There are plenty of parents out there who let their child run rampant on the phone. While at my sister-in-law's house I witnessed her kids vegetate in front of a tablet for around 8 hours. Far be it from me to tell someone else how to parent their children. Instead of being accusatory I simply asked her "Is this something that you are OK with?" in an attempt to gauge her response.
She gave me an open and honest answer that I can basically sum up as "No, but I'm unsure how to control the situation." That's when I asked her if she had a Google or YouTube account (they're the same thing) and she said she did have an account for YouTube. So I sat her down with the kid's tablet and her phone and started her on the wonderful journey through Google's Family Link program.
She called me just last week raving about how wonderful it was. The kids would volunteer and beg her for chores in order to earn another 30 minutes to an hour on the tablet. Should she feel guilty for leveraging the tablet in order to motivate her kids? In my view, absolutely not. Children need to learn about limits and responsibility and Google Family Link makes those lessons a snap!
While Family Link can keep your child safer online, Silly Feet has what it takes to keep them safer in the streets. Our reflective neon shoelaces are sure to catch the eyes of their peers, but also of any inattentive drivers. If you're catching unwanted attention from noses then consider our grape shoe deodorizer powder! With that out of the way, let's hop into the meat of Google Family Link.
Google Family Link on New Devices
Getting started on Google Family Link is an extremely easy process. New devices will usually prompt you to sign in, and if your child doesn't have an email they'll hand the device to you in order to log in. Instead of logging in with your email, you'll want to select Create Account, and then Create Account For My Child.
You will be walked through the steps and Google will collect some information before asking the parent to log in with their account. Google will recognize the email and the device where that email is logged in and will ask if you'd like to install the family link app to both the child and parent devices, select yes and you're off to the races!
Setup on Existing Devices
You'll want to log into the parent gmail account and go to families.google.com. Create your child's account and invite them to the family group. Once you've added a child families.google.com/familylink will allow you to get the Family Link app which can be used to fine-tune all the settings and permissions.
What Can Google Family Link Do?
One of the greatest features is the location service with allows for easy device-tracking. Sure, you can use it to track the kid that the phone is attached to but we've used it far more often to figure out where the phone was misplaced. Oh, look at that... It's still at grandma's house.
You can set a daily time limit and add time for good behavior. My daughter gets 3 hours per day, and usually another hour for doing dishes or babysitting or just making coffee if I'm feeling particularly immobile. Her performance has been exemplary. She's always been well behaved, but this new gung-ho attitude regarding any task that is required of her is extremely welcome. I realize that there is an ulterior motive, but that doesn't really bother me as long as things get done.
Another fantastic feature of Google Family Link is the ability to approve which apps are able to be used. Apps from the Google play store will need to be requested before being downloaded. Of course, there are ways around this but I don't expect a 9-year-old to get .apk file downloads figured out for at least a few more years. Of course, if they do download something unverified it can be infested with malware, so it still pays to watch what your child is doing.
Google's site-blocking and safe search features are far from perfect. Your kids might just find something that you didn't want them to see. You can block access to everything apart from specific sites that you give the OK to.
Family Link Timeouts
Today my spouse was talking to our eldest daughter and she couldn't pull her head out of this piano game she downloaded yesterday for long enough to process the conversation. She had a good two hours of her three-hour time limit left, but my spouse decided to pull the plug and lock the phone for the day. It's a bit disheartening because she did do the dishes right after breakfast in anticipation of more time added, but those are the brakes. Life is tough sometimes.
While it's scary to have a child online, it can also be used as a great teaching tool. First comes the electronics time-out, then the toy time-out, and the third strike is a real time-out. We add one minute for each year of age. She occasionally gets a 9-minute time-out which to me feels like the blink of an eye, but to her, it seems like an eternity. This three-strike system has been shockingly effective, but generally, we don't need to move past the first strike. Losing electronics really shakes up kids today. We can use this as a parental advantage. It isn't cruel. Boundaries are important.
Misuse and Abuse
As is the case with most technology, there are ways that Family Link can be abused. I heard a horror story about divorced parents who would wage battles via Google Family Link. If the boy didn't want to see his mother that weekend, she would shut his phone off. The father was without recourse aside from buying a new separate phone. I suppose contacting Google is an option, but if you aren't set as a parent in Google Family then how can they verify that you are indeed one of the parents? It's a sticky situation so utilize Family Link with care. It can be your greatest ally, but a bit of abuse can turn into a waking nightmare.