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How to Set Up Google FAMILY LINK Parental Controls

It took Google until 2019 to add basic things like screen time limits and filtering. Now that Google has finally provided parental controls, they have done a great job. Google Family Link is one of the most flexible and customizable parental control systems out there

Because there are so many options it can be intimidating to set up Family Link, but with our help,  you'll soon be using these Android parental controls like a natural. Read on to find out how to set up Google Family Link parental controls.

Requirements: Devices and Accounts

Here are some important requirements to note to make sure Google Family Link will even work for your family.

  • Your child’s device needs to be an Android phone, tablets or Chromebook. It cannot be used on Windows or Mac computers, iPads, or iPhones. 
  • In order to use Family Link, your child’s device needs to be operating with Android 7.0 or higher
  • Make sure all other accounts on the device are deleted before setting up the device for a child. An extra account will let your child easily go around your parental controls.
  • You’ll also need a parent device with either Android or iOS (Apple)
  • Download Google Family Link on both devices through the Google Play store or Apple App Store.
  • Additionally, both you and your child will need to have Google accounts. If you don't already have one, you can sign up for one for free.

Note: You will not be able to enable Family Link for a Google classroom school profile. You can add the school profile to the device, but its settings will be managed by the school. Contact your school to get information about the restrictions placed on student accounts. If you want to have both a Family Link profile and a Google Classroom profile on the same device, you'll need to delete the Google Classroom profile and re-add it after setting up the Family Link profile.

Related: Chromebook Safety 101: 5 Easy Tips for a Better School Year

Setting up age-appropriate accounts

The process for creating a child account is different depending on if your child is under the online age of consent (13 in the US).

Setting up Family Link for a child older than 13

  1. Have them create their own account using the sign-up page. You can also do this on a new Android device as part of the set-up process.
  2. Have your teen sign into their device with that account.
  3. To enable parental controls, go to the settings icon, usually a gear in the top pull-down menu.
  4. Go to Google, then Parental Controls, or simply use the settings search to search for "parental controls."
  5. Click Get started.
  6. Select Child or Teen, then sign into the child's account.
  7. Click Next then sign in with the parent Google account.
  8. Continue to follow the steps to setup supervision on the child account. Your child will need to give their consent during the setup process. Note that children over 13 can stop parental supervision at any time, so you'll need buy in from your teen to keep this working. (Google Family Link will send the parent a notification via email if the child turns this off).
  9. Make sure to install Family Link on your parent device as well in order to access the parental controls

Setting up Family Link for a child under 13

There's one additional hoop to jump through for children under 13. Because of child protection laws, Google needs parental consent to create the account. When you create an account with a child under age 13, the form will ask for a credit card. Don't worry, you won't be charged! Google just sends a dummy verification charge to check your identity, like when gas stations verify your card before letting you pump gas. The charge might show up as pending on your account but will disappear in a day or two.

Once the verification has been processed, the set-up is basically the same as for a teen account. However, kids under 13 do not have the option of opting out of parental supervision.

Basic Google Family Link filters

Once you have Family Link set up, the first step you should take is to turn on the filters. You can filter the Google Play Store, Chrome, Search, and YouTube through Family Link. It's a lot, but you'll probably only have to mess with these settings once. Here's how you set it up:

1. Open the Family Link app on the parent's device.

2. Click on the child's picture or profile.

3. Click "Manage settings."

4. In "Controls on Google Play," you can enable the following settings:

  • Purchases & download approvals to keep your child from purchasing apps or doing in-game purchases. Set this to "All content" to prevent purchases.
  • Content Restrictions control what your child sees in the Play store. Set a content level you are comfortable with in each category (apps, movies, TV, books, and music). Remember that these settings are dependent on content creators reporting appropriate content levels for their products. They are not perfect, but certainly better than nothing.

5. In "Filters on Google Chrome," you have two filtering options:

  • Try to block mature sites uses Google's filters to try to block pornographic material. This setting is appropriate for teens who you trust to explore the internet responsibly.
  • Allow only certain sites requires you to manually add all allowed sites. Choose this setting for younger kids to keep them on sites you have personally approved.
  • You can use the Manage sites link to add a custom list of sites to block or allow regardless of which setting you choose.

6. In "Filters on Google Chrome," turn on Google's SafeSearch feature which tries to filter out sexually explicit and violent search results. Remember that no filter is perfect; make sure your child has an internal filter installed before allowing them to use a search engine!

