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Google Family Link – controlling children’s smartphone use?

3 minutes reading time
6-13 years
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Are you concerned that once your child has their own smartphone, they will spend too much time on it and access content that is not age appropriate? The Google Family Link app for parents and for children aims to remedy the situation and offers some ways to regulate the child’s cell phone use together.

In a nutshell:

  • Create and manage children’s accounts for Google services
  • The app is free for iOS and Android
  • Target group of the app are parents
  • Set up different accounts depending on age, but also control and “monitor” children’s cell phone use.

What is Google Family Link for parents?

Google Family Link allows parents to set up a limited Google account for children under 16 and keep track of their child’s smartphone usage if it’s an Android device. To do this, Google Family Link for Kids must first be set up on your child’s smartphone. On your device, you can set preferences for your child’s device using the Google Family Linkapp for parents .

Among other things, the app can be used to set usage times for the smartphone, restrict access to certain apps, or block in-app purchases. You can use it to track which apps the child uses and how often. The use of the cell phone itself can also be restricted and the child’s cell phone can be tracked with the app. The settings can also be made online – without a smartphone – via a Google account of the parents.

Since the update in September 2019, the app has even more features: Now parents can set the maximum usage time for each app individually. It is also possible to add bonus time after the specified maximum usage time has expired (in increments of 5 minutes).

What can be problematic about Google Family Link?

From a parent’s point of view, the functions offered are useful because they can prevent children from spending too much time with their smartphone or from using unsuitable apps. The app should be viewed critically if it is not used to protect children, but to control or even monitor them. Therefore, the use of the app should definitely be discussed with the child beforehand and set up together with him!

Since it is a Google app, it can be used primarily for Google services and Android devices. Other apps cannot be controlled via this. In addition, Google Family Link itself does not block inappropriate content or content that is harmful to minors, but allows or enables entire offers – depending on the setting you have made as a parent. For example, despite the app, your child may receive YouTube videos that contain violence. To restrict content on YouTube, you need to make filter settings in the YouTube app itself. Also, advertising within Google apps cannot be turned off with the Google Family Link.

The Google company gains access to your child’s data and all usage behavior by setting up a child account.

What does the provider say?

For Google, Family Link represents a support for media education in the family, as common usage rules can be agreed upon and controlled via the app. To allow children to be supervised while using cell phones.

Even if no inappropriate content can be filtered with the app, parents are specifically informed about filtering options of certain services, such as the SafeSearch function in Google Search, the parental control filter in Google’s Chrome browser or YouTube’s restricted mode. More about this in the Google help.

What should parents pay attention to?

Think carefully about whether using such an app is right for your family. With younger children, it may be appropriate to exercise some degree of control. No matter what you decide, this is a good occasion to jointly consider rules of use for smartphone & co.

Using Google Family Link always requires that your child’s phone has Internet access. This may not be a given or your child may not be expected to be online all the time.
If you decide to use it, you should install and set up the app together with your child. Talk about what features make sense to comply with usage rules. Which settings are not necessary because your child is already mature enough to take care of them himself? Periodically discuss whether the app and its settings are still useful or they can be disabled. If you want to use the app for multiple phones, you can set up different sub-accounts depending on the age of the child.

Also, as far as Google’s data usage is concerned, you should check the settings carefully. When saving data, certain functions are automatically activated, which you can switch off. Read more about installing and setting up the app at mobilsicher.de.

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