Google has come up with a way to create Google accounts for kids under age 13, which has long been against the rules based on government regulations. However, Family Link allows for a very limited account with powerful parental controls. What's it like to use? It just so happens we've got like a million screenshots of it. Check them out below.
The setup process starts on your device using the Family Link app. Here's what it looks like.
Up to here, all you're doing is configuring the account on your phone. Now, it's time to grab the phone your offspring will use. This is what it looks like when you sign in with a kid's account. Note, you get to choose which pre-installed apps are included.
This is were some of the limits imposed on under-13 accounts become clear. Not all apps are available. For example, YouTube, Android Pay, and Google+. In the case of Pay, I don't think anyone will care. No YouTube is a little weird. I guess it's YouTube Kids only? The setup process is very clear when you're done on the child's phone and it's ready to be handed over. This is what you see on the child's phone after the link is established.
Okay, back over to the parental device, the app alerts you when setup is done and offers the option to customize a bit.
Installing apps is one of the first thing your kid is likely to do, and you have veto power. They will see a popup when app installs are initiated. They have the option of having you type in your password to allow it, or they can push a message to ask for permission. Additionally, Google Play Games doesn't work. Here's what it looks like on the kid's phone.
If your kid opts to send a message to ask for permission, this is what it looks like on your phone.
General management of the account is handled in your Family Link app. You can control app permissions, set the screen lock, and find the device's location. There's also that neat bedtime feature, which can remote lock the child's device instantly. Importantly, this account can only be used on the associated Android device. That means no desktop access to Gmail, the Play Store, and so on. That's probably necessary to make Family Link compliant with federal rules for under-13 kids.
Here's what Family Link time limit settings look like when managing the account.
Going over the the child's device, this is what happens when a screen lock is activated.
The parent device (below) can also control content on the kid device, including app sideloading, blocking adult content in Chrome, and setting rating limits for Play Store stuff.
The app also offers a quick overview of what your child has been up to, including location information. This is what it looks like on your device.
Here's what that same screen looks like on the child's device.
Overall, Google is off to a good start. It is a bummer that this account only works on the authorized phone, but it makes sense from a regulatory perspective—it has to be tightly controlled. Sadly, that means no web access and no Chromebooks. Maybe in the future Google will be able to build the necessary controls into Chrome. A big sticking point right now is the requirement that you have a Nougat phone for the kid. That'll be less problematic as time goes on and more budget devices with Nougat ship.