Monday, June 3, 2019

Google's Family Link Parental Controls: Improving But Still Limited

Last fall when Apple released Screen Time, Google had a similar service called Family Link but it only worked on Google Pixel phones. Now it is available for a wide variety of Android devices. Parents of children with Android phones and other devices like personal tablets and personal Chromebooks can now set up Family Link to help guide their child's use of technology, monitor time spent in apps, set limits and more. I don't have an Android device so I can't write about my own experience with it. Go directly to Google's site to learn more and obtain directions. I found this article helpful. 

Some things to note: it only seems to work for users under age 13--after that kids can opt out of parental supervision. That may be problematic for some families. It also appears that your child needs a new Google account to set this up- it won't work with  an existing Google account or school/parent's work Google account. It also only allows YouTube Kids, which older users will likely find too limiting. Perhaps kids could still use a web browser to get to YouTube. These limitations make me hesitant to see this as a great solution for many families- it's a good start, but still limited and doesn't provide parents with the full functionality they need compared to Apple's Screen Time.

Recently Google expanded their Digital Wellbeing resource website. It has helpful tips nicely laid out about how to use technology in a healthy and balanced way. They include tips like limiting notifications, setting daily limits for apps and screen time, tips to unplug and more. They added some video interviews of people reflecting upon their use of tech. All of this is a great step in the right direction to help us use our technology. They state on their commitment page: "Great technology should improve life, not distract from it." I hope Google continues to improve their work in this are to make their services even more healthy, give parents more options, and improve the wellbeing of people using their products. 

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