Our kids are growing up in a world we never could have imagined as kids. Information is literally at their fingertips. All they have to do is ask their device a question and they have instant access to the answers.
It’s great in many respects. They don’t have to wait until there’s time to go to the library to research a topic they’re interested in. They can do it anytime, anywhere. However, young kids aren’t necessarily ready to know everything there is to know or see everything there is to see on the web.
We’ve been talking with our daughters about the internet and social media since they were young. They have our old phones with access to the internet and social media so that we can teach them proper online safety. We didn’t want to wait to try and teach them as teens.
So we talk regularly about online safety and what that means. In addition to our ongoing conversations, we’ve added an app to our family’s online safety lessons. That app is Family Link from Google, and it’s free.
While no app can replace quality conversations with your child, it can help you to be sure they are following the guidelines you set. And what I love about this app is that it’s transparent with the kids. They get to see what guidelines you’ve set so there are no surprises.
The Family Link app is great a tool for families with kids online. It can help you to manage the kinds of content your kids see, understand how much time they’re spending on their devices and give a great reason to talk to your kids about having a healthy relationship with technology.
Here are a few of the features of the Family Link app that I think you’ll appreciate.
Manage the Content Your Kids See on Their Device
The Family Link app gives you as the parent the ability to approve or decline apps your child wants to download from the Google Play Store. You can even set filters and restrict what they see in the Play Store by maturity rating so they don’t attempt to download anything inappropriate.
Even if you’ve given them permission to use an app, you can hide it on their device anytime you want. This comes in handy when they’re spending too much time on one app. That way they’re forced to focus their attention on other things – hopefully the things you want them focused on.
And if you have an issue with your kids making in-app purchases without your permission, Family Link has a feature you’ll love. You will be able to approve purchases your kids try to make. So you can decline any unapproved purchases before they hit your bank account.
If you allow your kids to surf the web, Family Link allows you to block specific sites, only allow a handful of approved sites and apply filters that attempt to block mature content.
Manage How Much Time Your Kids Spend on Their Device
I know we’re not the only family who wants to know how much time our kids are spending on their devices. And we want to make sure they’re not on them all hours of the night too.
Family Link has app activity reports so you can keep an eye on how much they’re using their device. You can set a daily limit of how many hours they can spend on their device with a different limit for each day of the week.
On the child’s device, it will show them how much time they have remaining. If they run out of time, the device locks, but they can still make phone calls if they need to.
The bedtime feature is awesome. It locks their device at the bedtime you set and it doesn’t unlock until the time you designate in the Family Link app. So now we don’t have to worry about them sneaking their phones into bed and watching Netflix or playing games all night. I guess it’s back to flashlights and books.
If they just aren’t following the rules, you can simply lock their device from the Family Link app on your phone. If you have a Google Home, you can even ask Google to do it for you by saying, “Hey Google, lock Child’s device.”
Keep Track of Your Child’s Location
Kids have crazy schedules these days. They’re here and there and you want to know they’re where they say they are going to be. Family Link allows you to see where your child is located – that is as long as they’re carrying their device with them and it’s on.
So if you’re a working parent, you can watch your child walk home from school to make sure they made it. Or if you’ve just asked your teen to come home, you can make sure they’re leaving when they say they will.
Like I said, this app isn’t going to replace your relationship with your child. You need to talk to them openly, honestly and frequently about online safety. Implementing the Family Link app is a great chance to start a conversation, if you haven’t already, about why you’re setting limits on their device use.
Whether you have younger kids like me or they’re in their teens, the Family Link app from Google enables you to set digital ground rules that will help guide them as they learn, play and explore online.