7. In "Settings on YouTube," you can adjust your child's YouTube settings. Your child can have either YouTube Kids or YouTube enabled, but not both. Here are the settings for each:

YouTube Kids Settings
  • Content Settings lets you pick a subset of YouTube's kid content that is appropriate for your child. Select between Preschool (before age 4), Younger (ages 4-7), and Older (ages 8-12). Again, these filters depend on the judgment of YouTube and its content creators so there is no guarantee that what is presented will match your values.
  • You can turn off search. This will limit your child to whatever YouTube's algorithm recommends.
  • Remove access to YouTube Kids will entirely remove the app from your child's device.
YouTube Settings
  • Content Settings lets you pick a subset of YouTube's content that is appropriate for your teen. Select between Explore (ages 9 and up), Explore More (ages 13 and up), and Most of YouTube (only exclude content marked 18+).
General Settings
  • Pause watch history and Pause search history let you turn off Google's ability to track what your child watches and searches for. Turn them off if you are concerned about privacy.

App Requests

Your child's device will have filtered access to the Google Play Store, based on the settings you selected above. Any app they want to install requires your approval. When your child attempts to install an app, a pop-up will appear on the screen allowing them to "Ask in a message" or "Ask now." "Ask now" lets you enter a password on the child's device to immediately approve the app.

"Ask in a message" will send a notification to Family Link on the parent's device to either approve or deny. You can review this request for 24 hours before it expires. Use this time to check out the app and decide if it is right for your child.

Set Time Limits

Setting limits for devices

Family Link lets you set two types of time limits. These limits work together, and you should set up both types of limits for your child's device.

  • Bedtime lets you set a bedtime and wake time for the device. Your child will not be able to access the device between these hours.
  • Daily Limit controls how much your child can use their device every day. 

To set up bedtimes:

  1. In the Family Link app on the parent device, select the child you want to manage.
  2. If you've never set up time limits, scroll down until you see a block labeled Screen Time, and click on this block. If you've previously set up limits, you'll see two blocks, one for Daily Limit and one for Bedtime. Click on Bedtime to edit.
  3. To set up Bedtime, toggle on the switch at the top of the screen to "Scheduled." You can then set up times for each day. You can click "Also apply to..." to copy one day's time to "all days," "school," or "weekend," depending on the day you are setting up.
  4. Don't forget to hit the save button at the top when you're finished!

To set up daily limits:

  1.  In the Family Link app on the parent device, select the child you want to manage.
  2. If you've never set up time limits, scroll down until you see a block labeled Screen Time, and click on this block. If you've previously set up limits, you'll see two blocks, one for Daily Limit and one for Bedtime. Click on Daily Limit to edit.
  3. Toggle on the switch at the top of the screen to "Scheduled." You can then set up the amount of time your child is allowed to use the device for each day. Similar to bedtime, you can copy these time limits to other days.
  4. Don't forget to hit the save button at the top when you're finished!

Any time your child's device is over these limits, it will not let the child log in. If you want to override this, you can give bonus time from your parent app or enter the Parent Access Code. This code is randomly generated and changes frequently, so your child can't memorize it. To find the current code, open Family Link, click on the menu, then Parent Access Code.

Set Time Limits for Individual Apps

Family Limit has another cool screen time management feature: setting limits for individual apps. These are on top of the time limits you set above, and you can use them to nudge your child to use their device in healthy ways. There are four different options:

  • No limit: App use is unlimited, subject to the screen time limit on the device.
  • Always allow: App use is unlimited and doesn't count towards the screen time limit. This is a good setting for reading, music, or school apps that you want your child to always be able to use, even when they've used up their other time.
  • Set limit: The app has a specific time limit for daily use, great for forcing your kid to not use their entire screen time allowance on YouTube.
  • Block: This, not surprisingly, blocks the app. You can use this to permanently stop problematic apps, or just temporarily ground your kid from an app that they've been abusing.

What Family Link doesn't do

As important as it is to know what Family Link does, it's even more important to know what it doesn't do. Family Link does not let parents:

  • Remotely view or control the screen on a child's device.
  • See your child's search and browsing history, read their emails or texts, or listen to their calls. For this, you'll need a separate monitoring software. We recommend Bark.
  • See or reset your child's account password or lock screen password. Consider using a password manager app to keep track of your child's passwords.
  • Erase the data on your child's device.
  • Block your child from stopping supervision. Children over the age of online consent (13 in the US) can opt out of supervision at any time. Google will send you an email notification if they do this, so you can discuss this with your child.

Whew! Setting up Family Link can be quite a task, but once it's done, you can rest easy knowing that you've taken the first step in teaching healthy screen use and preventing your child from accessing inappropriate material. But no filter is perfect! Make sure you talk to your kids about pornography and other online dangers, so they know what to do if something slips through the filtering system.

Other Parental Control Guides:

NEW Netflix Parental Controls: Step-by-Step Guide to Update Your Settings!

Chromebook Safety 101: 5 Easy Tips for a Better School Year

At last! Stronger YouTube Kids Parental Controls: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Set Up DISNEY PLUS Parental Controls--Plus Tips for Locking It Down