Parents can approve app purchases or downloads, monitor time spent on each app, and more.

There’s really nothing quite like hearing a six-year-old girl with ribbons in her pigtails and a gap-toothed smile showing a few missing baby teeth tell you, “Just send it to my Gmail and I’ll call it up on my phone.” While critics and supporters argue over whether screens and connectivity should be banned for children under a certain age, there’s no arguing that today’s digital natives are equipped with technology in ways that even their older siblings never were.

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Parents can approve app purchases or downloads, monitor how much time was spent within each app, and more.

One culprit in this era of overabundant juvenile connectivity is Google, but never fear, it’s in the best way possible. With the high percentages of Chromebooks being used in US public schools, students in the K-12 sphere often have school-issued Gmail accounts to use as web portal logins, sending and receiving assignments, and even student identification numbers (in place of the highly risky use of Social Security numbers). But just because the school was the instigation of the account, that doesn’t mean school is the only place kids can use them. That’s why Google has launched a whole new two-way parental control option called Family Link.

Most parental controls are a good idea for those concerned about safety, but they often fall short in their “set it and forget it” mentality. The notion of simply locking a child out of his iPad every day at 8pm fails to take into account the late night last minute studying or the project that has to be finished. Blocking all websites with keyword searches means your middle schooler isn’t going to get to do that science class report on breast cancer.

Instead, Family Link functions as a two-way mechanism, meaning parents retain observation powers and the ability to unlock content as needed via their own app connected to their child’s account. From their own app, parents can also approve app purchases or downloads, monitor how much time was spent within each app, and more.

Unfortunately, Family Link is not yet available for iOS, so both the parent and the child have to be running an Android device. There’s also no recommendation system, meaning it’s still the parent’s job to understand the privacy settings and ramifications of each requested app. That may change, hopefully; Family Link isn’t widely available, but is in a free testing period to those who apply.

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