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!

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Managing Parental Restrictions On Your Child’s iPhone

We wrote recently about how to determine the right age to give your child her first phone. When that time comes, you might opt for a cheap, simple phone or you may decide that the iPhone is the right choice.

Apple updated its operating system to iOS 9.3 this week, and it looks to us as though the restrictions settings have changed, so we thought we’d walk you through how to manage the restrictions if you’re doing it for the first time.

ProTip: If this is a new phone, or your child’s first phone, set the restrictions before you give the phone to your child. None of the restrictions are permanent, so any or all of them can be set for an hour or a year; it’s up to you.

Let’s get started



The first step is to set the passcode. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and you will be asked to enter a passcode. The initial Restrictions passcode will be the same as the passcode for the phone’s home screen. To change it to one only you will know, after you’ve entered the passcode, tap “Disable Restrictions” on the top of the next screen. Then tap “Enable Restrictions” and you will be asked to set a new passcode. You’ll be asked to enter it twice. Don’t forget this passcode because if you do and want to adjust the restrictions in the future, you’ll need to reset the phone entirely.




IMG2The first section determines which of the phone’s features you want your child to be able to use. The default option is “on” (green). If you tap the green button, it will change to white, meaning that you have restricted the use of that feature. In terms of what each does, most are self-explanatory, but for parents who are new to Apple:

Safari – This is Apple’s internet browser. If you don’t want your child browsing the web on her phone, disable Safari.

Camera – If you want to restrict the ability to take pictures, disable Camera. This may be a good idea temporarily if you’re going to church or to a funeral.

Siri & Dictation – Siri is Apple’s digital assistant. Her job is to answer questions that you speak into the phone. Dictation can be used for talk-to-text.

Facetime – Facetime can be used to video call other iPhone users.

Airdrop – Allows iPhone users to share photos, videos, websites, locations, and other files with Apple device users who are nearby.

CarPlay – Connects the iPhone to your car’s dashboard display and controls. If you want to blast your kid’s tunes while driving him to soccer, don’t touch this setting.

Downloads and Media

IMG3For the next section of restrictions, your choices are on/off as well, as in “allow” or “don’t allow”.

iTunes Store – Leaving this on will allow your child to download songs from the iTunes store if she has money in her iTunes account.

Apple Music Connect – Allows music fans to interact with content direct from their favorite artists.

iBooks Store – If you want her to be able to buy books to read on this phone (or iPad), leave this on. Again, she’ll need to have to have money in her iTunes account.

Podcasts – These are digital audio or video files that can be downloaded to the phone.

News – A selection of news articles curated by Apple.

Installing Apps – If you want to approve each app download, tap this restriction. In that way, your child will have to ask you to remove the restriction with each new download. This is a big one for younger kids.

Deleting Apps – If there are apps that you want to stay on the phone no matter what, tap this restriction.

In-App Purchases – Many games allow players to make game-related purchases (upgrades, game tools) in the course of playing. If you plan to fund your child’s iTunes account, but don’t want the money spent on gaming, tap this restriction.


IMG4The next section is Allowed Content. Your options here are a little more complicated. All content in the iTunes store is labeled or rated, either by the creator or a third party.

Ratings For – Select your home country from this list to ensure that the age/other ratings are accurate for your area.

Music, Podcasts & News – Here you can choose whether you want to allow your child to be able to access explicit content – words, lyrics, images or video.

Movies – Your can choose “No Movies”, “All Movies” or approve according to rating – G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. If you leave the checkmark beside the PG, for example, your child will be able to watch PG-rated movies on this phone.

TV Shows – Again, you can enable no TV shows or all TV shows, or restrict by rating from TV-Y (okay for young viewers) to TV-MA (mature audiences only).

Books – In this section you can prohibit the download of books with explicit sexual content.

Apps – Every app in the App Store is age-rated. You can allow all apps or none, or choose one of the age limits suggested by Apple, which are 4+ (okay for kids 4 and older), 9+. 12+, 17+. FYI, an app that is rated 17+ will not do anything effective to prevent a 12-year old from using it. You need to apply that setting here.

