In this article, we explore the key features of Google’s Family Link. We also explain how to set up this parental control app and access the most important features.
What is Google Family Link?
Google Family Link is a parental control system for a child’s Android device or Chromebook. Parents install the Family Link app on their own Android or iPhone to remotely view and manage various aspects of their children’s smartphone activities, including setting screen time limits and usage blocks on specific apps. With Family Link, parents can:
- See what apps and games their children use
- Control in-app purchases and subscriptions
- Set some restrictions on which websites can be visited
- Manage screen-time for selected apps or by locking the phone
- Find the location of their child’s Android phone
Children aged 13 or under can not create their own Google account, but parents can set up a supervised account for their child using Family Link. (In some countries, a different age applies). For older children, Family Link can be still used to give parents varying degrees of control over their child’s device.
Google’s information about Family Link is at https://families.google.com/familylink/
Device Requirements for Google Family Link
The requirements for your child’s device and the parent phone are slightly different:
- Your child’s phone or tablet should be running Android 7.0 or higher.
- Family Link also works for a child’s Chromebook, when running Chrome OS version 71 or higher.
- The parent’s phone should run at least Android 4.4, or if an iPhone, then iOS 11 onwards is supported.
Who is the Google Family Link App For?
The Google Family Link app is essentially designed for two groups of people – children under the age of 13 and teens older than 13 (or the relevant cut off age for your country). Children under the age of 13 should have a parent supervised Google account associated with their phone or tablet. For older children it is not obligatory for the child’s account to be supervised by the parent but parents can still connect their teenagers’ account to oversee their activities using Family Link.
How to Set Up the Google Family Link App?
Parents should first download the Family Link app to their Android phone or iPhone.
When needed, parents can then create supervised Google accounts for children under 13 from their Family Link app. That account can then be signed into on your child’s device.
To link child accounts for teens who already have a Google account, Family Link will guide the parent through the steps to link that account to the parent’s account. It will usually be necessary for the Family Link app to then be installed onto the child’s device to complete the account linking process.
Once the parent and child accounts are linked, parents can then set digital rules for their children.
How to Block/Unblock Apps using Family Link?
- Open the Google Family Link App.
- Select your child’s profile.
- You’ll see a card mentioning “Apps Installed.”
- Click “more” to see all the names of the apps on your child’s device.
- Select the apps you want to block or unblock.
- Select one of the “Allow app on” or “Allow app off” options.
How to Block Inappropriate Content with Family Link?
The Family Link app does not allow parents to block all inappropriate content on their children’s phones. Only some apps have specific, child-safe filtering options. Search, and Chrome both have specific filtering options that can be accessed via Family Link. YouTube also offers a “restricted mode.”
This optional setting filters out all content that are rated ‘mature’ or flagged as ‘inappropriate’. This mode uses automated filtering tools. These tools assess the video’s title, language, metadata, etc., to deem it appropriate or inappropriate for children. The types of content blocked in YouTube’s restricted mode include:
- Inflammatory or slanderous content directed towards individuals or groups.
- Profane and adult language.
- Videos containing racial slurs, swear words, etc.
- Depictions of violence, political conflicts, terrorism, war, crime, etc.
- Descriptions of violence, disturbing news reports, crime-related videos, etc.
- Sexual content (depictions or discussions).
- Drug, alcohol, or tobacco use (or discussion).
Unfortunately, these filters don’t work perfectly well. Many users have managed to access content from these purportedly blocked categories while using YouTube’s restricted mode. This mode is also not customizable. For instance, if you don’t want your child to view toy reviews that feature manipulative ads, you can’t specifically set up such a filter.
The best alternative is to only allow children access to YouTube Kids, a separate YouTube app which only features children-friendly content. YouTube employs human moderators who create approved playlists that only contain educational and kid-friendly content.
How to Oversee a Child’s Screen Time using Family Link?
You can set limits for your child’s screen on their Android device or Chromebook.
- Open the Family Link app.
