If your child has smartphone, you want to ensure that your child is using the device as safely as possible. But as a parent, it’s hard to know where to even begin.  The Google Family Link app, (free to download from Google Play or from the App Store) is an easy-to use and comprehensive tool for managing your child’s device. Here is everything you need to know about Google Family Link:

What can you use Google Family Link for?

The app contains the following features:

Setting daily limits

Family Link lets you set an overall time limit for the whole device per day, so for example, you can set up the device to allow for more screen time on weekends than during the week. If you want to extend the time limit after it’s been reached, your child will need to enter a one-time expiring access code that parents can find in the sidebar of the Family Link app on their phone. (does it pop up? Is it always there?)

Content Restrictions and Defaults

If your child has Family Link, then Google Safe Search (which blocks access to explicit images, videos, and websites from Google Search results) will be automatically enabled by default. You can also put further restrictions on search and Chrome to block specific sites or approve only certain sites (like Disney, for example) and block all others. As Google Family Link requires input of your child’s age, if your child is under 13, the default settings are such that unless you change the ratings for content in the Google Play section, age-appropriate content restrictions will automatically apply. These include only downloading PG-13 movies and only being able to download YouTube Kids ( access to ordinary YouTube and  the YouTube website will be blocked).

When children whose accounts are managed with Family Link turn 13 (they can decide to:

  • Manage their own Google Account; or
  • Add parental supervision for children over 13

If you want to use Family Link for your child who is over 13, they will have to give you their password. They can opt out at any time, but if they do so and without consulting with you and going through the process of removing Family Link, their phone will go into 24-hour lockdown.

Night-time down time  

Family Link enables you to set a bedtime after which your child’s phone will be locked.

Remote locking

You can lock and unlock your kid’s phone on demand. Lock Now in Family Link is a feature you can use to quickly shut down your kid’s device. –No more silence when you’re calling your kids for dinner and  they don’t respond because they’re staring at Instagram. Now you can press one button on your phone and disable the app. Tada!

Live location tracking

If your child’s device is on, has been active recently, and is connected to the internet, you can see their live location.

Tips for Families

The parent version of Family Link contains a whole lot of useful information for parents about how to talk to your kids about digital literacy topics like protecting safety and privacy online and being kind.

Usage Tracking and Reports:

The reporting feature on Family Link lets you and your child see how much time they’ve spent on each app by day, week, or month. Reports per category of activity are also provided ie. how much time your child has spent watching videos, playing games etc.

Approval for app purchases

Family Link allows you to receive a notification and provide approval whenever your child wants to install a new app, whether it’s paid for or not. You can also restrict which apps they can see while browsing and opt to allow downloads via a passcode but restrict in-app purchases.

How to Set up Family Link

Setting up Family Link is pretty simple. You and your child will both require Gmail accounts and will both require the app downloaded on your respective devices.

On your phone, you create a family manager account that controls the other devices.

For a more detailed, step-by-step guide on how to set it up, click here:

https://support.google.com/families/answer/7103338?hl=en

What the App doesn’t have:

  • Different time limits for different apps: While some other parental control apps allow for time limits on individual apps or per category of app, there is no way to do this om Family Link. You will need to constantly adjust your daily limits to give more time for a specific app
  • Monitoring and tracking messages and contacts.
  • Call tracking and blocking.

While Family Link is a great place to start, remember that no parental control app can replace a healthy and frequent conversations and check-ins with your child about practicing good digital citizenship and staying safe online

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