I blinked and I had 4 teenagers in my house. I am still trying to figure out how that happened. Part of mothering teens is teaching them about the dangers of browsing online, having downtime, and making good choices. The Family Link App from Google provides an easy way for you to do all of this and more. I was very excited to give it a try for this sponsored post. I had been using a competitor product that ended up costing me $10/month, and I just was not happy with it at all. There were many bugs, and there were limits to what I can do. And I was using a different product to keep track of my kid's locations. From what I have seen so far, the Family Link app from Google will replace both products and save me some money.
I was excited to use Family Link because my online life and smart home life revolve around Google anyway. I am a very happy Google One user. My life lives in my Gmail account and in my Google Drive. And my smartphones are fully invested into the Google architecture. When installing Family Link it is best to be with your child to go through the setup together. Of course, if you are anything like me, or your children are younger you can just take their phone and go through the setup yourself. It's fairly easy. I decided to give it a try on my test phone, Google Pixel 2, before unleashing it on my children to make sure that I was comfortable with usage.
There are 2 apps involved to correctly configure Family Link, Google Family Link for Parents, and Family Link for Children & Teens, both available for iPhone and Android.
Google Family Link for Parents
This is the app that gives you control. It allows you to view your child's Internet activity, manage allowed and blocked apps, setup screen time, locate your child's phone, see their approximate location on a map, and view app activity.
I was surprised at the number of features, especially the app activity. You get a detailed log telling you exactly how much time each app was used.
Under Parent Settings, you can set permissions for Google Play, which allows you to enable only certain types of apps to be downloaded, block some movies, TV, and books. This also allows you to require approval for content purchases which I love! We have heard several stories about children buying games or in app purchases without permission.
Install Google Family Link for Children & Teens
This is the app that actually locks down your child's phone. When you install it, you will be able to select only those apps that you want your child to use. All apps are on by default. Simply toggle the switch off to disable an app. Once you have chosen all of the app, click next. Family Link setup is then complete. Your child's phone is now secure.
Controls on Google Play
Now keep in mind that this means you may become very busy. LOL! Depending on the settings that you chose, certain things that your child tries to do may require your approval. For example, if you chose to require approval for all content in Google Play, each and every time your child tries to install an app. Your child will get a pop up on their phone to message you for approval.
You will then get the associated pop-up on your phone.
The whole thing is pretty seamless and quick! However, if you find that you are tired of approving apps, you can change it to require approval for all purchases using the family payment method. This seems to allow free apps to be installed without approval. The other options approve only in-app purchase, and no approval required.
Filters on Google Chrome
Web browsing can be beneficial, but it can also be scary for parents. Filters on Google Chrome allows you to block mature sites, or allow only certain sites. This is a game changer! If you have young children you can block all sites and allow them only to visit certain sites like YouTube Kids, or Disney Video, you can easily do that. Or, you can create a list of specific sites that you want to block, like adult content sites.
However, I tested the Google Chrome filter by attempted to go directly to a mature site that I know should be blocked, and it worked! The child gets a pop up alerting them to ask permission to visit the site.
Filters on Google Search
Filters on Google Search allows you to turn on SafeSearch which attempted to filter out all inappropriate content when your child conducts a web search. However, you get a warning that the filter is not perfect, so your child may still find some things that you do not want her to. Of course, this is to be expected. I did conduct a search for something that I believe is inappropriate and I got plenty of results that I would rather see blocked.
Overall, I am loving the options available. I will be able to eliminate 2 different apps, and stop fighting with Chrome settings on my kids' devices in order to block inappropriate content. And, I love that the Family Link App by Google is completely free!
Do not wait, download it to your kid's mobile devices today to start protecting them.
For more information on Google's Initiative to help protect your kids, see my previous post, Tips to Help Your Family Be Internet Awesome.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Google. All opinions are my own.