Google’s Family Link can now turn off your teen’s phone during dinner

Family Link, the parental control hub Google introduced last year to give kids under 13 their own Google accounts, is now expanding its features to teens. Family Link allows parents to set screen time limits, lock devices when it’s time for a break, approve or block apps downloaded from the Play Store, and locate their kids through their devices. These features work with Android phones starting today, with support coming for Chromebooks soon.

Family Link is technically available to anyone with an existing Google account, so by expanding the features to older account holders, it’s hoping to let users help monitor online safety for all family members. When it’s being used for anyone over 13, both parties must consent before the monitoring can begin. If the account holder doesn’t consent, they can choose not to provide their password to enable Family Link supervision. If the teen being monitored decides they want to opt out, they can choose to do so, but this puts the phone onto 24-hour lockdown.


Parents have had the ability to lock their kids’ devices from their Family Link apps, but soon they’ll be able to ask Google Assistant to do it for them with a voice command. You can say, “Hey Google, lock Johnny’s device,” and they’ll have five minutes to wrap up before the phone locks.

The Google Assistant update also adds family-friendly content for accounts managed by Family Link. Google Assistant can recognize up to six different voices, and if it hears a child that it recognizes asking questions, it will provide kid-friendly responses. For example, if your child says, “Hey Google, check for monsters”, it’ll make laser noises as if it’s scanning the room for monsters, and then say, “All clear!”

All of these features, aside from the Google Assistant integration, are available today, and most are rolling out globally to almost every country in the world. Google says the Assistant features will be available in the US first when they arrive next week.

Correction, 8:50AM ET, September 18th, 2018: An earlier version of this article said that the Google Assistant features were available starting today. They will be enabled next week. The article has been updated with the correct information.


I love the idea of it but worry about siblings locking each others devices!

Family Link, the parental control hub Google introduced last year to give kids under 13 their own Google accounts

Separate accounts.

Google Assistant can recognize up to six different voices

Yeah, the voice recognition isn’t great. I can mimick most of my family members voices enough to confuse it.

Oh you know thats gona happen!

Teach your ‘teens’ some manners. This is ridiculous. Entitled parents bringing up entitled little shits.

You my friend are enlightened beyond your years.

You can now ask Google Assistant to turn off your teen’s phone during dinner

Heaven forbid you ask them yourself!

Reading this reminds me of when my headmaster called the parents of a classmate of mine back in junior high concerning his behavioural problems and extremely disappointing grades, and the mother went apeshit and told the teachers that they were the ones who are supposed to educate her kid, and how terrible they were at their jobs.

They need to add a whitelisting feature like Apple’s Screen Time has. Just because they used all their screen time doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to read books, listen to music, or use apps that interact with their toys.

How will this help during dinner?

I can definitely see something like this coming to iOS. Parents rejoice! Although I’ve seen a good number of parents who can’t seem to put their phone down.

They also cant seem to put their foot down when it comes to disciplining their kids.

Wow, there’s some contempt for parents here, you all must not have any idea what it is like to walk the line between giving your kids access to devices while still holding boundaries on screen time and acceptable phone usage. I suppose if we are always watching over our kids’ shoulder we become helicopter parents, eh? FL is a tool not a substitute for parenting, and Android and Apple have been pretty late to the game in making good first-party solutions.

I think the "dinner" angle is oversold but it is great that Family Link is expanding. I use it on my 12 year-old’s phone and no, I don’t use it as an every-day substitute for normal rules and parenting. But because of FL I could get my then 11 year-old a phone but without social media apps and with approval rights over each app download (which I approve 90% of, but I can relax knowing what’s on there), which for me was 80% of the point. With FL you can give your kid a phone and a certain amount of privacy, without it becoming a fire hose of internet/social media (which is largely what makes young adolescents totally dysfunctional).

My daughter’s phone has daily time limits and locks at 9 pm but I can easily extend her time on a given day. She will be 13 this winter so it’s nice that FL doesn’t just end at that point, which until now it would have. I don’t micromanage it and FL makes it so I don’t have to. That’s a good use of tech, not bad parenting.

The biggest gripe I have with FL is that YouTube is completely blocked from any FL phone, and the parent does not have the option to turn it on. To me, YT is not a dangerous app and I would like to be able to enable it. Maybe with the new version this will change.

One more thing…parents are generally very naive about their kids’ tech. For 95%, the question is a hardware/purchasing decision, i.e. "when do I get my kid a (phone/iPad/etc)" Then they spend the money to get it and forget it, and spend forevermore stressing over screen time and what their kids are doing with their newfound digital freedom. What parents need to realize is that hardware ("the phone") is just one part of it. The bigger part is software – phone/messaging/photos/google search/YouTube/games/Insta/Snap – each of these is a different entity with its own universe and potential downsides.

Dropping all of these privileges into a kid’s lap on the day they get that phone is a recipe for problems. If parents understand better that most of their fears/challenges are tied to software, not hardware, they would be more equipped to manage their kids’ screen time and how they are influenced by the internet. But mostly they can’t manage it because they don’t even grasp the premise. I (gently) preach this to other parents whenever we end up in this discussion.

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