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Chromebook Parental Controls

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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, Google suddenly started adding some of its Family Link features to Chromebooks and didn’t tell anyone (we only accidentally noticed it was mentioned on a Google blog that we follow). We show parents exactly how to enable Family Link on their Chromebook in our blog.

Related post: Breaking News: Google Adds Family Link to Chromebooks

**October 4, 2018 alert – Google opened up some Family Link features for use with teenagers instead of just kids <13, but unfortunately, none of this new, teen functionality works with Chromebooks. For the time, Google continues to baffle parents with their complete disregard for the safety and protection of kids who use Chromebooks.


How to set up a 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 4 Worst Places for a Kid to be Online

Layer 2: Set up 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:

We’ve recently found OpenDNS to be glitchy with our internet service, which is why we’ve moved to Clean Browsing’s clean DNS for every device in our home, including the router.

 

Router and ethernet cable on white background

Layer 3: Set up the Chromebook correctly (this is so 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.

Chromebook set-up

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, you’re making sure that only the right people can access the Chromebook and make changes to the Chromebook. This is important so that your son’t sneaky friend (because it would never be your son who does this) doesn’t add a fake user to the Chromebook and hack into the Kremlin 🙂

Layer 4: Set-up a clean DNS server on the Chromebook

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, 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.
  • Click the gear.
  • Click the arrow to the right of the network connection in your home.
  • That should list all of the WIFI options the Chromebook is picking up. Again, click the arrow to the right of yours.
  • Click “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: 185.228.168.168 (on the first line) and 185.228.169.168 (on the second line). These are the clean DNS address for Clean Browsing, 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 on the Chromebook. So, please inspect the device often to make sure you’re aware of each place it connects. Then, use that clean DNS IP address above. That should redirect all of your internet traffic through that CLEAN name server, preventing access to most junk.

Chromebook

Layer 5: MAYBE Set-up Family Link on the Chromebook

[Kids <13] Here’s the problem. Family Link is supposed to be the silver bullet for parents, giving us the parental controls we want. But Google made Family Link so inflexible. For kids <13, you have to create a new Gmail address in order to use Family Link, which renders school email addresses useless for kids who use the Chromebook for school.

Plus, if you create a Family Link account, its set-up is difficult (we do our very best to explain it) and it forces things like YouTube Kids (instead of regular YouTube).

[Kids >13] Right now, for kids >13, you cannot use Family Link on Chromebooks without first setting it up on an Android device. Unfortunately, you won’t find this documented anywhere in Google’s support articles. It took us two weeks to get a straight answer from Google Support.

Honestly, until Google makes Family Link more usable, ignore it for Chromebooks. If you complete layers 1-4 above, you’re good. Move on.

Layer 6: Use a FILTER extension on the Chromebook

Mobicip has a Chromebook filtering extension, and it works very well. It provides access to search history that currently isn’t available in Family Link for Chromebooks. 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.

Mobicip


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.

 

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Chromebook, Google, Parental Controls, School