Family Link is Google's solution for giving children under the age of 13 access to its services. Parents have to set up their kids' accounts and are responsible for what they do on the web and their phones. There are also control instruments that allow parents to impose restrictions like bedtime and daily app limit timers, and get an exact breakdown of what children are using their devices for. Needless to say, kids hate the service, and they're vocal about it: The Family Link app for kids has a staggering 1.4 rating average on the Play Store, as pointed out by our regular tipster Anthony (thanks!).
Google is pushing several new family-oriented features for Google Assistant users and customers of its virtual cellular carrier, Google Fi, that will enable parents to easily and more thoroughly manage their children's relationship to these potent services.
Earlier this month, Google whitelisted a few extensions for kids' Chromebooks managed via Family Link, like Zoom, Hangouts, and some educational tools — only installable with parental permission, of course. This makes life easier for those who need to rely on video conferences for learning during these stay-at-home times, but it's still a tiny selection. To improve the situation, Google is now testing support for all extensions on managed Chromebooks in Chrome OS 83+ (we tested using Dev 83 and 84).
With millions of children currently studying from home, and most likely using cheap computers like Chromebooks, glaring omissions in Chrome OS have come under the spotlight. For example, those who were using Family Link to manage their kids' Google accounts and Chromebooks noticed that they can't install any extensions on them. Maybe that was designed as a security measure, but it hindered the use of video conferencing tools like Zoom and Hangouts. Now that's changing.
Chrome OS has been on a collision course with Android for quite some time. Adding onto previous additions, like Android’s media controls and Google Play Store support, Chrome OS 77 is bringing even more Android love to the big screen. This time, we're getting widespread Google Assistant support, Family Link bonus time, even better on-device media management, and accessibility upgrades.
During its I/O press conference, Google announced several improvements to Digital Wellbeing including a tight integration with Family Link, enabling parents to set screen and app usage limitations for their children's devices. The feature was said to be coming in Android Q, but we hadn't yet seen it in any beta release. With today's update to Digital Wellbeing, the integration appears to be going live.
Google has been gradually updating all of its apps with its latest Material Design components and stylings over the last year or two, and that process is now reaching some of the company's lesser-known apps. Family link for Parents is the latest to get a makeover, albeit very a very subtle one.
Google is well aware that its products are used by children, with the average age of kids receiving their first smartphone now down to eight. That's why the company has announced a whole slew of options for parents to control their minors' phone usage by putting Family Link features right inside Android Q's settings, for all devices receiving the latest OS.
Being a parent in this digital age is a tough affair, so plenty of apps aim to help families manage their children's smartphone usage and online activities. Google's Family Link, which is available worldwide, is one such example, but as always, there's a delicate balance between features and restrictions. Duo is one of the latter.
Google Play Games is officially going dark. Well, the latest update is making its dark theme accessible to everyone. But that's not the only thing this update brings, there are now app shortcuts and a new sorting feature for achievements coming soon. A teardown also shows the team is preparing to add Minesweeper to the built-in games repertoire. Oh, and we're heard from the dev team, and we've got a hunch they're having a good time.