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Google Quits Chromebook Supervised Users

Google Supervised Users

Google Quits Chromebook Supervised Users

Supervised Users Were an Awesome Google Feature

In a dumbfounding move, on January 12, 2018, Google froze its Supervised User functionality. For many families, this move renders their Chromebooks as unsafe.

Google Chromebooks have been sold by the millions, used by schools and families as an inexpensive, fast, and uncomplicated way to get online. Although the Chrome OS made these devices difficult to monitor and filter through traditional parental control software methods, Google had a feature called Supervised Users, giving parents extensive control over a child’s web activity.

But, on January 8, 2018, many parents like me received the following e-mail from Google:

Google Supervised Users

Here’s a summary:

  • We’re taking Supervised Users away. You can still enjoy the Supervised Users you created before January 12, but as a parent, you can’t review the sites they’ve visited, adjust a black/white list, or really do anything other have Google Safe Search.
  • And, we aren’t giving parents anything to replace Supervised Users. Yet. (Thanks!)

It really is a shocking move. And, parents are extremely upset. In one Google Forum, parents were relentless and punishing toward Google, as exemplified with this comment:

“[Google] can we have the real scoop here – what’s going on, why would Google do this, and why the rush to deprecate?  Did you discover some major security flaw in supervised users or something?  I can’t believe Google is in such financial straits that it needed to fire the team working on this immediately, especially since it barely changed in years.  Nor can I believe that its advertising revenue was so negatively impacted by children not being able to click around.  What is happening and why should parents ever invest in Google products or commit to using its services again?”

How do Parents Monitor Chromebooks without Supervised Users?

There are a few, but limited options. If the Chromebook is school-issued, and the school is monitoring browsing activity even when the Chromebook is outside of its network, then the deprecation of Supervised Users isn’t as big of a parental concern. But, if you own the Chromebook and/or a school-issued Chromebook is not monitored outside of the school’s network, then parents will need to take some action.

[PS. If you’re not sure if your school-issued Chromebook is monitored outside of the school’s network, then ask questions until you find out. This is important to know. And, if it is monitored, does the school have a reporting process back to parents if inappropriate sites are visited? Again, dig until you find an answer.]

1. Use OpenDNS to monitor the home network.

OpenDNS is a free domain-blocking service to block web sites or non-Web servers visited based upon categories, allowing control over the type of sites that may be accessed. For families, this is a must, so that you can have greater assurance that visitors aren’t using your wireless signal inappropriately.

2. Use Mobicip to monitor the Chromebook.

We’ve recommended Mobicip for years. And, now more than ever, until Google provides a replacement for Supervised Users.

Mobicip

3. Make the parent the Chromebook Administrator.

4. Turn off Chromebook guest browsing.

5. Limit other Chromebook users.

We explain how to make the Parent the Administrator (and how to perform a factory reset so that the parent can make him/herself the Administrator), turn off guest browsing, and limit unauthorized logins in the Device section of Protect Young Eyes.

If you choose not to do these things, then please treat the Chromebook like a high-risk device.

This means being hyper vigilant about when and where it’s used. No bedrooms. Never at night. Only used public places. Homework use only (and clearly communicate the consequences if these restrictions are abused). Parents, the unfiltered internet is never a place for kids (or parents) to be wandering through unattended.

Related post: The 4 Worst Places for Kids to be Online

Our Conclusion: Google Doesn’t Understand Parents

The Protect Young Eyes team is shocked by this move. But, based on Google’s lack of consistent YouTube parental controls, recent revelations about inadequate monitoring of YouTube Kids video content, undetected pedophile activity in comments on videos containing children, and now, the extinction of their best parent feature without a replacement, we have less and less faith in the digital giants who control our online interactions (Facebook, Google, Snapchat, etc.).

Please, go get Mobicip today and protect your Chromebook.

