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‘Family Link’ Is Google’s Twist on Parental Controls

Parental controls for software and devices have been around forever, but they're frequently of the "set it and forget it" type. Google is taking a different approach with its new Family Link app, which allows parents to dynamically adjust how much access their kids have to their Android device.

Currently available as an invite-only beta for Android 7.0 Nougat and above, Family Link has two parts: a special kid's version of a Google account, and an app that parents install on their own Android phone or tablet. You download the app first, which allows you to create a Google account for your child, who then signs into his or her device.

Once everything is set up, you'll have three options for controlling your child's Android experience. Each time he or she wants to download an app from the Google Play store, you'll get a notification to approve or deny it in your Family Link app. You can also set screen time limits for each of your kids' apps. Finally, you can remotely lock your kid's phone or tablet when it's time for bed.

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Family Link doesn't come with any other typical parental control features, like monitoring a child's physical location or restricting web browsing. It's worth noting, though, that some of those features are built into the Android operating system itself or available via other third-party apps.

There are a few more quirks: your credit card will be charged $0.30 for each child account, which Google says helps it comply with federal rules requiring verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children. And the accounts you do create certainly track information like a regular Google account, including displaying targeted ads to your children.

For now, you can request an invite for Family Link if you have a kid under 13 years old with a Nougat-powered device. Google says the program is "expanding slowly," so more features could be added in the future.

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