Here's how I'm using Google's Family Link parental controls to set digital ground rules.
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Navigating screen time might go down in history as the millennial parent's biggest conundrum. Even before the pandemic, teaching my children to regulate their time spent online or in front of a screen could be challenging, and it was only made worse by a year of social distancing. While I try my best to straddle what health experts say should be the limits and what we need to get through our day, managing everyone's online experiences was a major source of stress for me.
Because, honestly, I always found myself landing somewhere in the middle: I don't want my children to be on the phone all day, but I also see our devices as helpful parenting tools when I need to work, make dinner or do anything during my daughters' fussy moments. What I needed was a simple way to set limits (and enforce them) without every day turning into a battle for the tablet.
That's why discovering the Family Link app was a game-changer for us all. Designed by Google, the suite of Family Link parental controls were created to help parents stay connected to their children's online experience. Parents set up a Google Account managed with Family Link and can establish parental controls on their child's compatible Android and Chrome OS devices.*
The app puts me in the driver's seat, allowing me to manage their access to content and set time limits for how long they can watch and play. By better managing what and how much they see every day, I'm also taking away the screen-time guilt that used to nag at me, meaning more fun for us all.
Even better? I can manage it all remotely from my own iOS, Android or Chrome OS device, which helps me avoid the meltdown that would inevitably come when I tried to take the phone from my daughter's hands. When the timer goes off, she knows screen time is over—no fight necessary.
The fact is that screen time is part of the modern parent's experience. It can serve incredibly useful purposes, like by opening up a whole world to my child she could never otherwise discover within our house. And with the next school year upon us, I've been on the hunt for solutions that can feed her curiosity and get her brain ready to learn more this fall.
Google's Teacher Approved apps program in the Google Play Store is one of my favorite solutions. These educational apps make it easier to find engaging, enriching activities and games for kids, and I feel more confident knowing the experts that back them. Then, Google took these efforts a step further with their new tablet experience, Kids Space. Google Kids Space is a kids mode on select Android tablets designed to nurture children's creativity by providing them with a library of expert-recommended, quality content based on their interests**.
From animals to cooking to cars, my kids can dig deep into what piques their curiosity while learning new things through recommended books, videos, games and apps. Some of my favorite features include the books (all hand-picked by experts) and videos that can teach children new skills and inspire action through crafts, science projects and more. Plus, since these products are tied to my child's Google Account and managed with Family Link, I'm still able to supervise their time spent on their devices.
Discovering parental controls offered by the Family Link app from Google also helped me discover the big secret to creating a screen time system that works for my family: Lean into the miracle of having so many answers at our fingertips—and make sure the time we do spend online truly benefits us all. Now that's an idea I can really plug into.
*Children and teens can only run Family Link on certain Android and Chrome devices. Learn more. Parental controls require the Family Link app on a supported Android, Chromebook, or iOS device.
** Kids Space requires a Google Account for your child. Parental controls require the Family Link app on a supported Android, Chromebook, or iOS device. Books and video content not available in all regions. Video content subject to availability of YouTube Kids app. Books content requires the Play Books app. Availability of apps, books, and video content may change without notice. Google Assistant not available in Kids Space.