Today, young people are using smartphones from an even earlier age. And while it's a fantastic idea to introduce them to the world of tech when they're young, many parents are understandably concerned about their children's safety when using a personal device.
That's where Google Family Link comes in. An all-new app enabling parents to monitor activity and impose certain restrictions on Android devices used by children under 13 years of age, it's a fantastic solution to help parents protect little ones online and set limits on screen time.
What is Google Family Link?
Google Family Link is essentially a parental controls service launched by Google. Accessible via an app, it helps parents to track and manage their children's activity as they explore their Android device.
The app must be installed on both a parent and child's smartphone. To work, you'll also need to create a Google account for your child via the app - without it, you won't be able to set those important digital ground rules, like banning unsuitable apps, locking devices at bedtime or setting daily phone usage limits.
Google Family Link only works for children under the age of 13, so it's important to make sure their age is reflected accurately when signing up for their Google account. Once your child is 13, they'll be able to choose between managing their account themselves or continuing as before and letting you manage it for them.
Both you and your child will need Google Family Link compatible devices to use the service. For parents, you can use any Android smartphone running KitKat version 4.4, or an iPhone that has iOS 9 or above installed.
Children, however, will need to own an Android device that uses Android Nougat (version 7.0) or higher. Certain devices running Lollipop or Marshmallow may also be able to use Google Family Link, however this isn’t guaranteed. Google suggests using different setup instructions for lower Android operating systems, which can be found on its website.
Currently, children with iPhones will not be able to use Google Family Link.
What features are included?
With Google Family Link correctly set up, you'll be able to access a handful of different features. This includes:
One of Google Family Link's key features revolves around app management. It's up to parents what apps they deem suitable for their child on the Play Store, but they can enable an app management service to keep on top of downloads. Whenever your child would like to download an app, you'll receive a notification on your phone which will let you either approve or block the download. Pre-installed apps (e.g. Gmail) can also be monitored. If there are any Android apps you'd like to block that already exist on your child's phone, you'll have the choice to prevent access to them too.
Alongside managing unsuitable apps, parents can also create a list of restricted websites for their child. Enable Google SafeSearch to automatically ban any unsuitable content, then manually add any others you wish to block.
Remotely locking your child's device
Want to prevent phone access at bedtime, or limit access to games and social media when it's study time? With Google Family Link, you can control all of this using your device. It's a great way to ensure family time remains family time, or to ensure your kids complete their homework rather than being tempted by their handset.
Setting screen time limits
With Google Family Link, parents can decide how much screen time is healthy for their child. You can set a daily screen time limit to prevent your child spending too long with their phone, or create a device bedtime to help them sleep. When the clock strikes a certain hour in the evening, your child will no longer be able to access their phone unless there's an emergency.
Monitoring smartphone activity
If you'd like, you can also request to receive weekly or monthly reports of your child's phone usage. Here, you'll get a rundown of how long they're spending on the device and information on which apps are accessed the most.
Where is Google Family Link available?
Google Family Link was first launched in the U.S. in September 2017, and has been rolling out to various countries ever since. It has been available in the UK since March 2018, and today a total of 38 countries can gain access to Google Family Link.
Other popular countries that can now use Google Family Link include Australia, Canada, Ireland, Brazil, Spain, France, Sweden and Japan.
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