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Chromebooks are inexpensive and easy-to-use devices that many people turned to during the pandemic. Some bought one of our favorite Chromebooks as a remote work device, and others purchased or were provided a more affordable and durable Chromebook for their child's remote learning. While these devices are useful for learning, there are some things that parents may not want their kids to see or have access to.

Google has many options to control what kids can see through Google's Family Link. This guide shows you how to use Family Link to set parental controls on a Chromebook.

What is the difference between an adult and a child account?

Even though the core functions of using a Chromebook are the same between adult and child accounts, there are some limitations that child accounts have:

  • Children can't browse in private using Incognito mode.
  • The websites children can visit and their ability to grant permission to websites can be limited.
  • Most sexual and violent sites can be blocked.
  • Chrome browsing history can be used to customize the child's browsing experience but can't be used to personalize ads for a child under the applicable age in your country.
Google Pixel 6 ad with widgets popping off the phone and mother holding child in focus
Source: Google

How to activate parental controls when creating a new Google account

Whether your child has an existing Google account you're adding to your Chromebook or you're creating a new account for them, the parental controls available to you are the same. The available parental controls allow you to:

  • Choose which apps, games, movies, TV shows, and books your child can access.
  • Choose which sites Google Chrome will let your child visit.
  • Turn Google SafeSearch on or off for your child's searches.
Google Assistant parental controls
Source: Google 

To create a new Google account with parental controls and add it to your Chromebook, take the following steps:

  1. On the startup screen of your Chromebook, select Add Person in the lower-left corner.
  2. When asked, "Who would you like to add to this Chromebook?" select A child.
  3. Select Create a Google account for your child.
  4. The Chromebook asks for your child's name, birthday, and gender. Only your child's first name and birthday are required to create an account. All other information is optional.
  5. Choose a Gmail address for your child. If your child is under 13 years old, you must link their account to a parental account.
  6. Enter your phone number or email address to link your account to your child's.
  7. Click Agree to accept the privacy policy and terms of service.
  8. Enter your password to agree to parental consent.
  9. If you activated two-factor authentication, Google sends a notification to your Android device or another device with a Gmail account. Approve the login on your device.

Your child's account is now set up with parental controls.

How to activate parental controls on an existing account

If your child has a Google account that is on a Chromebook, you can still set up parental controls.

  1. Log in to your child's account on the Chromebook.
  2. Click the clock in the lower-right corner of the screen to open the quick settings menu.
  3. Tap the gear icon at the top right to open Settings.
    Gear Icon
  4. On the left side, select Accounts.
  5. Press the Set up button to the right of Parental Controls.
    Set Up

Once you press the Set up button, a guided tour through the parental control options pops up.

Parental Controls on a Chromebook are managed through the Family Link app, which gives you several capabilities to control what your child can and can't do.

To set up the Family Link app, first download and open the app. Then:

  1. Enter your Google account's email address or phone number and click Next.
  2. Enter your password.
  3. If you activated two-factor authentication, Google sends you a notification. Approve the login.
  4. Review the supervision prompt, enter your child's password, and click Agree.
    Screenshot showing to enter password to agree to supervision
  5. After the apps are linked, click Next.

From here, you're ready to choose what parental controls you'd like to enable.

Now that you've enabled parental controls on your child's Chromebook account and set up the Family Link app, you can control several activities and features. When you open the Family Link app, you see a list of every Google account you supervise. Selecting an account gives you access to Google's full suite of parental controls for that account. There are a number of Chromebook-specific items you can enable through Family Link.

Managing apps

The settings for app controls are found in the Family Link app by tapping Controls > App limits. Once you are in the App Limits section, tap an app to control it. If you want to block your child from using an app, tap the app and select Block > Done, and they will no longer be able to use the app. If you want certain apps to always be accessible to your child, even if their screen time is up for the day, tap the app and tap Always allow > Done.

A device with the games section of the Google Play Store open

If you want to limit your child from downloading mature apps, open the Family Link app and go to Controls > Content Restrictions > Google Play. Here you can choose the highest maturity level and restrict purchases for everything that can be bought on the Play Store.

Managing browsing

Family Link gives options to restrict what your child can browse on Google Chrome on their Chromebook. These settings are found by selecting your child in the Family Link app and going to Controls > Content restrictions > Google Chrome. Once you're in this section, you can choose one of three settings that best suits your family: Allow all sites, Try to block explicit sites, and Only allow approved sites.

When blocking or allowing certain sites, the way you set those sites up is important. If you block or allow a website, it only allows the web address you specify. For example, if you block, it still allows your child to access or If you block or allow a whole domain, such as Android Police, your child can access any part or version of the website.

To change whether your child can give certain permissions to a website, go to Controls > Content restrictions > Google Chrome > Advanced settings and toggle the feature on or off. Turning this off doesn't take away permissions they have already granted to websites.

Screen time and app timers

Family Link gives you the option to limit the amount of time your child has on a device or app every day. When the screen time feature, which limits the amount of time your child can use a device, is enabled, they get a notification before their time limit is up and their device is about to be locked. When their device is locked, they will not be able to unlock or get notifications on the device, but they will be able to access the apps you have set as Always allowed and can answer phone calls and use the emergency features.

A display showing the screen time options for a child

To set daily device limits on your device, go into the Family Link app, select your child, and go to Controls > Daily Limit. Here you can follow the on-screen instructions to set up a daily time limit for device usage. You can also set a time limit on the device by going to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls > Daily limit.

You can also set up downtime for their device, which is certain times of the day when their device is locked. To access these settings, go to Controls > Downtime in the Family Link app on your device or by going to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls > Downtime.

An Android phone with the Digital Wellbeing app homepage open.

If you'd like to limit the amount of time your child can use specific apps, open the Family Link app, select your child, and go to Controls > App limits. Then select the desired app, set a value for the time limit, and tap Done. This feature works similarly to app timers through Digital Wellbeing on a regular Android account.

When you need to lock or unlock your child's device immediately, launch the Family Link app, tap your child and go to Controls > Lock or Unlock. If you want to award your child bonus time on their device without changing preset time limits, go to Controls, select your child's device, and press Bonus time.

In addition to the features listed above, Family Link also allows you to do a couple of other things. You can edit account information about your children at any time if anything changes. If you need to see where your child is, you can check their device location to see where they are. If you want to limit which devices they can sign in to, that feature can be found in the Family Link app. There are also a number of features to control privacy settings and third-party app access.

Screenshot of Google Family Link in phone format on a Chromebook

Parental controls made simple

Parental controls are a great way to help your child successfully navigate the vast and treacherous digital world. Google makes this easy through the Family Link app, which lets parents set up and use controls to help manage their child's online presence. Even with parental controls enabled, there are many fun and child-friendly games for your kid to play on their device.