If you’ve decided to give your child a phone or tablet, there’s a good chance you want to keep a degree of control over their activity. This could be anything from restricting internet access to blocking specific services, or limiting in-app purchases.
Whatever your intention, parental control software is a good option. But it’s often complicated to use. Thanks to the cross-platform Google Family Link, that’s no longer the case.
Parental Control Software for Phones and Tablets
In a world where children are expected to access classwork on a tablet or computer, it makes sense for them to have their own device. But what about the problem of too much screen time and the potential horrors of the internet?
The answer is a parental control service.
Various parental control tools are available for mobile devices. They let parents monitor app activity, screen time, internet access, and more. For example, Amazon has the FreeTime app for Android and iOS, which also comes preinstalled on kid-focused Amazon Fire tablets.
Google Family Link is compatible with Android 7.0 Nougat and above. The Google Family Link for Parents component, meanwhile, runs on Android 4.4 KitKat and later, as well as an iPhone or iPad running iOS 9 and above.
Thus, this service lets you monitor a child who has an Android device, no matter whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone. Pretty useful!
Note that the service provides control over a child account as long as the child is under 13. Once they become a teenager, the child account holder must give permission for your supervision, although they can revoke this. As such, you may consider a different parental control solution for those over 13. See our complete guide to parental controls.
Installing Google Family Link on Your Devices
To use Google Family Link, begin by installing the Google Family Link for children component on your child’s Android phone or tablet. Next, clear any profiles and data from the device that you don’t want your child to access. You don’t have to do this, but it’s a smart option.
After all, if a child is using the device, there’s a chance that it might be lost or stolen. Additionally, random taps and swipes can cause apps to close and devices to unlock in some cases.
As such, there’s always that chance that your child could somehow disable the parental control software with a bug. Alternatively, an app might simply have more access than you would prefer. Make sure you’re up to speed with how Android permissions work before you hand a device to your child.
Setting Up a Child Profile
Adding a new account for your child is simple. Start the device and when prompted, then input the name of the child, followed by their date of birth.
Once the account setup screen identifies that the account is for a minor, you’ll be prompted to input your own credentials. Enter the same username and password that you normally use for Google apps.
Agree with the account creation, give parental consent when prompted, then agree to use any relevant Google services. If the device has a camera, for example, you may like to enable Google Drive so photos sync automatically.
How to Control Apps and Access With Family Link
To manage your child’s account, you’ll need the Google Family Link for Parents app correctly set up on your Android or iOS device. Here, you can manage settings and passwords, set screen time, approve or disable apps, and even see the device’s location.
Most options are available from the main app interface, with specific settings for each in the Parental Settings screen.
Settings and Passwords
Access the Parental Settings screen via Manage Settings. Here, you can access a selection of controls for Google Play, Google Chrome, and Google Search. Configure a whitelist to only allow access to certain sites, opt to block mature sites, or even disable blocking altogether. For younger users, a whitelist with a minimal selection of sites is a smart idea.
To change the password on the device remotely, open the Account info screen, then select Change password. You can also edit any of the previously entered account information, such as name, date of birth, and gender.
Manage Screen Time on Android
Family link lets you remotely manage screen time. You do this either by changing the schedule or unlocking the device for an extension.
Find the Daily Limit card to change the schedule, using the Edit Limits button. Set a daily limit in hours, along with a bedtime range. During this time, the tablet will be locked.
To unlock and give your child more time, scroll down to the card with the Locked label and tap Unlock.
Find a Misplaced Device
Location settings are available in the Parental Settings screen. It’s a good idea to enable this so you can find your kid’s device if it goes missing.
To track a lost Android device running Google Family Link, simply open the app on your phone. Scroll down to the Location panel, where you’ll see a map displaying the phone or tablet’s last known location.
Certain that the device is in your home, but can’t track it down? Look for the card with the Play Sound option, tap this, and listen. The tablet will play a chime to help you find its current hiding place.
Remotely Manage and Approve Apps
Via the Manage Apps screen, you can allow or block apps installed on the Android device. You’ll find this via a card on the main Family Link screen, or via Settings > Android Apps.
To block or allow an app, select the app in the list, then toggle the Allow app switch. Note that some apps may have their own parental controls that you will need to use. For example, you may wish to restrict access to Amazon Prime Video, ensuring the child’s device only plays age-appropriate videos.
Is This the Best Parental Control Software for Smartphones?
Parental control software is quite subjective. What works for one set of parents may not be ideal for another; the same goes for the children. However, Google Family Link manages to offer sensible control options and an easy way to extend screen time with minimum fuss.
While it lacks the integration of the Amazon Fire FreeTime service, Google Family Link is an adequate alternative you can use in conjunction with other Android parental control tools. If you want more features from your mobile parental control software, try other parental control apps for Android.