What is Google “Family Link” and how does it work?

With “Family Link”, Google offers an app that helps parents follow their children on their way into the digital world. What are the benefits of Family Link? What can the app do and what can’t it do? We take a closer look at these questions in this article.

At some point, every parent faces the question: When is the right time to give my child a cell phone or smartphone? This question cannot be answered in general terms. In the end, it depends on the framework conditions, what you have confidence that your child can do and how far your child is in development. Google’s Family Link aims to help bring children closer to the digital world.

Before using Family Link, as a parent, you must think carefully about what you want to use the app for. Talk openly about the topic and include your child in the conversation. Because one thing must not happen under any circumstances: Using Family Link as a pure tracking and monitoring tool. Your child also has privacy.

We would therefore first like to show you what the app can do and what is not possible with it.

Your child gets a Google account and thus access to e-mail with which they are registered on their own smartphone or tablet. Normally, young people in Germany can only legally create a Google account at the age of 13. Family Link thus disregards this regulation for younger children – also legally with the consent of the parents.

If your child wants to download an app from the Google Play Store, they need parental consent first. If this happens, it can download the app. Parents are also notified of so-called in-app purchases. How Family Link prevents thoughtless paid purchases.

Family Link also shows parents the total number of minutes their child has spent on their smartphone or tablet. The app even provides information on which apps the usage time is distributed among. For each app on the child’s device, you can set how long they can use the respective program. When the time is up, the app closes automatically.

The app also has a sleep mode. For example, your child’s device can only be used between 07.00 and 19.00. After this, all functions are blocked, except the “emergency call”. At least the child can then still make phone calls through this “gap”, which makes sense in the event of a real emergency.

Parents have the option to filter search content, e.g. Age-appropriate filters can also be activated in apps. However, you should be aware that such filters never provide full protection. The app also comes with a GPS tracker. Parents can therefore see where their child is at any time when the function is activated. You can also turn off the tracking feature. By the way: If you track your child’s location, your child will receive a notification on their device. Therefore, talk openly with your child about this topic.

Also read: The 5 best tablets for children of all ages

According to Google, the filters in Family Link do not offer 100% protection against adult content. For example, a child can also see images and clips that are not age-appropriate when they search on Google or via YouTube. In addition, Family Link provides up-to-date information on how much time a child has spent with the device per day. However, parents do not know what content their child has consumed on, for example, YouTube or other channels.

Family Link does not suppress advertising. Thus, children are also confronted with it. If your child is under the age of 13, Google may not use the data received from the smartphone or tablet to display ads tailored to children.

When a child turns 13, the parents must renegotiate. Because then it can decide for itself whether, for example, the GPS tracker is switched off.

Read also: How to properly prepare children for the Internet

Once you have resolved all open questions in your family, there is nothing to stop you from installing Family Link. Allow about 15 minutes for the entire process. It is best to install the app together with your child.

To use Family Link, a parent must create a family group using their own Google Account. The creator is then also an administrator and can add other family members. Family Link can be set up using an iOS or Android device. The app can be downloaded free of charge from the respective stores.

First of all, one should install Family Link on the parent’s device. It makes sense for them to carry out the installation together with their child, because they always need the child’s smartphone or tablet. In the next step, parents are asked for their child’s Google account. If you haven’t created one yet, you can do so here. The account is necessary for the child to be added to the family group.

A nine-digit code will now appear on the device, which parents must enter on their child’s device and confirm with a password. A ‘Login’ button will appear, click it. The child is now registered as a member of the family group.

Now follows information about what is possible with Family Link and what is not. We have already mentioned it above. Read the information together with your child. Once everything is settled, just confirm parental control by clicking “Allow”. Also enable Family Link Manager.

The app will ask for a device name on the child’s device. Choose a name together and enter it. Below is a list of apps. These are sorted by USK age classification, starting from 0 to 18 years or older and are therefore not suitable for minors. Go through the list together and decide with your child which apps are suitable for installation and which are not.

Then you take care of the parental control settings, such as filters or other restrictions. There are default settings for this. Of course, you also have the option of defining the filters according to your own specifications.

This completes the basic installation. As an administrator, Family Link now allows parents to make additional settings. The main focus here is on usage restrictions. We recommend the following settings:

  • Control what your child can download from the Play Store and what requires permission. You can also customize the content your child can see, whether it’s an app, game, movie, series, book or music. It is best to select the appropriate USK age classification here.
  • In the Google Chrome settings, check “Block adult websites” and enable Safe Google Search.
  • For YouTube videos, select the age-appropriate setting for your child.

In the early days, use the “App Activities” menu item to keep an eye on which programs your child uses and for how long. Discuss this with your child and set time limits for individual apps if necessary. Be sure to set times when your child’s device will automatically go to sleep. Set these times in a way that makes sense for your child.

Also read: Checking account for children – useful or too early?

Conclusion

Family Link offers parents a lot of help to accompany their children on their way into the digital world. However, do not abuse the app as a tracking and monitoring tool. Without trust, your child will not be able to find their own way in the web jungle.

Be more of a trusted companion. Talk to your child about their experiences in the digital world. Listen carefully, show interest. And very important: Be role models as parents. If you stick your head in your smartphone or tablet for hours, your child will too.

Family Link creates a good framework for your child to find his way around the first steps in the digital world. But remember, good is not perfect. Even the best filters have weaknesses. Therefore, occasionally look lovingly over your child’s shoulder and talk to your child in advance about possible questionable content.

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