Author: Alberto Vidal Rodríguez
We find 6 main functions in Family Link.
The first is the control of the content that the children can access. The application allows you to know what children are doing with the tablet and mobile and how they invest their time, showing which applications they have used in the last 30 days and how much.
The second is that parents can choose which applications can or cannot be installed on their child's device. Applications already installed previously can also be blocked.
Third, Family Link allows you to control the content that children access on platforms such as YouTube. It also offers app recommendations found within the Family category.
The fourth possibility offered by this application is to limit the hours of use of the mobile and create a schedule for children to use it, for example, from Monday to Friday. There is also the Time to sleep functionality, which establishes some hours in which mobile phone use is no longer allowed, as it is the time when parents consider that their children should be sleeping.
The fifth is the ability to remotely lock parental controlled devices.
Finally, Family Link allows you to know the location of the terminal linked to the corresponding Google account and, therefore, where your child is when they leave home.
First of all, both devices must be on hand. On the one hand, that of the adult who is going to be the administrator and, on the other, that of the minor who wants to install this parental control application.
The Google Family Link application for parents is installed on the adult's device and the email account of the adult who will manage the account of the minor or minors is selected. This account must be from Google, as it will not be possible to use the App from an account with a domain belonging to another entity.
The adult can manage up to 5 minors 'accounts, and it is even possible to add another adult as administrator (in this case, the minors' accounts will be a maximum of 4). This is designed so that parents can independently supervise their children from their account.
On the other hand, the Google Family Link application for children and adolescents must be installed on the device of the minor to be supervised.
In order to use parental control on our children's device, they must have an associated email account ending in gmail.com.
If you already have an account that you are using on your own mobile, press the Yes button to proceed to link it to Family Link.
If you do not have a Google email account, click on No and it will be created.
Next, a screen will be displayed in which it is simply advised that you have your child's mobile nearby. In it, a nine-character code will be given that you have to use on your son or daughter's mobile to link their account to your Family Link.
Now, and from the mobile phone of the boy or girl to which you want to add parental control, you have to log in to the application for children and adolescents with the email account that has been created or that you already have.
Once logged in, the mobile will ask if you want to add to the family group managed by the person who is using the parent or guardian app. To proceed, click on the Join button in the lower right corner of the screen.
You will reach a screen where the child who is installing the app will be informed of everything their parents can do from now on. It also specifies what cannot be done, such as reading messages or histories. To continue, click on the Next button that appears at the bottom right.
Now, a window will open in which you will be warned that control to manage and monitor the device is being given to a third-party application, such as Family Link in this case. Click on the Activate button to confirm the step.
Next, you will go to a screen in which you have to give the device a name to identify it, and when you do, it will go to another in which you can deactivate some of the applications that are installed on the mobile. After all this procedure, the Family Link configuration on the device to be supervised will have been completed and the profile created in the family group will appear, showing all the supervised users.
In order to analyze and evaluate the application, a series of tests have been carried out to verify its operation. The tests have been carried out on a Samsung Galaxy J7 device (Android 9.0) with version 188.8.131.5241 and an iPhone SE (IOS 14.3) with version 2.2.6.
In this case, the iPhone mobile has been used as the family manager while the Samsung mobile has been the supervised device.
In order to use the application on both devices, it has been necessary to install it through the respective application stores of each operating system.
First of all, the first thing we find is that the process to install the account to be monitored can be a bit complex and tedious. In fact, if you want to give your child an Android device that you have used previously, that is, that is already configured, it is necessary to delete the rest of the accounts that are on the mobile.
This is also a big problem in those devices that are shared by several members of the family. Thus, to supervise the use that the child makes of a device, it forces the rest of the users to be subject to these device control rules, which makes it impossible for the rest to use it normally. It is also a problem if, for example, several minors of different ages are wanted to use the same device, since each one should be able to have their own account with their personalized limitations.
The application includes a functionality that allows you to activate a sound on the mobile device controlled remotely from the parent or guardian's mobile. This can be useful, for example, in the event that the mobile has been lost somewhere nearby and cannot be located.
One of the things that Family Link allows you to do, as mentioned before, is to control which applications are installed on the devices on which this parental control application has been installed. In all the tests carried out, this functionality has worked correctly.
When the child in question goes to download an application from the application store, Family Link acts and displays the message "Ask your father or mother for permission." To do this, the system gives two options, ask by message, for which a message will be sent to the parent's mobile phone that they must accept or reject this download; Or, ask in person, for which the father or mother must accept the download from the child's own mobile, entering the password for his or her Gmail account.
