04.10.2017

Thinking of using Googles Family Link software…

It would appear that Google are looking to get into Parental Guidance app market (we prefer the term Parental Guidance to Parental Control, to see why take a look at our “Parental Control! NO its Parental Guidance” posting http://www.inetguardian.blog/parental-control/).

It’s good to see larger corporate organisations start to take this area seriously and, of course, anything that can help our children enjoy a safer online experience is to be applauded.

So let’s take a look at what is needed for the Google Family Link app to work…….There are a few things that are required and , the last option unfortunately meant that we could not test Family Link as it is currently only available in the US.

From the Google Family Link website:

 

The App only supports Android and is compatible with a small number of Marshmallow 6.0+ devices and all Nougat 7.0+ devices.

It will not work on a child’s iOS device, there is a Family Link iOS app available however that will only let you manage the settings of your child’s Android device from your iOS device

You need to create a Google account for your child, if you have already have an existing Google account for your child then it won’t work.

From the FAQs on the Family Link site:

“When your kid turns 13, they have the option to graduate to a normal Google Account. Before a kid turns 13, parents will get an email letting them know their kid will be eligible to take charge of their account on their birthday, so you can no longer manage their account. On the day they turn 13, kids can choose whether they want to manage their own Google Account or continue to have their parent manage it for them.”.

While we promote the use of family agreements and open and honest discussions about the use of devices and internet access we believe that 13 is too young to hand full control back to the child, particularly when this is the age when peer pressure, sexual curiosity and the desire to be independent is a huge part of their everyday life. As children become teenagers they still need guidance and some protection and we hope that iNet Guardian offers a service that can give some of the freedoms that teenagers look for whilst still keeping their safety as a top priority .

A recent survey from Deloittes, their seventh annual mobile consumer survey (http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/business/technology/extent-smartphone-addiction-revealed-13651228) reported that “Among 16-19-year-olds, two-thirds (66%) check their phones in the middle of the night, double that of all UK respondents (33%). More than a quarter of ‘screenagers’ (26%) actively respond to messages they receive after falling asleep at night.

More than a third (34%) of respondents look at their smartphones within five minutes of waking, and over half (55%) do so within a quarter of an hour.” Therefore the parents of a child of thirteen may want to stop the phone accessing the Internet after the child is in bed so that sleep is not interrupted… Google Family Link would not give any support to prevent children from accessing content into the early hours of the morning which studies have shown to cause sleep deprivation and lack of concentration.

From what we can find Google Family Link does not block inappropriate content. The website states that “You can filter explicit search results on Google, like pornography, using the SafeSearch setting. You can also set filters in Google Play based on app ratings. While these filters aim to block content that is sexually explicit or contains graphic violence, they won’t make apps or services kid-safe, or block all content you don’t want your kid to see. “

However I am assuming that if a child wants to access inappropriate content then they can just type in the web site URL directly into the browser and access the site.

According to the Family Link site “You can block apps so that they are no longer accessible on your child’s Android device by tapping the “Apps” card in Family Link, selecting the app you want to block and toggling “Allow App” to off. The App will then be hidden, but not deleted from your child’s device, unless you unblock it. If you delete or uninstall an app from your child’s device, your child will be able to reinstall it without additional approval.” So in essence you would need to install and then block all the apps that you don’t want to be used. This could be over burdensome and they can always reinstall !

We are very encouraged that this is a first step from organisation like Google  we believe that these bigger organisations would be better trying to tackle the issues at their source. As parent of two young children my first question is why Google don’t concentrate their efforts on making You Tube a much better resource for adults and children rather than an open forum for people to spread phobic messages. Granted YouTube for children is a much better platform for children it still isn’t foolproof.

I would imagine Google with all their technological advances would have an automated review system which would review the content of videos as they were submitted and flag those that breached guidelines. At the “How safe are our children?”  NSPCC conference, a Google representative stated that You Tube is a community and has community guidelines that people submitting videos should follow however what they failed to realise is that community guidelines only work if people follow them, which some people submitting You Tube videos clearly do not…

We will follow Family Links progress with interest…