The Complete Guide to Chromebook Parental Controls
[updated December 20, 2019] We believe there are multiple layers that should be in place in order to adequately protect a Chromebook.
Location -> WiFi (router) -> Chromebook set-up -> Clean DNS on the Chromebook -> Family Link
Location -> WiFi (router) -> Chromebook set-up -> Clean DNS on the Chromebook -> Family Link
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. For example, let’s keep all internet-ready devices out of bedrooms, where kids take more risks, and sleep is constantly interrupted.
Related post: The 5 Worst Places for a Kid to be Online
Layer 2: Set up clean DNS on your home’s WiFi (router).
You are responsible for every digital click on your home’s network, so be sure to control the router. Popular options for parents are:
- Circle with Disney – by far the most popular parental control device on the market for controlling devices at the router (and also with Circle Go on devices).
- CleanBrowsing – use CleanBrowsing’s clean DNS and block most known porn domains (FREE). Read all about it in our extremely popular DNS blog post.
- OpenDNS – similar to CleanBrowsing, but with enough loopholes that we really prefer CleanBrowsing.
We’ve also 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.
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.
A parent should be the “owner.” If a student is set up as the owner, and a parent wants to change this, 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. This is important because Chromebooks don’t maintain web history for guest browsing, making it easy to conceal web activity.
How do I turn off guest browsing on a Chromebook?
- Sign in as the owner.
- In the lower right corner, click where the time is.
- Click the gear icon (Settings).
- Look for the section labeled “People” and click “Manage other people”
- Ensure “Enable Guest browsing” is toggled off, “Show usernames…” is toggled on, and “Restrict sign-in to the following users” is toggled off TEMPORARILY (“toggled on” means it’s blue, like the image below). See image:
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.
Layer 4: Set-up a clean DNS on the Chromebook itself.
You already set up clean DNS on your router, but what about when the Chromebook isn’t attached to your home’s router? Then we need to set up clean DNS on the Chromebook itself so that the bad stuff is blocked wherever the device goes. This is really important, because as you’ll read below, the blocking in Family Link is not good, allowing a lot of pornography to be accessed.
If you haven’t done so, please read How to Block Porn on Any Device. For Free! for a recap of what clean DNS is.
How do I set up clean DNS on my Chromebook?
- Click the profile in the lower right corner (where the battery life and time are).
- Click the gear symbol (Settings).
- 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.
Layer 5: Use Family Link on the Chromebook.
This high-level flowchart shows what steps are needed to set-up Family Link on a Chromebook:
How do I set up Family Link on a Chromebook?
The sequence is important. It looks like an overwhelming list, but you can do this! One step at a time.
- Download the Family Link app on your own smartphone or tablet (it’s available for both iOS or Android).
- If your child doesn’t have a Gmail account yet -> create a new Gmail account from some computer. If your child already has a Gmail account, then skip to step 4. If your child is <13 years old (in the United States – note that different countries have different ages that signal digital adulthood), then a parent will have to perform certain verification steps.
- ***NOTE – if you are a parent with an iPhone, and you downloaded the Family Link app, DO NOT attempt to create the Family Link Gmail account for your child through the iOS app. Eventually, you’ll run into a dead end, where the app will give you a 9-digit code, like XXX-xxx-XXX, and ask you to link it to a device. Unfortunately, there’s no place to type that 9-digit code into a Chromebook. It’s a dead end we’ve brought up with Google in multiple support threads, and no one, including “Google Experts” knows how to solve this. Stick with creating a Gmail account outside of the iOS app by following the link.
- If the child is <13, sign-in to the Chromebook with the new child (<13) Gmail account you just created. If the child is <13, then Google will ask for parent permission for the child to sign in. After you’ve logged in the child’s account, you should see a little Family Link kite icon in the lower right corner.
- If the child’s Gmail account is for age 13+:
- Click the lower, right corner where the time is.
- Click the gear for Settings.
- Scroll down to “People” and “Parental controls” where you’ll see a button to begin the Family Link process.
- Have the teen follow the steps to allow a parent or caring adult to supervise their account.
- From the parent Family Link app, start at the top and work your way down.
- In settings, “safe search” (Google) and “block mature sites” (Chrome) are set by default. This is good, but click around. Note: if a child tries to visit a blocked URL, they will get a block page, and you will receive a notification in the Family Link app. It’s a nice feature.
- For example, “Location” is at the top, and you can use Family Link to keep track of where your child is.
- Under “Screen Time,” you may want to set limits for school or bedtime hours.
- Notice that you can check on what apps have been downloaded.
- Block porn: Even with CleanBrowsing in place, there are a few problematic search engines: www.aol.com and www.ecosia.org. Add them to Settings -> Chrome -> Manage Sites -> Blocked (we’re trying to have CleanBrowsing block these with the Family IP).
- Go back and Restrict Users: back in Layer 3, step 5 above, we told you that we were only temporarily allowing any accounts to be added to the Chromebook. Now that you’ve added your child’s Family Link account, you now want to toggle ON the “Restrict Users” feature so that only an approved list of people can use the device. See the image here:
If you don’t use CleanBrowsing, and you want to block explicit content, you’ll need to add every non-Google search engine to: Family Link App -> “Settings” -> “Filters on Google Chrome” -> “Manage Sites” -> blocked list. Otherwise, pornography is very easy to access.
Chromebook Parent FAQ’s
Q: My kid uses a Chromebook for school with a school email to login. Can I use Family Link on that school account so that I can monitor what my kid is doing?
Although this is frustrating, it makes sense. School email accounts are typically monitored by the school, using device management controlled by the school. In other words, the school is enforcing its own rules through those accounts, maybe even using a school management software like GoGuardian or Securly.
This means that your child might require two logins for the Chromebook. One using his school account, and another that you monitor with Family Link supervision.
Q: Are any other parental controls needed on the Chromebook?
It depends on your situation.
Mobicip has a Chromebook filtering extension, and it works very well, in addition to providing service on other devices. Therefore, some parents like having one solution for all devices. 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 they’re inspecting the device.
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. The service successfully identifies instances of self-harm, violence, explicit conduct -> it’s awesome. PYE has over a 1,000 families using Bark right now and it’s reasonably priced ($99/year for the whole family).
**Note – Google prevents monitoring services like Mobicip or Bark from being used on Family Link accounts for kids <13. If you kid is 13+, then you can add extensions, like Mobicip or Bark, to Chrome for additional monitoring.
Q: I’m concerned about my kid’s privacy on the Chromebook. Especially with the school monitoring. How can I protect it?
A: Read these:
- Article #1 – enhancing student privacy at the Chromebook (device) level.
- Article #2 – enhancing student privacy at the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account level.
Q: Can I use both Family Link and Bark or Mobicip at the same time?
A: No, not on Chromebooks because you can’t use extensions on Chrome for supervised (Family Link) accounts.
Q: Can my child use YouTube while Family Link is enabled?
A: Only if the Gmail account being monitored by Family Link is >13 years old. If <13, then they will be forced to use YouTubeKids (read our YTKIDS write up for more details!).
Q: Can I delete my child’s Family Link account at any time?
A: Yes! Just tap the 3 dots in the upper, right corner of Virginia’s screen in your Family Link app, tap “Account info,” then tap “Delete Account.”
*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!