Google Introduces Family Link, A Remote Control for Your Kids’ Phones

This week Google is announcing Family Link, its latest foray into the digital parenting game.

Family Link is, for the time being, an Android app available in the U.S. only, and can be used by parents who are Android users, with kid(s) under 13 who are also Android users. The app is invitation only, and you can request an invite here.

Android parental controlsHere’s how it works:

  • Once invited, parents can download the Family Link app. They will need their own Google account first.
  • Parents then set up a Family Link Google account, the one that will have settings applicable to the child.
  • Once installed, each time the child uses the Android device – a phone or tablet – parents will have more control over what the child can do and when.

On what the child can do:

  • Parents can block apps installed on the device from being used (like email, for example)
  • Parents have the opportunity to block or approve each new app download
  • Parents can ensure that Google safe search settings are always on

On when kids are using their device:

  • Parents can set a bedtime, after which the device can’t be used until the next day
  • Parents can set a daily usage time limit, after which the device is locked (for the child) until the next day
  • Parents can remotely lock the device on demand, when it’s time for dinner or for something other than using the device
  • Parents can view weekly or monthly usage reports, by app, whenever they want

Additionally, parents can remotely see the location of their child’s device, which is great for when the device is lost, or when the child is.

A note on privacy: Setting up a Family Link account for your child will result in Google having more personal information on your child than would otherwise have been the case. Google’s privacy disclosures are here.

Family Link seems like a good option for parents looking for more control. If you’re an Android family with kids under 13, we suggest you check it out, but as is the case with any tech solution, this will not take the place of parenting.

~

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our newsletter below.

 

Latest Android Release May Have Battery, Data and Privacy Issues

Here’s a quick heads up for the parents out there whose kids have Android phones.

By now, cell phone users who understand how GPS location tracking works and what it’s for understand how to navigate the controls on their phone. That may have changed with the latest Android update.

Google Play logo squareIn general, the way it works is that you can turn location on or off for your phone entirely. If you have location turned on, you can secondarily control whether it is on or off for each app that you use, and for each app, whether it is on all the time or only when you are using that app. The system works as described and makes sense. You might want to use location for Google Maps, or to find a restaurant on Yelp, but you might not want Facebook, Google and advertisers to know where you are every minute of the day.

According to a very good article at Naked Security, Google may have changed the game for Android users via its Google Play platform:

“…the Google Play services app…can only be denied access to your location data if you turn location collection off entirely. In other words, if you want to allow even a solitary third-party app to have access to your geolocation data, you have to let the Google Play at that data, too.

And Google really does want to know where you are, because the moment-by-moment detail of your movements is worth money to Google, who can sell that data to advertisers in real time, for example as you walk near, walk into and then walk around a store.”

Having your location turned on all the time is less than optimal for 3 reasons:

  • It’s bad for your battery life. Google Play is constantly “working” in the background to keep track of where you are.
  • It’s a data hog. There’s a constant stream of cellular data communicating your location.
  • It’s a privacy issue. Never being able to conceal your location from Google and advertisers seems too intrusive for us.

While we can see why Google would want it to be this way, this seems like an over reach to us that will probably be changed soon. Maybe not, though.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

YouTube Kids Launches Today

Google has a fundamental problem with kids, or an opportunity depending on how you look at it. At the problem’s center is the fact that in order for Google to effectively serve ads to users of its product, the more information it has on that user, the better. Better ads men that advertisers on balance will pay more for those ads, as they are reaching a highly targeted audience.

YouTube-logoGoogle, however, can’t legally collect personal information from kids under 13 without their parents’ consent, as dictated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Parental consent is a messy thing – parents can and do say no – which means that some would-be users of your product won’t be using it.

The workaround for Google to date has been a very inelegant game of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Everyone knows that kids under 13 use YouTube, Google’s video hosting property. We’d guess that it’s not only the most widely used social network by the under 13 crowd, it’s probably the most widely used web property, period. Google has effectively gotten around COPPA by either not asking for user’s age (you can watch YouTube videos without having a YouTube account), or by not verifying the age when a user opens an account.

We aren’t taking Google alone to task here; only a small number of websites and social networks have an effective means for verifying the age of users. The industry standard is for users to be whatever age they happen to say at signup. If that sounds like a flawed system, it is.

Google is partially solving the problem today by launching YouTube Kids, a free under-13 version of YouTube, and has communicated to the press that both the video content and the ads will be age-appropriate.

If Google does a good job screening which videos are in fact safe for kids, and has a way of keeping the comment section clean, it will indeed by a good, safer option for kids. Some early reports claim that comments won’t be allowed. We checked the Google Play store and YouTube Kids is not available as of this writing.

We say “partial” solution because after the launch of YouTube Kids (today for Android phones and tablets, in the near future for iOS), adult YouTube will still be thriving, and as easy for kids to use as ever.

Lots more work to do in this area.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.