Google is making a play to capture the family market. Today it announced its new Family Link app, which lets parents create a Google account for their kids. This account is completely controlled by parents, so that means they can manage the apps their kids use, monitor how long they’re staring at their device, and set a designated “bedtime” for the screen. They can remotely lock it, too.
To create this account, parents just have to get their kids a device that runs Android Nougat, download Family Link, and then create an account through the app. Family Link is now available through an early-access program. Yes, you’ll have to request an invite and your kids also have to be under 13 years old. It isn’t clear how freely Google is giving out these invites.
The new app certainly seems like an obvious attempt to steal some of Amazon’s share of the tablet market. Amazon offers great kid controls on the Kindle. The company even released a kids-only Fire tablet that provides child-friendly content and lets parents implement both screen time limits and educational goals. What’s nice about Google’s app solution is that it applies to any updated Android device; you don’t have to buy your kids a whole new tablet or phone. Just give them your old Nexus. Meanwhile, Apple is completely nonexistent when it comes to kid controls. It doesn’t allow for account separation, except in educational settings.
While I’m all about giving parents more control over what their kids consume online, I’m slightly wary of building a Google data profile of a young child. That concern might be unwarranted, but I don’t create accounts willy-nilly. Choice exists, though, and parents can weigh the benefits for themselves.