Family Link parental controls have improved significantly since they were first released in 2017. After Google shockingly removed Supervised Users from Chromebook in January 2018, Family Link slowly became the parental control replacement for both Chromebooks and Android devices.
What is Google Family Link?
Family Link was created as a way for parents to control how their children navigate their Android devices (phones and tablets) and Chromebooks. Family Link is stricter if the child is less than 13 and has slightly different features if the child is 13-17. Here is the current (December 2019) feature set:
How to set up Family Link:
Setting up Family Link varies depending on the type of device and age of child. High-level steps for all scenarios include:
- Download the Family Link app on the parent’s device (available on iOS and Android).
- Create a Gmail account for the child, unless he/she already has one. Family Link only works with a Gmail account. ***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.
- For Chromebooks, log into the device using the new Gmail account (or if child is 13+ and has an existing account, use that one).
- For Android devices, download the Family Link for Children & Teens app.
- On both types of devices, invite a parent to supervise the device. For Chromebooks, children under 13 are supervised automatically when you log into the device with the Gmail account, but for 13+ on Chromebook, the teen is actually the one that invites a parent to supervise through Settings. For Android devices (smartphones and tablets), all children and teens must invite parent supervision through the Google Family Link for Children & Teens app, which you hopefully downloaded in step 4.
This high-level flowchart also explains how Family Link works for both types of devices:
Additional information about Family Link and Chromebooks:
We suggest that parents and caring adults consider multiple layers of protection on a Chromebook.Family Link is a good start, but it’s not enough. Family Link is horrible at preventing exposure to pornography and other explicit content because it doesn’t control any search engines other than Google.
The five layers of protection on a Chromebook are:
- Chromebook set-up
- Family Link set-up
- Use CleanBrowsing clean DNS on the Chromebook
Details about each of these five layers can be found at our Chromebook Parental Control guide.
Additional information about Family Link and Android devices:
Similar to Chromebooks, there are multiple layers of digital protection required on Android devices. These layers, if done properly, give parents and caring adults more assurance about device safety. The four layers of protection on an Android smartphone or tablet are:
- Family Link set-up
- Use CleanBrowsing clean DNS on the Android device
Details about each of these four layers can be found at our Android Parental Control guide.
Google Family Link FAQs:
Updated December 22, 2019
Q: Can kids erase web history while being supervised by Family Link?
Although kids can delete their website activity in Google’s My Activity, the search history will stick in Chrome on the Chromebook or Android device if Family Link is active.
Q: Can my child who is <13 watch YouTube videos while being supervised by Family Link?
Google has decided that kids with Gmail accounts with birthdays <13 are only able to watch YouTubeKids videos, which doesn’t sit well with some parents. The only way around this is to let them watch YouTube on a different device, or with a non-Family Link login, which also isn’t advisable unless highly supervised.
Q: Can’t my kid just evade supervisory control by using incognito mode in Chrome on a Chromebook or Android device?
Incognito mode is disabled when Family Link is active.
Q: Why do I need something like CleanBrowsing if I’ve enabled Family Link’s “safe search” for Google and “try to block mature sites” in Chrome?
A: Because those Family Link settings only apply to a Google search.
There are many other search engines, and if you have concerns about a child accessing them, then a service like CleanBrowsing (which forces safe search on multiple search engines), is needed. A great feature of Family Link is that Chrome search history is preserved, so you can review that from time to time as a deterrent. But we’re just big fans of blocking as much of the junk as possible, and CleanBrowsing does that.
This post explains more -> How to Block Porn on Any Device. For Free.
Q: [Chromebooks only] Can I add extensions to Chrome on accounts being supervised by Family Link?
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 more closely what my kid is doing?
Although this is frustrating, it makes sense. School email accounts are typically monitored by the school, using a device management program 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. This also means that parents should know what the school is and isn’t doing on the school account side, just to be aware.
Q: Can I delete my child’s Family Link account at any time?
Just tap the 3 dots in the upper, right corner of your child’s profile 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!
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director. Manage marketing efforts for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I have a relentless drive to help families use technology well.