Children under the age of 13 can't create an unsupervised Google account for themselves. Instead, parents have to set up the accounts for them using Family Link, which is supposed to give them a lot of control over what apps and games kids can get, how much screentime they're allowed, and which websites they can visit. Parents can even get a streamlined overview of their kids' app usage à la Digital Wellbeing. But what does it feel like to sit on the receiving end of the system?
Not too long ago, I locked myself into a Google child account as an experiment and quickly ran into a whole lot of restrictions, some more questionable than others. Among the less understandable ones was the fact that I couldn't use the account to log into any third-party apps, which renders applications that only rely on this login method useless to me (and, you know, actual kids). Google is finally changing that. The company has sent out an email informing Family Link managers that they can now allow their children to sign into third-party apps.
Google has launched a new website for parents on families.google today. But if you were hoping for a whole slew of new and improved parental controls for Android, Chromebooks, and Google Accounts all collected in one central place on the web, you might be disappointed. The website is merely a resource that gives parents an overview of which tools there are for safeguarding their kids online and what they need to look out for.
It's Chrome OS's 10th birthday today, and Google announced a slew of cool new Chrome OS 89 features to celebrate. The milestone update improves Chromebooks with several changes to enhance the user experience. Here are a handful of Chrome OS features Google announced today that are coming to eligible devices.
Family Link allows kids to use Android phones before they can have their own full Google accounts at the age of 13, but there are some drastic limitations attached to the solution. Parents have full control over everything kids do on their phones and can set strict usage and bedtime limits. However, many parents (and kids) have lobbied that some apps should remain available to kids regardless of how long they've used their phone, especially ones important for homework and communication with parents, and it looks like Google has finally listened: It has introduced a new always allow option for apps.
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.