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Parenting Your Child's Online Life

The hottest selling tech item these days is the Chromebook. Every household with school-age kids engaged in remote learning has at least one and maybe more. It’s almost as essential as McGuffey’s Reader was in bygone days. Almost everyone agrees that no child should be left alone with the internet. The word of parents from Proverbs 5:23 comes to mind, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” Many parents scramble to stay ahead in monitoring and supervising their children’s tech use. In this pandemic season it’s become even more of a challenge.

Google has introduced free screen-time controls that families can use to protect and supervise their children’s internet access. It’s called Family Link and you can download it for free in the Google Play store. The App allows parents to supervise, monitor, block and even cut off their children’s usage right from the parent’s smartphone.

You can create a supervised account for each child in the family and it connects to every device they log into: Chromebook, tablet, TV or phone. Parents can even add existing accounts as well as any school-based accounts their kids have. Once installed, kids can’t use any other account but their own--no guest account and no making a new account.

From here parents can filter searches and content their kids can access. If the kids are blocked on a legitimate search for school work, they can ask your permission to proceed. Parents can also monitor the amount of screen time that each child has had on any device on any given day. They can set a “bedtime clock” that will automatically shut down their account during the time they should be asleep. There is also a “kill switch” that parents can employ at any time.

By default Family Link prevents children from downloading any other apps from the Google store. It’s best to keep this since kids could download other browsers and have unfettered access to the net. Parents will need to manually set controls on any existing apps such as Netflix or Amazon. For children under 13 years of age, YouTube is totally blocked and these children are redirected to the YouTube Kids channel. Family Link can also be used to set time limits for apps and even block installed apps.

Family Link does not monitor or filter messages or emails. Parents will need to directly supervise this aspect of their child’s online life. God bless all of your remote schooling efforts in your homes. May this be a happy and productive experience for your family as we wait patiently for the subsiding of the virus and the full return to in-person school. God speed that day!

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