You can only decide on periods with 30-minute increments, and—worse—you also can’t set the limit on any particular day lower than 30.Screen time limits can be different for each day, but only in 30-minute intervals. Click To Tweet
Usually as parents what we do is that when our kids ask for extra time, we give in. But in Family Link there’s no easy way for a kid to request extra time. They will see a warning that time is about to expire in the form of a notification and there is no provision to ask for any extra time.
Family Link Features
Some of the important features of Family Link include:
- Track kids’ location.
- Need permission for new app installation.
- Put kids’ phones to sleep when it’s time for dinner, homework or bed.
- Set a “bedtime” during which devices can’t be used.
- See what apps kids have used in the last few days.
- Relax search settings from the default safe search setting.
- Set a new unlock code if kids forget their own.
- Set which apps get access to the camera or microphone.
Some kids with a sense of independence may not like Family Link. They might think that their parents are interfering.
“We don’t want kids thinking Google has built spyware,” said Saurabh Sharma, Family Link’s product manager. “That’s where transparency comes in.” Although parents can see what Android apps kids used and how much over the last week and month, they can’t see things like what websites they visited or who they sent messages to or e-books they read. Kids can also find out exactly what parents see, because they get the app, too.
At age 13, when kids can set up their own Google accounts on their own, Family Link restrictions are removed.
The app is currently in a limited invitation-only preview, so parents who want to try it out need to sign up to receive an invitation code. The service is only available on Android devices,
So what’s your verdict on Google’s new Family Link? Share with us in the comments section.