Google Family Link Lets Parents Control Phone Time

Google has announced a new service for parents who want to get kids 13 and under into the digital world more quickly.

Dubbed Family Link, the service will allow parents to get their child a Google account, including email, apps access, and more. While that might sound scary in its own right, Google will also offer several tools through the service that will let you govern which apps they can see, when their devices can be used, and more.

To get Family Link up and running, Google recommends you buy an Android device running Android 7.0 (Nougat) or later. However, the service will also work with some Android 6.1 Marshmallow devices, like Sony's Xperia XZ. Family Link is only compatible with Google's operating systems, so iOS users are out of luck.

Once you have the device you need, you download Family Link onto the product of your choice. From there, you need to set up your child's Google account and use the service's built-in tools to decide when the handset will be locked and when it'll be accessible to your kids. You can also get notifications about what your child is doing on Family Link and you can decide on your own handset whether to allow them to download the app they want or not.

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Additionally, Family Link comes with some handy tracking information so you can see how often your kids are on the device and which apps they're most likely to use.

Family Link is specifically designed for kids under the age of 13. Kids 13 years and older can sign up for a Google account without parental intervention. (Of course, kids under 13 who lie about their age can technically do it, as well.)

If you're hoping that the app will be the panacea that keeps your child safe online, think again. Google itself has said that it's just one element in protecting children and noted that Family Link does not automatically block all inappropriate content your child might find during his or her smartphone use. In other words, the sometimes-scary Internet is readily accessible to your kids, even with Family Link installed.

"While Family Link can help you set certain ground rules around how your child uses their device, it can't make the apps or services on their phone that were designed for adults kid-safe; it's up to parents to choose what's right for their kid," Google vice president of engineering Pavni Diwanji said in a statement. "When you make the decision to give your child their own device, Family Link can serve as a tool that keeps you in the loop as they begin to explore."

If you're interested in trying out Family Link, it's available now in the U.S. by invite only. You can see if you're eligible to receive an invitation here.

Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.