If you are planning on getting, or have already obtained, a new smart speaker for your kids this Christmas, you might be wondering if there is anything you need to do to get it set up and keep it safe for kids to use. Even if it’s just a simple speaker like the Echo Dot or the Google Home Mini, there are a few things you should do to make sure your kids don’t access things they shouldn’t.
Get them their own account
This advice may actually sound counter-intuitive to many parents. Hear me out on this one though. One of the biggest mistakes I see parents making when setting up a new device for their children is logging into their own account.
I understand why they do it. A lot of parents don’t want to create an account for their children, complete with their own email address. They think that if their account is on the device, they will be able to monitor and manage it better. Some parents just don’t even know that they can or should create a separate account for their child.
Most of the biggest tech companies in the world actually provide a way to safely create accounts for your kids. Google has Family Link and Amazon has Household with FreeTime. Even Microsoft and Apple have ways to create monitored “child” accounts on their platforms.
When you create a child account, you actually enable the ability to put more restrictions and monitors in place on that child’s account than you would have available if you just added your own account. There are things that an account for a child under the age of 13 is just unable to do on these devices automatically.
For example, a Google Family Link account for a child under 13 is unable to access YouTube. They would have access to YouTube Kids though.
Add the device to their account
Now that they have their own account that is tied to you as the parent, you can limit their access through your account. You can set up content restrictions, time limits and more.
For Google Devices
Open the Family Link app you have installed on your phone (if your child is under 13). Tap “manage settings” and then tap “google assistant”. You can add your child to the device from here and have it trained to recognize your child’s voice.
If your child is over 13, you can open the Family Link app on their Android device and then tap the 3 dots on their picture. It will ask you to sign into Google Home and from there you can add the devices.
For Amazon Echo Devices
First, open the Alexa app on your phone and find the new kid’s smart speaker. Tap on the settings for the Echo device and hit the entry for FreeTime. From here you can configure all of the settings you want for your child’s new Echo device.
Since there isn’t a screen on these smart speakers, you should be just fine using the built-in controls. There isn’t much they can get into outside of that.
In either case, you may have to set up connections to other services like Spotify. You would want them to have their own accounts there as well.
Mostly we use a Spotify family plan because I don’t want my phone filled up with things my kids have recently played on their smart speaker! It’s not that much more per month to add a few kids and your spouse to a single plan, whether it’s on Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Google Play Music or more.
Having a smart speaker in their rooms is pretty helpful for parents as well as the kids! I love to broadcast to my kid’s Google Home Mini’s when I’m not at home and I need to tell them something quickly. The Echo has the “drop-in” capability as well. They can listen to music, and ask questions, and sometimes have a little fun.
The Google Home Mini can even help you read to your children at night complete with sound effects! Or ask Mickey to go on an adventure with him! Do some research and find out all of the great things your kid’s new device can do and have a little bit of fun with it. Cause if you can’t ask Alexa to fart, who can you ask?
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com