Google app lets parents monitor children’s screen time and internet use

Google has launched an app that lets parents monitor their children’s screen time, internet use, and set a bedtime on devices.

The Family Link app launches in Ireland today, having been rolled out in the US earlier this year.

“One of the things we were hearing from parents was that their children had far more internet experience than them,” said Google’s Elijah Lawal.

“This app is an opportunity for parents to allow their child to enjoy all the internet has to offer but within the guidelines, they’ve set.”

Family Link allows parents to manage the apps their child uses by blocking or approving what they download, see their child’s location, manage certain settings, and remotely lock their devices when it’s time to play, study, or sleep.

The app also generates reports on the child’s online or device activity, therefore telling parents how much time was spent on an educational website versus playing a game.

Mr Lawal said parents’ experiences were drawn upon when designing the app.

“A lot of our engineers are parents and they used their personal experience. Navigating technology is always tricky for parents and families so we wanted to make it easier,” he told the Irish Examiner.

The idea behind Family Link is that parents can set their own digital ground rules within the home, as opposed to downloading an app with prescribed restrictions.

“It’s not one size fits all. We didn’t want to set a standard, we wanted parents to be able to tailor it,” said Mr Lawal.

The app will also allow parents to blacklist and approve certain websites.

In order to use the app, parents need to download it and set up an account on their Android or Apple device. They will also need a Google account, as will their child, that is managed through Family Link.

However, the child will need to have an Android device.

While it is a free app, there is a 30c one-time payment.

Mr Lawal said this is only for “account creation” purposes as a credit card is needed to make the purchase and it proves the validity of a parent managing the app.

When asked if children would still be able to find a “back door” into certain websites, games, or apps or uncover a way to override the bedtime lock, Mr Lawal said the engineers behind Family Link were eager to hear back from users.

“Engineers have put a lot of work into this and are keen to get feedback. If parents discover things, report it back to us,” he said.

Commenting on the launch, Fionnuala Meehan, head of Google Ireland, said the creation of the app is to allow families navigate the internet together.

“Our goal with Family Link is to help parents and children explore technology and the digital world together while making it easier for them to discover, create and share as a family,” said Ms Meehan.

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