**We have an Exciting Announcement!!

For our faith-based followers, we are on the verge of releasing a streaming curriculum that teaches media savvy kids and their families how to honor God with technology. It’s called Virtue in Media, and it will include videos for schools, church youth groups, home educators, and parents to use with kids about relevant digital topics (pornography, predators, bullies, image, etc.). Want to be the first to know when Virtue in Media is ready? Leave your email on the landing page by clicking here.

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Living life to the full! That's why He died and how I try to live. I have an eclectic list of professional experience...CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, now educational resource manager for Covenant Eyes. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I want to show parents how to protect their kids from online dangers, which led to the creation of Protect Young Eyes. We recently created Virtue in Media, the first digital citizenship curriculum based on Scripture (www.virtueinmedia.com).

9 Comments
  • Joann Kozlowicz
    Posted at 09:25h, 13 January

    Thank you for your diligence.

  • Brian MacLachlan
    Posted at 11:20h, 13 January

    Chris,

    Are you recommending both OpenDNS and Mobicip? They seem to do similar things, I’m not sure if that’s either/or, or if I should do both…

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 12:29h, 13 January

    Hi, Brian – OpenDNS controls the home’s network (the wireless signal that comes through your router), while Mobicip provides controls on the Chromebook itself. This is necessary for when the Chromebook is not attached to your home’s network, so that some level of monitoring and filtering is present. If it’s a school-issued device, then always make sure that changes like these won’t interfere with settings the school might be using. These are the types of things that a school with a Chromebook program should always be communicating to parents (but I know that isn’t always the case). I hope that helps!

    Chris

  • Mindy Sue
    Posted at 10:43h, 04 February

    Ah! I’m so overwhelmed! I am not tech savvy and my young kids have little experience with devices also. However, this year we decided to invest in a chromebook and a tablet to use in our homeschool. While reading through this post I’m feeling a little confused as I don’t know what it all means and how it will effect how we use our devices. Am I able to use a special kid-friendly browser on a chromebook? Is Mobicip the same as Iconoclast (https://www.eastjordan.church/iconoclast/about.php)? I don’t want to limit the network (or do I?) because then will my husband and I still be able to use it effectively? I am jumping into a big world of dangerous unknowns and I want to make sure I am properly protecting my family.

  • Lydia McGrew
    Posted at 20:59h, 05 February

    Just FYI, I’ve seen a number of parents on a Chrome forum pointing out that Mobicip can be disabled by a moderately tech-savvy young user, so don’t put too much faith in it. (And Mobicip admits this.) I don’t know the ins and outs because I have no experience with Mobicip personally but thought I’d throw this out there. Something to do with disabling the extension.

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 22:51h, 07 February

    Yes, Lydia, this is true. We definitely promote multiple layers of protection in addition to the Mobicip software solution. With any device, there’s almost always a way to get around it.

    Regards,
    Chris

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 22:56h, 07 February

    Hi, Mindy – thank you for reaching out. It looks like Iconoclast is something unique to the church. I’ve not heard of it, nor does it show up in any searches. I’m a little skeptical of anything that they’re gathering on their own servers. That would seem to create a lot of unnecessary risk to the church, but that’s not my decision. Mobicip is different. It filters and monitors the Chromebook activity and likely the tablet also. For $39.99/year for 5 devices, which is pretty reasonable. Here’s where you can read more.

  • krystle watson
    Posted at 18:42h, 19 March

    In the article that you linked to to set up parental controls talking about OpenDNS you talked about making an admin account and then setting up supervised user accounts… I thought that was the whole purpose of this is the fact that you can’t set up user accounts that are super vised… Pretty confused here

  • Chris McKenna
    Posted at 00:47h, 21 March

    Hi, Krystal – I might not be following your question. Chromebooks do have an admin. account and then parents typically set up child accounts with less access to change the device. If you don’t mind providing a few more details, I’d be happy to help. Contact me (Chris) through our Protect Young Eyes Facebook page. Thanks!

    Chris

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