For a long time, I had to create Google accounts for my children and fudge the year they were born a bit to make them over 13. They didn’t have the passwords to these accounts, but it helped me keep their calendars separated out from my own.
Then a couple of years ago Google released the ability to create accounts for children under the age of 13 through the Google Family Link app. Not only did it allow them to reserve their Gmail address, which I loved, but it offered a small level of parental controls for Android devices that is free to use.
Google Family Link has definitely continued to improve over the last year or so and is becoming a great tool to help families manage the devices in their homes. Setting it up is incredibly simple, and you can manage the settings from an Android device or an iPhone. Google Family Link will not MONITOR an iPhone though. Your child will need to have an Android device.
Setting Up Google Family Link
First things first, you need to download the app. There are actually two different Google Family Link apps in the Google Play Store. One has a single kite and the other has 2 kites. If you are using an iPhone, you will only have the option for the single kite version.
The single kite is Family Link for Parents, which you should install on your device (the Parent device). The double kite is the app you will install on your child’s device.
Once the app is installed and you open it, you will be asked a series of questions to help you get it all set up properly. If your child does not already have a Google account you will be asked to create one.
It will help you choose a username and even offer a few suggested ones if the one you want is already taken.
After you have created the Google account it will ask you to set it up over on your child’s device. Make sure there isn’t already a Google account on the device, and if there is, you will likely have to remove it in order to use this one. If your child is older, and already has a Google account, you won’t need to remove the account in order to add it to Family Link.
As I mentioned, if your child already has a Google account you can skip this part and go straight to their device to get it set up in Family Link. This is a newer feature in Family Link and one that was sorely missing previously. My kids already had Google accounts, so now that I can control those already created accounts, it’s made the app so much better!
You will need to download the Family Link app (with the 2 kites) on your child’s device and enter a code from the parent device in order to connect them. Back on the child’s device, they will be notified of what their parents will be able to monitor.
It will also tell them what their parents will NOT be able to do.
If your child is over 13, they will have the option to stop supervision at any time, but the parent device will be notified. You know, because 13-year-olds are SO mature and responsible to make these kinds of decisions.
Have a conversation with your child about the consequences of removing supervision. If they know what the outcome will be, they may be less likely to remove it.
Once everything is installed and connected, you can change the settings from your phone (whether it is an Android or an iPhone).
In addition to setting time limits for bedtime and even for specific apps (which is a newer feature), you can also set a lot of restrictions for content, like forcing Google SafeSearch and browsing YouTube in Restricted Mode.
Another setting I love is the ability to restrict the adding of additional users. Some kids will add a Google account while they are at school, and then take it off again when they get home to hide some of their device’s activities. Enabling the restriction of adding users is a great way to combat that.
You also now have the ability to grant bonus time (which was not a possibility before).
This setting has been a lifesaver for those times when I’m helping my kid go to sleep and they just need to start their music or something else simple like that. In the past, I’ve had to disable the bedtime or change the bedtime in order to grant them just a few extra minutes. Hopefully, I remember to move the bedtime back when they are finished!
Once you have all the settings dialed into your preferences, go over the settings with your child so they understand what it’s doing and why it’s there. We all just want to teach our kids how to properly use technology, and these kinds of tools are helping us do just that.
As I mentioned, Google Family Link continues to improve on its app and add new and much-needed features. It’s clear that Google is concerned about family safety. Between this application and their Be Internet Smart site, they are really helping families stay safe online.
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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