Google first introduced Family Link, a parental control app for Android devices, in March 2017 ahead of domestic and international rollouts. It announced in May at Google I/O 2019 that it would build Family Link natively into Android 10, a promise on which it delivered earlier this month. Now, Google is introducing new Family Link features it previewed in early spring — app limits and bonus time — in the Family Link app and corresponding Android 10 settings menu.
“We have been intentional about talking to parents, kids, and teens around the world to understand what their needs are,” said UX lead for Family Link Mindy Brooks, who noted that 54% of children in the U.S. use Android smartphones and tablets and that 84% of people globally say kids’ tech usage is top of mind. “Family Link helps parents manage their kid’s digital lives, [because] they can stay connected to what they’re doing on their devices … and set parameters to help [their kids] [keep track of] their online usage.”
As previously detailed, the new per-app time limits allow parents to impose constraints on particular apps their kids are using or games that they’re playing. As for bonus time, it lets parents reward kids for deeds well done (like chores or homework) with one-off extended screen time.
“It’s really exciting that Family Link is integrated at the system level now … It’s more acceptable to users around the world,” said Brooks. “Having time together as a family is really important, and we believe that with Family Link, we can help parents manage [their kid’s] screen time and have more meaningful time together.”
Beyond per-app time limits and bonus time, Family Link empowers parents to block free or paid apps from launching or downloading from the Google Play Store. They can see which apps their kids are using most frequently on a monthly or weekly basis, and they’re able to locate their kid’s device via GPS or set a “bedtime” during which the phone or tablet can’t be used. Plus, as an added bonus, parents get teacher-recommended apps they can directly add to their kid’s devices.
Children can be prevented from accessing unauthorized apps and using Google Assistant — Google’s intelligent voice assistant — during certain times and days with Family Link. Alternatively, parents can disable music and YouTube video playback, purchases, and the installation of third-party apps lacking a badge indicating they’re family-friendly. Family Link recently gained Chromebook compatibility, allowing parents to manage which websites their children can visit and block sexually explicit and violent sites. And it can be used to supervise teens’ existing Google Accounts, although teens can opt out if they’re willing to put up with a 24-hour device lockdown.
To use Family Link, the monitored kid’s phone or tablet must be running Android Nougat 7.0 or higher. Parents have to configure it from a web portal, the Family Link app, or Android’s digital well-being and parental controls settings screen, through which they create a Google Account for their kid and sign into their kid’s device using the new credentials.