It's a headache for most parents trying to keep kids safe online, but our guide will help you set up parental controls on their Android kit. It'll let you keep an eye on what your under-13's are doing, without stopping them from enjoying their phone or tablet.
The Google Family Link app lets you manage your child’s phone remotely. Approve app purchases and installs, set and manage content & search filters, and limit the amount of time your child can use their phone.
You’ll have to create new Google accounts for each child as you add them to your Family. You control the account through the app, which limits what the child's phone can do. When the child reaches the minimum age for a Google account (13 in the UK), they can take control of the account, and their phone.
If your child already has an Android phone, you’ll need to remove any Google accounts already on it, or factory reset it.
The child’s phone should be running Android Nougat (7.0) or higher, but some phones running Lollipop (5.0) or Marshmallow (6.0) might also work - there's a link in the app you can use to check. To see which version it’s running go to Settings > About Phone > Software Information > Android Version. The adult’s phone can be any Android phone running KitKat (4.4) or higher, or an iPhone running iOS9 or higher.
If your child's phone can't run Family Link, there are still a couple of things you could do. Our guide to Android parental controls shows how to limit your child's access to some content, and Samsung users can take advantage of Kids Mode to give their youngsters a safe place to play and learn.
Open the app and read through the information screens, tapping the arrows to move on, then tap Get Started.
You’ll be asked to verify that you’re ready to set it up. Tap Start, then tap Next.
If your child’s phone runs Android Nougat (7.0) or higher, tap Yes. If you’re not sure, tap See if your child’s device is compatible.
If you’re ready to move on, tap Yes.
Read the information about family groups on Google, and tap Yes to carry on.
Tap Next three times to move through the preparation screens, checking them as you go.
Type your child’s name in the spaces then tap Next.
Enter their date of birth and gender, then tap Next.
Choose a Google username for your child, then tap Next.
Make a password for their account and tap Next.
Press Yes to add them to your family group, then tap Next twice.
Read the information about setting up a Google account for your child. Tap Next to continue.
Read the ‘disclosure information’ about how your information is used, tick the boxes to agree to each section then tap Agree.
Tap Confirm to create their account with standard settings (you can always change these later). Pick More Options if you’d like to check them now.
You’ll see a screen confirming the child’s account has been created. Tap Next three times.
If the phone’s already been set up, go to Settings > Accounts and remove any Google accounts you find. Add your child’s new account by following the steps below.
If the phone’s brand new or has been factory reset, you’ll need to go through the full phone setup (we might have a kit guide to help you). When you get to the Google account screen, add the child’s account you’ve just set up, following these steps. When the account’s been added, you can carry on with the rest of the phone's setup guide.
Go to Settings > Accounts or Cloud & Accounts > Add account > Google.
Type the child’s new Google account and tap Next.
Type their password and tap Next again.
Choose who is setting up the phone (tap your Google account).
Type your Google password and tap Next.
Next, you’ll set up the Family Link Manager app. Tap Next > Install > Install.
Give the phone a name to help you manage it, then tap Next.
You’ll see a list of apps that are already on the phone and their ‘PEGI’ age ratings. Use the switches to turn off any apps you don’t want your child to use. Tap Next to go on.
Tap Next to set up Family Link Manager. You’ll see information about all the actions you can take to manage the phone. Tap Activate.
Google services help the phone to work, backing up the phone and using location services to power things like searches, mapping, and finding the phone. Turn off any service you don’t want to use, then tap I Agree.
When you see the phones are linked tap Next, then tap Done.
The phone’s now ready for your child to use, but before you hand it over you might want to check the settings through the app on your phone.
Now the child's phone is set up, you can check and adjust the settings from your phone:
Open the Family Link app. Tap Add (+) at the top to add another child account, or tap your child’s name to manage their phone.
Tap Manage Settings to choose what content can be seen on the phone. This includes things like app age ratings, website content filters and search result filters.
'Location' shows a preview of where the phone is. Tap to expand the map in more detail.
Monitor your child’s 'App activity'. See what apps they’ve used, and how long for.
Set a ‘Daily limit’ on your child’s phone use. When the time is used, the phone locks automatically (but they can still call you in an emergency).
Set ‘Bedtime hours’ to lock the phone automatically when you want their attention away from their screen. Calls are still allowed in case of an emergency.
Check your child’s phone status, lock or unlock it remotely, and sound the ringer to find the phone.
Check if they’ve installed any apps in the last week, and manage the apps they can use.
Manage background device settings, including app permissions (which controls access to things like the camera and microphone) and location settings. You can also set a screen lock or reset the phone remotely if it’s lost or stolen.
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