Anyone with kids will likely share their smartphones and tablets with their offspring for any number of reasons, be it to help with their homework, entertain them when you’re busy, or — yes — to keep them quiet when you’re in a place where silence is encouraged.
With that in mind, Google is today debuting a new app designed to help give parents more control over their kids’ smartphone and tablet usage, letting moms and dads remotely lock it down when it’s time to do something more productive.
Rather than being aimed at parents lending their own device to their kids, however, the new Family Link program targets kids who have their own Android device. So the Family Link app is installed on the parent’s device, through which they create a new Google Account for their kid — they then sign in to their kid’s device using these new account credentials.
Family Link is an invite-only affair for now, and is only open to parents with kids under 13 years of age living in the U.S. Also, the kids’ device must be running Android Nougat 7.0, though the parents’ devices only requires KitKat (4.4) and higher.
With things all set up, parents can block certain apps from being used and prevent kids from downloading specific apps. Parents can also see what apps are being used most often, with monthly or weekly reports available.
Parents can also set “bedtime,” meaning that the device is put on lockdown, say, from 7 p.m. during the week, but from 9 p.m. on weekends when they’re allowed to stay up later. Alternatively, a parent can set an overall number of hours a device can be used in a given day.
The Family Link app sounds a little similar to the Restricted Profiles feature Google unveiled with Android 4.3 back in 2013, but that was more about controlling a device lent to a child, and it was limited to tablets. Plus, a parent couldn’t control the settings on the target device from their own device.
The Family Link app will surely prove popular with parents considering buying their kid a smart device of their own. But it is still very early stage, and Google is still seeking input from families invited to test out the new service.
“We’re just getting started, and we’ll be asking parents using Family Link for feedback about how to improve the experience before we make the app broadly available,” explained Pavni Diwanji, Google VP of engineering.