The Complete Guide to Chromebook Parental Controls
On January 12, 2018, Google mysteriously froze its Supervised User feature on Chromebooks. We wrote extensively about this move in our post, Google Quits Supervised Users.
In an equally mysterious fashion, in April 2018, Google suddenly started quietly adding some of its Family Link features to Chromebooks. As you’ll read in Layer 5 below, Family Link is still extremely “wonky” for Chromebooks, but we’re hoping Google figures it out soon.
Multiple layers for protecting your Chromebook
Layer 1: Guard the location of the Chromebook.
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 5 Worst Places for a Kid to be Online
Layer 2: Set up a clean DNS on 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:
- Circle with Disney – by far the most popular parental control device on the market.
- CleanBrowsing – similar to OpenDNS, you can set CleanBrowsing’s clean DNS and block most known porn domains (FREE). Read all about it in our extremely popular DNS blog post.
- OpenDNS – we’ve provided free set-up details.
We’ve recently found OpenDNS to be glitchy with our internet service, which is why we’ve moved to CleanBrowsing’s clean DNS for every device in our home, including the router.
Related post: How to Block Porn on Any Device. For Free!
Layer 3: Set up the Chromebook correctly (important!).
1. Make a Parent the OWNER of the Chromebook. The first user to set up the Chromebook becomes the “owner” of the Chromebook and can set up special privileges. This is similar to being the “admin” for a Windows environment.
In order to set up the proper controls over the Chromebook, a parent should be the “owner”. If a student is set up as the owner, and a parent wants to change this, you simply perform a factory reset and start over with the set-up process. No harm.
2. Turn off GUEST BROWSING on the Chromebook. The “owner” should turn off “guest browsing” and turn on “supervised users”. On a Chromebook, this is done by clicking on your profile image in the lower, right corner of the device.
Next, select “Settings” which is the silver gear icon and toward the bottom left, find and click “manage other users” under “People.” Make your options mirror the image below. These are very important steps because Chrome doesn’t maintain web history for guest browsing, making it easy to conceal inappropriate activity.
3. Limit other Chromebook users. I’m saying this one again because it’s so important. Limit log-in capabilities to approved only by toggling on “Restrict sign-in to the following users,” and then add users to the list.
If you don’t limit who can log-in, then anyone with a Google profile can log-in to your Chromebook and circumvent your parental controls (even a sneaky child who creates a fake Google (Gmail) Account on another machine and uses that to log in to the Chromebook).
By completing these steps in Layer 3, you’re making sure that only the right people can access the Chromebook and make changes to the Chromebook. This is important so that a sneaky teen doesn’t add a fake user to the Chromebook and access inappropriate things.
Layer 4: Set-up a clean DNS on the Chromebook itself.
First, let’s explain some terminology. DNS = domain name system. Think of DNS as the digital phonebook of the Internet. Humans look for information by typing in words like “protectyoungeyes.com,” while routers use IP Addresses (a series of numbers) to communicate.
The DNS translates the words into numbers so that the Internet can show humans what they’re looking for.
But did you know that you can “point” the Chromebook so that it resolves its DNS activity through a clean DNS server? Meaning, if a kid tries to perform a search for “pornography,” a clean DNS server will block that request and return a “Hey! Block Screen!” instead.
Hopefully, you’ve already set up your router to use a clean DNS in Layer 2 above, but what about when the Chromebook is not attached to your home’s network? Here’s what you do.
- Click the profile in the lower right corner (where the battery life and time are).
- Click the gear symbol.
- Click the arrow to the right of the home WiFi you’re connected to.
- That should list all of the WiFi signals the Chromebook is picking up. Again, click the arrow to the right of your home network (if you’re at home – or whatever network you want to apply clean DNS to).
- Click the down arrow next to “Network.”
- This should open up some options, one called “Name servers.”
- Click the radial button next to “Custom name servers.
- Click the line that appears under that and type this: 126.96.36.199 (on the first line) and 188.8.131.52 (on the second line). These are the clean DNS address for CleanBrowsing, a service we trust.
- Then click the back arrow at the top, next to your WiFi name.
- Then “X” out of the settings in the upper right of the blue box.
Note – you’ll need to follow these steps for each WiFi network used on the Chromebook. That should redirect all of your internet traffic through that CLEAN name server, preventing access to most junk. Unfortunately, there’s no way to lock in these clean DNS settings, but they’re obscure enough that most kids don’t know to go look for them.
Layer 5: Enforce parental controls on the Chromebook.
Chromebook parental control option #1: Family Link (tough)
Here’s the truth – right now, Family Link is wonky on Chromebooks. We’ve tried to explain all of the different complexities involved in our blog post, Family Link Features are (slowly) Being Added to Chromebooks.
We’re also doing our best through Google’s Community Forums to make our opinions known about its complexities and get solutions. If you’re adventurous, then give it a try by following the steps in the blog post, but instead, many parents are just going with a third party, which we explain next!
Chromebook parental control option #2: Mobicip + Bark (easier)
Mobicip has a Chromebook filtering extension, and it works very well, providing access to search history that currently isn’t available in Family Link for Chromebooks. It’s very reasonably priced ($49.99/year for the whole family and it’s our overall #1 parental control solution on iPhones, too).
You can sign up to use Mobicip today and take advantage of their free trial. Although it’s a wonderful service that can be used across many devices, one of Mobicip’s weaknesses on Chromebooks is that a moderately savvy kid can figure out how to delete the Mobicip extension and parents wouldn’t know unless you’re inspecting the device.
Related link: Try MOBICIP for free today!
Bark is another tool that can be connected to a kid’s email account and other parts of the device in order to identify troubling words and phrases. When layered with Mobicip, it’s a powerful combination and it’s also reasonably priced ($99/year for the whole family).
Related link: Try Bark for free today!
Chromebook Privacy Concerns
Recently, we received this question from a parent:
“When the kids work on a school-issued Google login, the school administrator has access to review everything students do, which is good. Yet, what if the child is using a personal Chromebook that we buy, and you don’t necessarily want the school to have access to everything – does that mean we need to set up a second account for each child?”
We did a bit of research, and found these articles that might help, if this is an area of concern for you.
- Article #1 – enhancing student privacy at the Chromebook (device) level.
- Article #2 – enhancing student privacy at the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account level.
*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!