Google app allows parents control children’s online access

Ireland the first country after the US to get access to Family Link app that allows parents monitor usage and block online access

Google has described its Family Link technology as a way of helping parents “stay in the loop” while their child uses the internet on Android devices. Photographer: Paul McErlane/Bloomberg

Google has described its Family Link technology as a way of helping parents “stay in the loop” while their child uses the internet on Android devices. Photographer: Paul McErlane/Bloomberg

 

A new app allowing parents to closely manage and monitor their children’s internet use is being launched by Google on Wednesday.

Ireland will become the first country in Europe where “Family Link” is available, allowing parents to block access to apps and closely monitor screen time.

Weekly and monthly activity reports will show parents how much time their children spend on individual apps, while they can also set daily use limits and even programme a device “bedtime”.

Google has described the technology as a way of helping parents “stay in the loop” while their child uses the internet on Android devices.

It goes live on Wednesday, just over a month after it became available in the US. Connecting parents’ phones to their children’s phone or tablet will, says Google, “help parents establish and tailor certain digital ground rules that work for their family”.

Children require a device that runs Android Nougat 7.0 while parents can have a phone using this software or iPhone iOS 9. Parents download Family Link onto their own device and create a Google account for their children.

The app is being launched amid a growing debate around online safety and responsible internet use by children.

According to Google, while parents can block specific websites, their children can then request access through the app.

“Our goal with Family Link is to help parents and children explore technology and the digital world together, while making it easier for them to discover, create and share as a family,” said Fionnuala Meehan, head of Google Ireland.

Áine Lynch, chief executive of the National Parents Council Primary, said that while such technology can be helpful, good parenting is ultimately what is required in getting to grips with the challenges of internet access.

“It’s always a balance. Parenting is the thing that is going to keep children safe the best. Any technology that is brought in can always be got around,” she said.

However, Ms Lynch added that an upside of apps like Family Link is that it can facilitate conversations around how best to oversee internet use. Discussions around suitable apps and preferable screen time limits can be triggered as a result.

“Getting hung up on minutes and hours [of screen time] may not be the best way to look at it,” she said. “What parents need to do is make sure their children have a good balance of activities in their lives.”

While the app is technically free to download, Google says it will collect a 30 cent charge on a parent’s credit card in order to verify who is setting up the account.