Updated: Oct 21, 2019
By now you know that I have 4 kids, my oldest son Joseph and my daughter's Phoebe, IreLynn and Anastyn. I've always been on the fence with technology in their hands and the type of freedom you get with them. What I never liked was the lack of controls and supervision on any ecosystem or device.
So, how do you manage parental controls on something like an Android? A while ago, I came across a web page from Google doing invites to do just that. Unfortunately, most of this was by invite only and since Android devices require an account to log into, I felt like it would be redundant to create accounts for kids given that Google requires kids to be above a certain age to even sign up. Still, I'm a rebel, and I decided to create accounts anyway to lock down their email addresses for later use in life and in hopes that I can use them for future parental control development.
Well, now that the holidays are here, I've been wanting to get everyone their own phones for Christmas but I also wanted to promote responsible usage. My wife and I decided to get them all prepaid Samsung Galaxy J devices. These are standard quad core phones with just a Samsung launcher and pre-installed carrier and manufacturer apps. But for the most part, Android under the hood without crazy modifications. After I configured their own emails as the accounts under the phones, I added them to a family group withing Google Play Store. This allows any purchases or subscriptions acquired through Google to share among all my family members.
Now, My son is old enough to handle his own phone and I don't need to manage it at his age as we have an agreement that he keep a C+ average in High School. I'm not a hard ass when it comes to grades in the current state of US school curriculum. So he gives me what I want and he enjoys freedoms without restrictions. Plus, If I need to, I just sniff out his network packets through the house gateway and find out what he's doing. For the rest of the ladies in the house, you can clearly see on their avatars that for ever symbol with a Green/Yellow kite, they have a device that both my wife Toni and I are controlling through our own Google accounts and phone logins.
To get this done for your family, take a look at the tutorial below. But I leave you with something that will make this the most effective. Something that Google themselves mention within their setup pages. It is not restrictions alone that will help you and your child in achieving responsible usage across the devices. It is highly recommended from my wife and I to speak to your children and set the expectations. I've noticed that with my girls, this went a long way and the more they are prepared for in their heads, the more they will understand their own limitations and why to prepare them for real world rules and expectations for themselves.
How-To: Google Family Link
Google Play Links
Download the apps for the right devices, both applications are not to be installed on one device, only the associated app to the device it is designed for. The links above are for the Google Play Store where you can download the app. Have your child's device next to you and ready to configure.
Install the Family Link for Parents application on the parents phone and configure with your Google account. Follow the prompts until you receive a prompt for a random code that will associate your child's phone through their application in step 2.
Install the Family Link for Children & Teens on your child's phone. This will associate their phone gmail account to their login for the app. Since the app is associated with the Google ecosystem, it will tie in to the rest of the phone services associated with the phone. If you have added their gmail under the Google Play account settings, this will be an even easier setup as this is the framework it depends on when associated family groups.
Once you get to the screen to enter the code on your child's phone, enter the code that you were presented on the parental phone. This code, when entered, will immediately associate the account and device to be controlled via the Google Family Link for Parents app on the parental phone. Follow the prompts and choose the settings levels you would like for your phone.
Once you have completed the setup, you will noticed newfound settings on the app that allows you several nifty tools like device location, device lock, allowed times, bed time schedules, and more. Play around and find the right level for your situation and rules. Talk to your child and let them know what they should expect.
Outside of this, explore yourself what the possibilities and settings fit right for you and your children. I leave you with something that I had learned from my own experience as a kid and as an adult. I was born around the time that the internet itself had no parental filters. A time where desensitization and understanding certain imagery could easily finds its way to children. For some of it, I am thankful that I did learn early and its affects, for some of it, I would have preferred living a life without. With that being said, my wife and I always believe in a "happy medium" where we can monitor and mold our kids perception of things through limits but equally as much through guidance.
There should never be a fully automated system for parenting. Doing so might compromise and aspect that we as parents value in ourselves and love to find withing our children. For everything else, we should utilize technology for what it is meant for, as a tool and nothing more. How you wield that tool says more about your character than societies'.