Google Family Link: What It Is and How to Use It

Parental control on Android can limit screen time and keep kids safe

Google Family Link is an Android parental control app that makes it possible to limit the amount of screen time your kids have, monitor their internet activity, and keep them safe from inappropriate sites. Family Link requires that each member have a Google Account. Designed for kids 13 and under, Family Link works with Android and iOS 9 devices or later.

Google parental controls used to live in Chrome, but now you can manage all of that in the Family Link mobile app.

Setting up a Google Family Link Account

If you don't already have a Google Account for yourself, you'll need to create one first. Download the free Family Link app from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store to your device. Family Link will ask you to create a family group so you can link your account with your child's. Each group can have up to four family members.

You can only have one Family Link account per device.

How to Add People to Your Family Link Account

Each member of your Family LInk account must have a Google account so you can link it with your own.

  1. Create your child's Google account. Enter your credit card information to complete the process.

    The credit card is for the mandatory, refundable $0.30 fee required for “federal privacy regulations," to ensure parent's verifiable consent before collecting personal information from children. You can read about this requirement on the Family Link’s FAQ. The transaction will be canceled once the process is completed.

  2. Download the same Family Link app on your child's device and sign in with their account credentials. You will receive a notification on your device that your child's device is linked.

  3. Sign into your child's device with their Google account. Your device will let you know when it has been linked with your child's device.

  4. Repeat the steps above for every child you'd like to add to Family Link.

Use the Family Link App to Manage the Apps Your Child Downloads

As soon as your child tries to download an app, your device will receive a notification with the name of the app, the app's publisher, and the number of downloads accumulated. The information also includes the maturity rating, which is based on the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) content ratings. Apps with a "G" rating are safer than those with an "E" rating, which are for kids ages 6 and older; a "T" rating is for ages 13 and up. You can approve or deny any app that doesn't meet your standards.

If you don't want to approve every app, you can use Google Parental Control to set global restrictions. This is perfect if you know you don't want your child playing anything above "T." Just set the criteria and Family Link will ensure any app requests that don't meet the criteria are blocked.

Use Family Link to Control How Apps Behave

Google Parental Controls also extend to the app's permissions. All approved apps installed on your child's device are still subject to your permissions. You can prevent a game from connecting to the internet, or block an app's access to the device's camera. You can also prevent in-app purchases and paid content.

Use Family Link to Set Limits on Screen Time

Family Link allows you to set a daily limit each day, and also a bedtime, which will shut down the device. All of these times can be customized by day.

Screenshot showing how to schedule limits with Google's Family Link

You can also lock your child's device with the Lock Devices Now feature. The device will instantly shut down until you turn the setting off.

These features still function even if your child's device is not connected to the Internet.

Use Google Family Link to Know Where Your Kids Are

With Google's location analytics, you have the added security of knowing where your kids are as long as they're using their devices.

Screenshot of Google Map locating device

In addition to giving you parental control over your child's screen time, Family Link keeps tabs on where their device is located, and, based on whether the activity log shows if your child is on the device, where they are. This is an optional feature.

Control and Monitor Chrome Browsing Activity

Parents can use Family Link to set restrictions on how children browse the web. Controls include filters for mature websites, although Google does acknowledge some offensive sites may still get through. You can also block and allow specific sites. Kids can ask for permission to visit a site on the block list and you can approve or deny access through Google Family Link.

On the Family Link app, go to Settings > Manage settings > Filters on Google Chrome > Manage sites > Approved or Blocked.

Google will not block ads, and they will still be seen by children even when using Family Link.

Adults can also see and delete a child's Chrome history. To see their history, from the child's device, open Chrome. Tap the More menu (three vertical dots) then History.

To delete their Chrome history and data, open the Family Link app. Go to Settings > Manage settings > Filters on Google Chrome > Chrome Dashboard. In the History section tap Clear history.

Review Your Child's Digital Footprint

If you've ever wondered how much time your child spends online and what apps are their favorites, now you'll have the answers you've been looking for.

Screenshot showing usage on Google's Family Link app

Family Link keeps a log of where your child spends their digital time. Weekly and monthly reports let you see which apps were accessed, how long they were used, and the location of the device.

Support Your Child's Screen Time with Nutritious Apps

Google harnessed the help of teachers to create a curated list of apps with educational value. These apps meet Google’s Designed for Families (DFF) program requirements, and are valued by teachers for their ability to ensure time spent on devices is time well spent.

What Happens When Your Child Turns 13?

Interesting question. On a child's 13th birthday, they have the option to graduate to a full-fledged adult Google account, with all the access you have to apps, websites, videos, and games. Google will send parents an email informing them their child can take control of their own account on their birthday and they can no longer manage their child's account.

How to Remove a Child From Google Family Link

When you're ready to let go of the reins, you can remove members from your Family Link group.

  1. Access the accounts page on the Family Link app on your device or the Google Family page.

  2. Once there, tap Menu > Account > Family > Manage Family Members.

  3. Tap the name of the child you want to remove, then tap More > Remove Member > Remove.

How to Delete Your Child's Google Account

To delete a child's Google account, you can either use the app on your phone or visit the Google Family page. Once you're logged in, select your child's name, then go to Settings > Manage Settings > Account Info > Delete Account.

Before deleting your child's account, be sure to back up any documents, emails or photos your child has added to the account. Once the account is deleted, all documents will be deleted.