Teaching kids about the digital world is a fickle and challenging process, one made even harder by the constant progress and introduction of new platforms into the space.
Google is introducing a function to Canadians that will help parents with young kids broach the idea of “digital ground rules” and form a healthy relationship with technology. The new service is called Family Link and has been available to U.S. users since March 2017, but is now being launched for Canadians and designed for children under 13.
It’s not secret that kids are drawn towards tech—40 per cent of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 12 own a tablet, while 17 per cent have a smartphone. CLose to half of all grade 4 students in Canada own or have access to a smartphone.
Family Link, available on both Android and iOS, will let parents set digital rules that work for their family. This might include keeping an eye on total screen time, or setting a bedtime for a certain Android device.
This is how it works. Firstly, children need a compatible Android device, while parents need a Google account for their child that is managed by Family Link, along with their own compatible device, either iPhone or Android, and their own Google account.
Canada is the fifth country to launch Family Link. The service is a recognition that Google wants kids to explore the digital world and be curious, but total access to the entire breadth of information can both be very time-consuming and unhealthy.
“Navigating technology can be particularly tricky for families with young kids, but it’s important for parents to be an active part of their children’s media lives,” said Matthew Johnson, director of education for Media Smarts. “Tools that help parents manage their kids’ use of networked devices, such as Family Link, can be an important way both to set limits and to spark ongoing conversations about the safe, responsible and healthy use of technology.”
Parents using Family Link can block which apps are downloadable from the Google Play Store, keep an eye and set timers on total screen time with weekly or monthly reports, and set a device bedtime. Gone are the days of manually taking a phone or tablet from your child’s hands—now it’s as easy as setting a bedtime.
The launch of Family Link comes at a time where many large tech companies are struggling to find out how to control how children access their products. Facebook launched a Messenger Kids app, but children’s health advocates almost immediately called for it to be shut down due to the unhealthy habits it can create.
The launch of Family Link in Canada may not sit well with children themselves, but if it can help curb the access kids have to the seemingly-endless digital world and instead force them to head outside or pick up a book or ask teachers to find answers, then it will be well worth it.