- Select your child’s profile.
- Look for a card titled “Daily Limit”.
- Tap on the “Daily Limit” card and select ‘set up’ (you’ll see another option titled ‘edit limits’ which will come in handy later).
- The app will guide you through the procedure of setting daily screen time limits.
If you set a daily limit of four hours – all of your child’s Android devices or Chromebooks will be locked after four hours. Parents can also use the Family Link app to block internet connections on their children’s devices at any time. Here’s what happens once you start setting daily screen time limits for your children –
- Your children will get notifications when the screen time is first set by the parent (only Android phones).
- Children also receive notifications right before their phones are locked for the day.
- Once the phone is locked and the screen time controls are on, children can’t – unlock the device, use any app, or view notifications.
- They can answer phone calls, but to make phone calls, they’ll need to use the Emergency mode (only available on Android phones).
Parents can also set specific time limits on selected apps. In the “Today’s Activity” section of the app, select the “Set Limits” option. Choose the apps/games you want to limit and set specific daily time limits. System apps or third-party apps can’t be restricted – the app time limit functionality only works on Play Store apps.
Recently, Google has updated the app’s parental control system to make it more pandemic-friendly. Parents can now specifically “Always Allow” all educational or remote learning apps. Those must-access apps are also not counted when the app calculates your child’s overall screen time every month.
How to View Your Child’s App Activities on Family Link?
Assess how much time your child spends on each app. Family Link tracks usage time right from when each app is opened and displayed on the screen. It doesn’t count apps running in the background as ‘active’, so music and MP3 players won’t be fully counted.
- Open the Family Link app.
- Select your child’s profile and enter the “App Activity” section.
- Select “Set Up” and click on the “Turn on App Activity” option.
After a few hours, your child’s app activity details will be displayed in the “App Activity” section.
Parents can even make children require their approval every time they download a new app from the play store.
- Open the Play Store app on an Android phone/tablet and enter the “Menu” section (on the left of the screen)
- Click on your account and select the “Family” option.
- You’ll see a “Manage Family Members” section where all linked accounts will be displayed.
- Click the option that displays your child’s Family Link account.
- Tap the “purchase approvals” option.
- Set appropriate restrictions. You can restrict all downloads, only paid downloads, or only in-app purchases.
How to Prevent Children from Altering their Own App Restrictions?
This is a question many parents have – can children start customizing the Family Link account as per their wishes? No, it’s not easy, especially if you’ve set up strong passwords. However, to be extra sure here’s what you should do to prevent children from changing their own app restrictions and permissions –
- Open the Family Link app, select your child’s profile, and find an option called “Device Card.”
- In this section, tap “View Settings;” a “App Permissions” option will pop up – click on it.
- Select “Only Parents” in the app permissions section.
How to Lock, Unlock, and Locate Your Child’s Device?
To lock/unlock your child’s Android device, open the Family Link app, and select your child’s profile. You’ll see two options in bold – Lock now or Unlock. Select either to lock/unlock your child’s phone.
In case a child’s phone isn’t connected to the Internet, parents can use parent access codes to lock/unlock their children’s Android devices.
To track your child’s location – find a card titled “Location” (you’ll see this card once you click on your child’s profile on the app. Select Set Up and turn on location tracking.
Additional Safety for Your Child
In addition to using Google Family Link, parents can also consider setting up some extra safety layers for their children. Parents should strongly consider using monitoring tools that can also assess the content on their kids’ phones – from text messages to social media conversations.
MMGuardian is one of the most reliable parental control apps in this aspect. It’s compatible with Android and iOS. With this app, parents can do pretty much everything they do on Google Family Link and more. For example, the MMGuardian app utilizes AI technology to scan text messages and sends Safety Alert notifications to parents if it detects any concerning content related to categories such as predators, suicide, bullying, inappropriate pictures, and much more.
The impressive monitoring capabilities combined with a robust set of parental controls makes MMGuardian the best app for parents who want maximum control and safety for their child.