Siri – There are two options here. The first is to prohibit Siri requests that include explicit content. You should tap on this one. The second is whether you want Siri to search the web for content requested by the speaker. This one is up to you.

Websites – You can allow access to all websites, prohibit web access to sites with adult content, or type in specific websites that you don’t want accessed from this phone.

Location and Services

IMG5Location Services – If the location services are turned on, there are many ways that your child can unknowingly divulge her location, in real time, to strangers. Location services can be enabled or disabled for the entire phone, or on an app-by-app basis. For the youngest kids, we recommend turning location services off and tapping the Don’t Allow Changes button so that your child can’t turn it on. If you use an app to track your child’s location, this solution won’t work for you.

The list of apps and services that may use the phone’s location are listed below. Each of them can be set to Never or While Using. For example, let’s say your daughter takes a selfie and sends it to a friend. If the Camera’s location setting here is set to “While Using”, the picture will include data that shows the location where the picture was taken. This can be unsafe.

Contacts – This setting controls which apps will be able to access the phone’s contacts list. If there is an app that you don’t trust, your child shouldn’t be using it, but if you’re at all unsure, tap the green button beside that app, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

You can safely ignore the next two – Calendars and Reminders.

Photos – If your child is using an app and you don’t want her posting pictures to that app, this section is for you. Tap the green button beside the apps you want to restrict, then tap the Don’t Allow Changes button at the top.

Share my Location – If you use the Find My Friends app to keep track of your child’s location, tap Don’t Allow Changes here.


IMG6There are a few other restrictions at the bottom that we don’t need to get into, but there is one of note for parents, and that is Game Center.

Tapping to restrict Multiplayer Games will limit your child’s game options to those that are single player only. Doing this is a good idea if you’re worried about your child being cyberbullied in multi player games. I use this setting for my daughter. Tapping the Adding Friends button will restrict the phone from adding new contacts in the game center, and from using the phone’s contacts list to send game invitations.

In summary, Apple has done a great job giving parents the flexibility to lock down areas and functions that concern them. From what we’ve seen Android phones have a similar set of capabilities, and we’ll review those in the coming weeks.

If you still have questions, you can leave them below and we’ll respond by email.



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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.


Windows 10 Parental Controls Are A Bad Idea

Knowing what is posted publicly online about your child (posted by your child or someone else) is very helpful – we would say critical – in being an effective digital parent. Knowing every website that your child visits is an invasion of privacy that could do real harm. That’s exactly what just-released Windows 10 enables by default.

From Microsoft’s Windows 10 documentation page:

“When you add a child’s Microsoft account to your family, you’ll get regular activity report emails summarising how much time they spent on the PC, the websites they visited, the games and apps they used, and the terms they’ve looked up in search engines such as Bing, Google or Yahoo! Search.”

teen-laptopThe only thing about Microsoft’s new parental control initiative that we like is that it makes it easy to track how much time your child or teen is spending online. That is helpful, especially for families where both parents work. The one obvious shortcoming is that more than half of online time is spent on mobile, and Windows 10 is not a mobile operating system.

As for tracking and reporting every Google search conducted and every website visited, that’s just wrong. Some kids need to have secrets, particularly kids who are online searching for answers to very sensitive questions. From UK’s The Independent:

“Some worried that the feature could accidentally out young LGBT people, by sending details of their web browsing to their parents. That could then in turn put them at risk of abuse by their parents…”

Being a parent is a delicate balancing act. Perhaps you don’t want your child looking at porn or learning how to build a bomb. The latter is obviously a good thing for a parent to care about, but Microsoft can’t give you a report on that without giving you everything, and everything is too much.

The internet is full of answers, and kids need answers. We encourage parents to allow kids to find the answers they need without constantly looking over their shoulders. Sure, you can block select websites if you see them as a clear risk or problem, but allow some level of discovery – in private.




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.