This allows us to control that the applications that are installed are appropriate for the age of our child. In addition, the application provides information regarding the downloaded application such as the recommended minimum age of use or if it includes in-application purchases.
TIME OF USE CONTROL
Regarding the option that allows to control the time of use of the device, in the tests it has been verified that, in general, it works correctly.
You can set limits for the use of the total mobile time and the time of use of specific applications separately. In addition, you can set time slots in which it is set as "Bedtime", in which the mobile is practically blocked and does not allow access to any application. It only allows calls to be made in case the child has to contact the parents.
These limits on mobile use time and sleeping hours can be easily set from the corresponding menu of the application.
When any of these time limits are reached or when it is time to sleep, the mobile closes the application that was running immediately.
Although it is true that the mobile device warns of this situation, both in the drop-down menu and in pop-up messages and that the child can check how much time he has left of use in his Family Link application, the fact that an application closes suddenly it can be a major problem. For example, if the child is attending a class electronically or if he is doing an exercise or playing a game in which when he exits the application without saving his progress, everything he has done is lost.
It is, therefore, important to configure these options carefully, otherwise it can be a source of frustration for the child or trigger disputes with the parents for this reason.
As mentioned, it is possible to lock the device of the child or adolescent remotely.
To do this, simply select the device you want to block and click on Block now.
The following message will be displayed on the device that has been locked.
The last functionality that has been confirmed to operate correctly is monitoring the location of the monitored device.
The device of the child or adolescent must be turned on and connected to the Internet, and have been recently active to show this location, otherwise it will not show it to us.
In general, it gives the location of the child very precisely, although sometimes you have to retry it several times until it manages to give us the location of the child.
In this section, different criteria have been applied to assess whether the application can be used regardless of the capabilities of the user.
-Cognitive accessibility: By having the accessibility functions of the phone active, a description of the application menu icons appears, which facilitates their understanding. Despite this, it is an application with many functionalities and sometimes they are complex to use, so that the use for people of this group may not be entirely easy.
-Accessibility for people with reduced vision: The application does not have a settings section where you can change the theme or the font or contrast options. Since the font size cannot be changed, depending on the screen dimensions of the device being used, the words may be difficult to read. However, with the accessibility functions that different devices usually offer, the screen can be zoomed and / or the font size increased in general, which greatly facilitates use for people with reduced vision. To complete this section, some tests have been carried out with the screen reader systems available on Android and iOS devices. These tests have focused on checking the correct labeling of the icons and buttons available to Family Link. In the tests carried out it has been verified that the operation using both screen readers is correct, with all the icons and buttons correctly labeled and working correctly.
-Accessibility for people with hearing difficulties: People with hearing difficulties can use the application without any problem, as there is no content in the form of video or audio.
This application developed by Google can be interesting for parents to monitor the content accessed by their children or to control the time they use their mobile phones or tablets.
Even so, the interface and functionalities are sometimes a bit complex, which can be a problem for some users who are not very well versed in the use of new technologies. In this sense, the biggest problem is when installing the Google Family Link application for children and adolescents on a device that already had a previously associated email account, since the steps are not very intuitive and even forces delete the accounts already installed on the device.
It would be interesting to be able to copy configurations between members, since, if you have children of similar ages, to whom you want to apply the same time and content restrictions, you would save time and you would not have to configure each configuration one at a time.
Finally, it has been proven that for parents the application can be tremendously useful, since it allows you to control practically everything that your children do with the mobile device, from which applications they use, how long they use it or even know where they are at all times. However, for the child, the application can be a bit "dictatorial" and rigid, which can be a problem for them, not only in terms of controlling aspects such as video games, but also posing problems for them with regard to academic aspects.
For this reason, it is important not to give up all responsibility for controlling what a child does online in applications like this one, but rather to talk to them about these issues, teach them to navigate safely together and establish time limits agreed upon with them so that they feel more involved and it is not a one-way and imposed direction.
- It is completely free and does not include in-app purchases.
- Correct operation of all the functionalities, which allows parents to control practically 100% of what their children do with their mobile or tablet.
- The application can help establish appropriate and responsible mobile usage guidelines, and help children navigate safely and with age-appropriate content.
- If you want to give your child an Android device that you have used previously, that is, that is already configured, it is necessary to delete the rest of the accounts that are on the mobile.
- The process of installing Google Family Link for children and adolescents on the device to be monitored is somewhat complex.