Android Parental Controls
When it comes to Android versus Apple, the age-old question from parents is, “which one is better for my kid?” There are definitely pros and cons.
- Android devices are definitely cheaper.
- Apple devices are typically seen as “more cool” by kids.
- Android’s operating system is much easier for a solution like Bark to monitor when it comes to Snapchat and Instagram’s direct messages and Instagram’s search feature.
- Although both come with nice parental controls, we believe Apple’s Restrictions are easier to navigate than Android’s Family Link (explained below).
Honestly, it’s really close. If your child is big into social media and you have concerns about how he/she is using it, then an Android device is going to allow for much better monitoring.
How to use an Android Device More Safely
Protect Young Eyes promotes a 3-layer approach for creating a safer internet experience on all portable, digital devices.
Layer 1: Guard the location of the Android device
Remember, where kids use technology often dictates how they use their technology. We have strong opinions about controlling where kids use their tech.
Related post: The 4 Worst Places for a Kid to be Online
Layer 2: Guard your home’s network
Remember, you are responsible for every digital click on your home’s network, and so for every device that uses your home’s WIFI network, have something in place to monitor who’s connected to your WIFI and control where they’re going. Two popular options for parents are:
- OpenDNS – we’ve provided set-up details.
- Circle with Disney – by far the most popular parental control device on the market.
We’ve recently found OpenDNS to be glitchy with our internet service, so we’re investigating other options, but other families swear by it.
Layer 3: Guard the Android device itself
Remember, the device will often be using a data plan or be connected to a wireless network that is not under your control.
In 2017, Google released Family Link, which is their own version of Apple’s Restrictions for controlling how a device is used. Family Link is geared beautifully for younger internet users, but lacks some of the flexibility we would like to see with middle and high school users. Here are its features:
Related post: Family Link Now Works on Chromebooks!
Follow these steps to implement Family Link:
1. On your own parental device, download the Family Link app from your app store (Google Play for Android or App Store on iPhones).
(Family Link App Icon)
2. Follow the three steps. At step two, you’ll be asked to create your child’s Google Account. Some parents might have questions like this:
FAQ: “My child has a school account. Can I use that to set up their Family Link account?”
Answer: No. Not currently. You must create a new account for your child. But, your child can still log into Google with their school account to access their school files, after using the new account for simply logging into the device.
FAQ: Why do I have to create a new account?
Answer: Family Link is intended to be used by children under age 13. Google assumes that the only children under age 13 who use Gmail are those with a school account, which cannot be used for Family Link. If your child is under 13 and has a non-school Gmail account, this violates their policy. If your child is already at a teen, then according to Google, they are not eligible to use Family Link. Parents can skirt this rule by creating a new account for their teen son or daughter with whatever birthday they want.
FAQ: What happens to Family Link when my 12-year-old turns 13?
Answer: Copied from Google’s Family Link Support page, “When your child turns 13, they have the option to graduate to a normal Google Account. Before a child turns 13, parents will get an email letting them know their child will be eligible to take charge of their account on their birthday, so you can no longer manage their account. On the day they turn 13, children can choose whether they want to manage their own Google Account or continue to have their parent manage it for them.”
3. Pay for your Family Link account. This happens during step 2. Don’t worry – it only costs $0.01. Google does this to ensure you’re an adult that has a credit card to pay for the account.
4. Note – as you go through the Family Link set-up will also receive a series of emails for (1) Creating a Family, (2) Informing you about Family Link features, and (3) confirming your $0.01 payment.
5. Go through the various options in Family Link to set up your child’s access however you want. Key controls to get in place are under “Controls on Google Play” below where parents can limit what types of apps are downloaded and also “Filters on Google Chrome” and “Filters on Google Search,” which can lock in Google Safe Search or use only a white list of acceptable websites. For really young Android tablet users, the white list only approach is probably best (in other words, only allow a short list of 5-10 websites to ever be visited through Google).
6. You’ll then use the Google account you created in step 2 above as the login for the child’s Android device, which will now obey whatever parameters you set up above.
Family Link Limitation (or strength, depending on your perspective):
All Family Link accounts force the user to use YouTube Kids, and prohibits using regular YouTube. Some parents might find this to be too restrictive, while others might use this as an opportunity to limit YouTube and only allow YouTube to be used through a parent’s device for closer monitoring. At Protect Young Eyes, we’re pretty leery of YouTube’s content and prefer to have all kids younger than high school use YouTube under tight supervision.
Alternatives to Family Link for Android
There are a few great options:
- Mobicip – definitely the most cost-effective option at only $39.99 peer year for five devices. Read more about Mobicip here. Best for kids in elementary and middle school.
- Covenant Eyes – great for teaching accountability through a Christian lens, especially at the high school level. Read more about Covenant Eyes here.
- Cell providers have their own suit of parental controls, but other than Verizon, they are pretty weak. Verizon Family Base. AT&T Parental Controls. T-Mobile FamilyWhere. Sprint Safety & Control.