My Little One who admittedly is not so little anymore as she just turned 11, received a cell phone for her birthday. Of course, we talk about being safe online and what to do and not do, but when I heard about Google Family Link I knew that this was something that could really ease my mind and help keep my Little One on the right track when using her phone.
Why was I worried? Well for starters, there were no services like this for my step-kids so we had a few hard lessons with them along the journey of their cell phones and use. Things, like friending strange men in other countries on Social Media and tunning up huge cell phone bills texting strange boys/men in another country, are just a couple of things we had to previously deal with. Don’t get me wrong, with all our kids we continually talked about being safe online and what not to be doing. The information seemed to work for our eldest son, but when it came to our middle female child, it did not sink in at first. Lesson learned so we were determined to start my Little One off right.
Consider a few stats first before we dive into Family Link…
There’s 5.8 million under 14 in Canada alone. And we know they’re using devices:
Source: Google Kids Devices Survey, August 2017
*Of kids aged 2-12 in Canada, 17% own a smartphone and 18% share a smartphone
*Of kids aged 2-12 in Canada, 40% own a tablet and 31% share a tablet
Source: Media Smarts, Young Canadians in a Wireless World, 2014
*Cell phones and smartphones are primary devices for students to go online. Close to half (49%) of students in Grade 4 have access to their own phone or someone else’s phone on a regular basis.
*One-quarter (24%) of students in Grade 4, half (52%) of students in Grade 7, and 85 percent of students in Grade 11 have their own cell phone.
*Total ownership of personal smartphones has increased from 23% in 2005 to 59% in 2013
*Students use portable devices more than desktop computers to access the Internet. Even in Grade 5, more students access the Internet
through a tablet or laptop than through a desktop computer (62% vs. 59%).
I have already mentioned that we talk to our kids about cell phone use and internet use…but what do parents need to cover when they talk to their kids?
5 Key Tips for Digital Parenting
MediaSmarts designed The Digital Citizenship Guide for Parents for the Government of Canada to prepare parents and guardians for the conversations they should have with their children when they first start using digital devices.
1. Don’t panic!
¾ of Canadian kids have never bullied anyone online
Of students who witnessed cyberbullying, 7 in 10 did something about it
2. Talk to your kids
Parents are the #1 source of information for Canadian kids about almost all online topics
3. Be a part of your kids’ media lives
68% of Canadian kids believe their parents should be able to read what they post on social networks
41% would share their passwords with their parents
4. Be the person your kids come to when they have problems online
5. Set rules and communicate values
Kids with rules in the home about risky or harmful behaviours are less likely to engage in those behaviours
Something else that you can do with your kids is a cell phone contract. We have done this before. A cell phone contract simply outlines the rules for having the cell phone and that if these rules are not followed, the cell phone privilege is removed. Yep cell phone taken away. Am I a fan of a cell phone contract with kids? My answer is that it depends on the child. I found that the contract we did was forgotten about and I believe even thrown out by our child at the time. I feel more comfortable just keeping the dialogue open and continues when it comes to cell phones and internet safety.
Beyond talks and contracts, there is Family Link.
So what is Family Link in a nutshell? It is an App that you put on your phone and your child’s phone that lets you manage apps, keep an eye on screen time, and set a bedtime for your child’s device. And yes, the Google Family Link App is free.
We are an Android family so all our devices and experience with Google Family Link are with Android devices.
Once you have Google Family Link on your device you will need to make sure that you have a compatible device for your child. Devices need to be running Nougat 7.0+ or Marshmallow 6.0+ for your child’s Family Link account.
For your child’s Family Link account, you need to create a Google Account for them. If you are using Family Link, then your child is under 13 years of age so you need to create the Google Account for them and pay a small fee with a credit card to prove it is an adult creating the account. The fee that I was charged was $0.01. That’s it!
When creating your child’s Google account, you need their first name, last name and the hardest of all, a username. Ya, that takes some time to figure out and you probably want to involve your child in the username process because when they are 13, the account is theirs to control if you wish as Google permits anyone over 13 to make their own account.
Oh and I should mention that if you have a compatible device that was previously used by someone and you are wishing your child to use that device, you will need to reset it to factory default settings before starting. Family Link will only let your child’s Google account that is linked to your Google account on the device they are using. This is a great thing because then you know your child cannot make another Google account an put in on their device. 🙂
At this point in the process, you have the App on your compatible device and you have created the Google account for your child. After downloading the Family Link App on your child’s device you will be asked to sign in to set their phone up. I played around with a few old phones here that were not compatible to see what would happen. I was able to download the App but received one of two messages on devices that were not compatible…I was either told the email and password did not match, or on a newer, but not compatible device, it straight up told me that I was on a device that was not compatible with Family Link. So if you hit this stage and are unable to log into your child’s account make sure to confirm that you are on a compatible device.
Once you have two compatible devices, two Google accounts (yours and your child’s), and the Family Link App on both phones you are ready to start managing your child’s phone. There is no need to link your Google account to your child’s Google account as they link automatically. I have Google Family Library in the Google Play Store and my Little One’s new Google account appeared in there right away.
First, you create your Family Group.
Just a side note here…if you are wanting to add more than one child you can with Family Link. You just need to go through the process of ensuring you have a compatible device and creating another account for them.
Once you have your Family Group you can work at managing Apps. You can block Apps, approve Apps, and set time limits for use of Apps. If your child tries to download an App you receive a screen asking you to approve or deny the download.
You can set daily limits for the use of the device and even lock the device at any time.
I also like that you can set a different bedtime for each day of the week.
A couple of things to note is that your child can still make and receive calls when their device is locked. I like this feature as it means they still can make a call in the event of an emergency.
When I first created my Little One’s Google account, I received a welcome email that let me know all the ways I could manage her account. It explained that I could manage things on Google Chrome for her when she is surfing the web, through the Family Link App, and through my Google Family Library that I mentioned above as well. So for example, something else I did was turned on SafeSearch on Google Chrome so that it filtered out sexually explicit material.
Here are some other settings you can manage:
* Apps and Games can be set to the age category you wish such as Everyone, Everyone 10+ etc.
*Google Chrome can be set to allow only the website you approve, block mature sites, or allow everything.
*Permission granted or not for Google Assistant and third party Apps.
*Permission to share photos.
There is really a ton that you can manage with Google Family Link. It is a great App that allows the parent to manage their child’s online experience and limit their time on their devices.
Check out this video from the Wall Street Journal to find out more about Family Link and what it can do…
Disclosure: Photo Credits – Google