If you feel that your child has reached an age where she can be allowed to have a smartphone of her own, there really is no point delaying the inevitable. A smartphone can make life easier for both parents and children, at times. However, to make sure that it doesn’t become a distraction for the child, parents might need to retain some control over the child’s phone and the activities on it. This is where Google’s new Family Link app can help.
How does it work?
The app is currently available under Google’s Early Access Program to users in the US. It only works with Android devices at the moment. Early Access is similar to beta launches by app developers. It means the app is still in the development stage and is released for select users as a test run, before the final version is launched to a wider user base.
Once the Family Link app is downloaded, open it on your smartphone and create a Google account for your child. Now use the same user name and password to log in to your child’s Android smartphone. While you can access Family Link even on the older Android 4.4 smartphones, your child’s phone should be running the more recent Android Nougat for it to work.
What can parents do with it?
Family Link provides parents with sort-of admin rights over their child’s phone. It is similar to certain admin controls that IT departments have over desktops or smartphones that employees use at the workplace. So if a child wants to download an app from Google Play Store, the parent will be notified about it on the Family Link app. Once they have checked the app’s credentials and figured out its relevance for the child, they can allow the child to download the app. If they do not approve of it, they can simply deny permission, and the child will not be able to download the app.
It will be interesting to see if the app will notify the parent if the child tries to download the .apk file of an app from a website instead of the official Play Store, and is able to install it. This is not yet clear. The app also allows parents to block explicit and violent content in Google apps such as Google Search, Chrome and Play Store.
The app not only controls the decision on the child’s online activity, but also allows parents to lock the phone if it is distracting the child from focusing on other activities. They can lock the phone’s screen when the child is supposed to go to bed or has a class to attend.
The app also provides detailed monthly/weekly reports on how much time a child is spending on an app. Parents can’t monitor the in-app activity at the moment. Family Link can be useful for parents who are willing to allow their child to have a phone, but also want to enforce some restrictions on its use.