I’ve partnered with the Family Link app from Google to help parents guide their children safely into a digital world. It’s a great resource for parents who don’t want to keep their children from enjoying technology, but want to help them use it responsibly.
With a tween and three teens, I’m acutely aware of how much time they spend on their phones. It’s not only how they connect with their friends, it’s also how they find answers, track their assignments, keep me in the loop on their activities, and stay on top of their schedules.
And because I spend so much time online and on social media as a blogger, I’m also alert to all the dangers of the technology. That’s why I love the Family Link app from Google. It helps parents strike a delicate balance between control and trust.
What is Family Link?
Family Link is an app that helps parents manage their kids’ use of devices. The app is designed to help you guide your child through setting limits without being too invasive when it comes to their privacy.
Used correctly, I think it’s a wonderful tool for giving kids just the right amount of freedom when it comes to technology. You don’t have to shield them from devices or stand over them every minute they’re using one. Instead, you can safely monitor their usage and help guide them towards responsible device usage.
To use it, parents can download Family Link for Parents on their Android or iOS device. Then, for each child’s device, you’ll download Family Link for Children and Teens on any Android device or Chromebook. The app walks you through the quick and easy setup.
Family Link for Parents
This is the app you’ll load on your own phone and will be the control panel to supervise your kids’ devices. I use Family Link for Parents to:
Keep an eye on my kids’ activity
I can see which apps they’re using and how much time they’re spending on them. This is a great springboard for conversations about what’s happening in my tween’s and teens’ lives.
For example, I can ask, “Are you and your friends working on a project or planning something fun? I noticed you spent a lot of time in GroupMe this week.”
Manage their apps
I can approve or block apps when they attempt to download new ones. This has been especially helpful with my youngest who recently got a phone and is constantly downloading new apps.
I can also block in-app purchases, which isn’t usually an issue since my kids don’t like the games that offer in-app purchases. Family Link also gives me the capability to hide apps on their devices but I don’t use that feature.
Block mature content
Have you ever accidentally stumbled upon something inappropriate when doing an innocent search online? I have and it’s not something I want to happen to my kids so I use Family Link to block mature content.
I don’t want to have strict control over my kids’ online content so I just use filters to help shield them from inappropriate sites. You can exercise more control by blocking specific sites or only allowing access to specific sites, but filtering has worked well enough for us.
Set screen time limits
I have a “bedtime” set for their devices so that they aren’t on their phones at night. I also set time limits for my youngest since at the age of 12, she doesn’t need to be on it for more than an hour a day.
The nice thing about Family Link is that I can set different time limits for each day and after she meets them she’s still able to make calls. This way, if she accidentally uses up her time before practice is over, she can still call me for a ride.
Lock the device
I use this all the time! Chores aren’t finished? The phones get locked until the chores are done.
Didn’t turn in a homework assignment? Phone is locked until all homework is complete.
I have a Google Home device and get great satisfaction out of saying, “Hey Google, lock [Teen Son’s] device” as we’re standing there looking at the full kitchen garbage together.
I sometimes use this when my son is driving since he isn’t allowed to talk on the phone while he’s driving. It’s an easy way to check if he’s left practice yet so I can time dinner for his arrival.
Family Link for Children and Teens
This is the app you’ll download onto your child’s device. You’ll need to have both your phone and theirs when you set up supervision.
I strongly recommend that you don’t simply take your child’s phone to set it up with yours. Instead, let your child navigate through the set up on their phone so they understand exactly what is happening.
Address their questions and concerns and explain why you’re using it. For my daughter, I emphasized it was to help her set good habits with technology without being too invasive.
Since the app doesn’t let me read her texts or see her Snapchats, she can still be silly, be the sounding board for her friends’ problems, and complain about me. I want her to start with some degree of trust from me so that she doesn’t default to hiding everything from me.
Things to Know about Family Link for Children and Teens
In my opinion, Family Link strikes the right balance between control and freedom if your goal is to help your child learn to use their device responsibly. Here are some things you need to know before you set it up though.
Your child must have an Android phone. Although you can load the parent app on both Android and iOs devices, the children’s app is only available in the Google Play store. You won’t be able to download it on an iPhone.
Your child must have a Google account. The app monitors your child’s phone through their Google account. If your child doesn’t have an existing Google account, you’ll need to create a Google account for your child.
Your child can only use one Google account. The Family Link app can only monitor a single Google account on each device so if your child uses multiple accounts, the others will be removed from their phone during set up. This is to prevent kids from switching to other accounts to download apps that aren’t permitted by the parent.
If this sounds like a good fit for your family, start setting digital ground rules with your family today with Family Link.
Download Family Link and help guide their kids as they learn, play, and explore online.