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Google Family Link - How to set up and use it

Google Family Link is a powerful parental control tool available to everyone for free. Here's how to set it up.
By
May 3, 2022

Google Family Link is a parental control app for people with kids. The app launched a couple of years ago, but it became a part of stock Android starting with Android 10. You’ll still have to download the app, but you can access the options from the Settings menu directly. It offers a surprising amount of control over child devices with this app, and it has a lot of great options for managing your child’s phone usage. This tutorial shows you how to set it up and how to use the various features.

If all you need to do is set up parental controls on the Play Store, there is a vastly easier way to do it, and we have a separate tutorial for Google Play parental controls here.


QUICK ANSWER
Download the Google Family Link app on both the parent and child device and follow the in-app instructions to set up both.

JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

  1. How to set up Google Family Link
  2. How to configure Google Family Link
  3. How to remove Google Family Link


How to set up Google Family Link

Google Family Link Home Screen
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Getting Family Link set up is a bit tedious but requires nothing overly complicated. Before we start, please make sure you have the following pre-requisites met. Otherwise, the tutorial won’t work.

Prerequisites:

  1. Your child needs their own Google account. You’ll need to create one for them to use Family Link.
  2. Your child’s Google account needs to be a part of your family network. If you don’t do this ahead of time, Family Link will force you to do so during set-up, and it’s way easier to do it beforehand.
  3. Finally, your child’s Google account has to be the only one on the child’s device. Family Link will forcibly remove all other Google accounts during set-up.

Okay, now that everything is set up and ready, let’s get started. We’ll go through the step-by-step process. Since this requires input on two different devices, we’ll specify which device each step requires. If it says Parent Device, you do that step on your phone and likewise for the Child Device.

Setup process

  1. Both Devices – Download the Google Family Link for parents app on the parent device and the Google Family Link for children & teens app on the child device. Please note, those are two different apps.
  2. Parent Device – Open the Family Link app and hit next to navigate past the opening screens. Select your Google account if prompted. Google will ask if it’s a parent’s or child’s account. Select Parent.
  3. Parent Device – Select your child’s Google account as the account you want to supervise.
  4. Parent Device – The app will prompt you to get your child’s phone. Hit the Next button on this screen to show the link code.
  5. Child Device – Open the Family Link app. Again, cycle through the opening screens and then select your child’s Google account when prompted.
  6. Both Devices – The Child Device will ask for the link code from the Parent Device. Input the link code from the Parent Device into the Child Device.
  7. Child Device – Enter your child’s Google account email to verify if prompted.

Okay, two potential things can happen at this point. If you made your child’s account part of your Google Family before now, proceed to the next part of the tutorial. If you did not, Family Link will stop you and make you add the child account to your Google Family before allowing you to proceed. In my testing, this reset the entire process and made me start over once I added my Google Family account.

  1. Parent Device – Hit Next until the app prompts you to finish setup on the Child Device.
  2. Child Device – At this point, the app is going to ask for a bunch of permissions. Just keep hitting next to allow all of them.
  3. Child Device – Name the child device when prompted.
  4. Child Device – The app will then ask which apps you want your child to have access to. Deny or accept the ones you want and hit next.

That’s it! You are now connected via Google Family Link. We found this process to be buggy and surprisingly frustrating. There are good odds that you’ll have to restart at least once. It took us a total of three tries to get to the end of the set-up without something going wrong. However, it’s doable with a little patience.

The child device is finished at this point. It and your child can be on their merry way. The device is connected, and there is nothing left for the child to do. However, you can continue to configure Family Link on the parent device.

See also: 6 best Android parental control apps and other methods


Configure Google Family Link

Google Family Link Daily Limits
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Now that you’ve gone through the admittedly arduous task of connecting Family Link let’s get you using it to its fullest potential. From here on out, everything takes place on the parent device unless otherwise specified. There are a lot of things you can do so we’ll cover each one individually. Have fun!


Locating the child’s phone

Google Family Link Location 1
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

There is a specific card in the Family Link app for locating the child’s phone. This should be on by default and is immediately accessible when you tap on your child’s name in the app. You can easily find your child’s phone (and hopefully, your child) with this feature. This also works well as a Find My Phone service in case your child leaves their phone somewhere.


Parental controls

Google Family Link Parental Controls
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
There is a card with a Settings title. This lets you access basic parental controls. Tap the blue Manage text to access all of your options. From here, you can restrict the content your child sees on Google Play and manage filters on Google Chrome, YouTube, Google Search, Google Assistant, Google Photos, location, and others.

The Settings card is almost always the first one you see at the top of the Google Family Link home page for your child’s device. The View all apps card is usually a bit further down the list.


Track your child’s activity

Google Family Link App Access
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
The second card down on the list shows your child’s actual activity. You can see the apps they use and for how long with fancy bar graphs. There is a shortcut on this card to the app restrictions screen if you decide that your kid is done playing that game they’ve been buried in all day.

A separate card shows you what apps and games your child have installed on their device. That way, you can keep track of what they download and what they’re doing. You can also tap the View all apps link on the app’s card to set usage limits on any app on the phone. We’re not sure why the app and game download card is separate from the activity card, but that’s how it is as of the time of this writing.


Restrict screen time

Google Family Link Schedule Bedtime
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Kids probably shouldn’t be on their phones all day long. There is a whole section for screen time restrictions. The first tab, Daily Limit, lets you set screen time limits on a day-to-day basis. For example, you can set screen time to three hours on school days and six hours on weekends.

The second tab, Bedtime, lets you put a hard limit on how late your kids can use their phones. Once you set this up and the appropriate time hits, their phone locks itself down, and they can’t access it until the morning. This is an excellent tool for getting kids to bed.


Phone settings

Google Family Link Parental Settings
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
The final card does two things. It plays the sound we mentioned earlier in the location section above, and it also lets you edit child device settings. You can set restrictions on adding users, accessing developer options, and the ability to sideload apps from unknown sources. These are all disabled by default, and you can enable them if you want to.

There is also a card that lets you lock your child’s device immediately. The parent has to unlock the device before the child can use it again. Both of these cards are toward the bottom of the list.

See also: How to set up Chromebook parental controls


FAQ

How do I uninstall Google Family Link?

It’s a fairly simple process. The parent can remove the child from the app and then safely uninstall the app from both devices. Just follow the instructions in the app. If you have

Can Google Family Link be bypassed?

Yes, and to be honest, it’s not very hard. Those looking for uncompromising control will have to look to other tools. That isn’t to say that Google Family Link is bad. However, there are multiple tutorials on Google Search and YouTube to bypass things like daily restrictions.

Does Google Family Link work anywhere other than Android?

Yes. The app also works on Chrome OS and it has limited support on iOS. It does not work on PC or Mac at this time.

Is Google Family Link free?

Yes, the app is entirely free with no in-app purchases, subscriptions, or ads.

Can my child uninstall Google Family Link?

If left up their own devices, yes. However, there is a setting in Google Family Link to prevent deactivation on the child phone that you should absolutely enable. You’ll need to disable such protections if you intend to uninstall later.