Google has had an app called Family Link for a little over a year now, designed to give parents more control over their kids’ use of their Android phones — and even turn them off at dinner time. Now it’s expanding the app to support Chromebooks, adding many of the same features to that platform.
Parents will be able to whitelist websites that they’re okay having their children visit, set screen time limits, establish a bedtime, remotely lock devices, and monitor usage. And for the first time, Chromebooks set up with supervised accounts will gain access to Android apps from the Google Play store.
Android apps can be whitelisted for use or hidden on the device, which could be useful for shared devices. Parents will also be able to manage in-app purchases on supervised accounts.
If you’ve been following the saga of Android on Chrome OS, you have probably mostly thought of it as simple access to Google Play apps. But in fact, many parts of Chrome OS itself have taken on elements of Android — including the new quick settings menu and even the software keyboard. It seems like that deeper integration may be helping to enable some of these new parental control features.
One interesting idea here is that Google will let you set up supervised accounts for teenagers, but the teens will have the ability to turn off those controls. You’ll get an alert when that happens and then probably have a very exciting conversation about your teenager’s Big Grown Up Moment of taking responsibility for their computer use.
Although Chromebooks don’t make great tablets (yet), they do have one very significant advantage over the iPad: they’re excellent as shared devices. Because they support multiple accounts, it’s easier to have one gadget that anybody in the family can log into without being able to access each other’s stuff.
The Android games you can get on the Google Play Store might not impress your kids as much as what they can get on an iPad, but at least you’ll know they’re not going to accidentally delete your work email when you hand them a Chromebook.