Guide to Android tablets and phones

Handing down or purchasing an Android device for your child? Or just looking for instructions on setting it up to be cyber-safe? We've got you covered.

Written by Tech Expert:

Jessica Hill

(~20 minute Setup Time Per Device)

What are Android devices?

Android is a smart device operating system built by Google. 

Android is actually the most popular device operating system in the world, with device manufacturers Google and Samsung in particular increasing in popularity.

It’s important to remember that Android devices are designed for and default to settings suitable for adults. This means access to adult material, compulsive games and social platforms, and no limits to what can be consumed or for how long. And through messaging and location services, Android devices allow people you may not know to interact with your children.

In our experience, setting up an Android device to be child-safe is moderately difficult if you're using a parental control app and moderately-highly difficult if you are using Google’s Family Link service.

Set out below is our guide on the basic cyber safety steps you need to complete for Android. But please remember, cyber safety technology and settings are only one part of the picture. Engaging with your child’s technology use, monitoring and communication are critical to keeping your child cyber safe and supporting their journey to becoming a savvy digital citizen.

What is Google Family Link and should I use it?

Google’s in-built parental control feature is called Google Family Link. This service operates on Android devices, Chromebooks and in Chrome browsers.

If you’re registering a Google Device to a child under 14, then Google requires you to set up Google Family Link. Unfortunately, while Google Family Link is quick to activate, there is a lot of complexity and choice, and it doesn’t support some key parental controls such as being able to access usage reports.

Once children turn 13, Google lets them take control of their own Google account, and therefore what they can access and do on the internet.

Accordingly, because of the deficiencies of Google Family Link, we strongly recommend parents use both Google Family Link and Family Zone to keep their children safe on Android devices.

Secure and prepare your child’s Android device

If your child isn’t playing ball or if you are handing down a second-hand device then you may need to factory reset and wipe the device. Search Google to find out how.

Set up Google Family Link for children under 14

 

Setting up Google Family Link

When you register a new Android device you will be asked to register it to a user. If that user is your child and they're under 14 then Google will require you to:

  1. Create a Family Link account (or add one to your Gmail account); and 

  2. Create a Google account (and email address) for your child.

When you register a new device the Android setup wizard will walk you through the required steps.

Click here to find out more about Family Link.

Recommended Google Family Link restrictions

There are many options available in Family Link. Here are our recommendations:

Controls on Google Play

Family Link allows you to set rules for purchase & download approvals and content restrictions.

Regarding content restrictions in Google Play (Google’s content store) we recommend blocking all adult and explicit material. 

Websites on Google Chrome

If you are using Family Zone, we recommend blocking adult websites only using Google’s filters. While Family Zone also does this, no filter is perfect and two is better than one.

Filters on Google Search

We recommend enabling SafeSearch. This will block previews of adult content and recommendations to adult sites.

Apps from Google Play

If you’re using Family Zone, we recommend permitting your child to install apps and let Family Zone notify you so you can talk to your child about them. However, we do recommend blocking the download of mature apps.

NOTE: Google’s determination of maturity levels for apps is NOT based on adult content. Accordingly you should not rely on this feature.

Location on Android devices

We recommend enabling Location and the tracking of your child’s device via Google. This service is also available through Family Zone.

Filtering & safe search

Family Zone will filter web content and apps, however we recommend also enabling Google Family Link Filters as a fall-back.

  1. Open the Family Link app or go to families.google.com and select your child's name.

  2. Go to Manage Settings and then Filters on Google Search.

  3. Toggle SafeSearch on.

  4. Go back to Manage Settings and select Filters on Google Chrome.

  5. Select 'Try to block mature sites' (No filter is perfect, but this should help hide sexually explicit and violent sites).

Troubleshooting Family Link

To find out more about Google Family Link we suggest you visit Google Families. However, here are some quick tips which may assist:

How do I control Family Link?

You need to download the Google Family Link App. It is available on iOS and Android.

Can I avoid using Family Link?

Yes. Family Link is required for Google accounts registered to users under 14. If you find this difficult to use, you can register your children as 14+, however, unless you install Family Zone on their devices, they will be able to access the internet without restrictions.

Can Family Link work with Family Zone on Chromebooks?

Not yet. Family Link can not operate alongside Family Zone on Chromebooks because Google doesn’t provide access to the Google Web Store from where Family Zone can be downloaded.

Can Family Link work with Family Zone on Android?

Yes. Family Link can operate alongside Family Zone on Android devices and it works well, offering you the ability to control apps & screen-time using the Family Link app and control internet access using Family Zone.

Can I convert a Family Link account to a non-Family Link account?

This should be possible. However, we’ve not been able to do it, which has resulted in wiped data and upset children. We suggest you speak to your children and warn them of this before you remove Google restrictions from their account.

Set up Family Zone to manage web content and work with your school’s programs

Family Zone is one of the world’s leading parental control software services. It’s recommended because it not only works for parents, however its clever platform allows schools and parents to collaborate with cyber safety and learning programs. Here’s some brief advice on setting up Family Zone on Android devices.

Step 1: Create your Family Zone account

Go to familyzone.com to sign up and set up your Family Zone account. You will need to verify your contact details and register your children with their names and dates of birth.

Step 2: Download the Family Zone app to your phone and upgrade to Premium

  1. Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Family Zone app.
  2. Sign in using your email address and password and install as a Parent.
  3. Follow the instructions to upgrade to Family Zone Premium. This version of Family Zone allows you to apply content filters and work with school programs.

Step 3 Download the Family Zone App to your child’s Android Device

  1. Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Family Zone app.
  2. Sign in using your email address and password and install as a Child. Follow instructions carefully.

Step 4: Set up Family Zone for your child

Family Zone offers you many options and features to keep your child safe. Here are a few you should be aware of:

Expert filters & rules

When you set up your account your children are allocated basic filtering settings. These block adult and malicious content.

We suggest you subscribe to automatically updated settings from Family Zone’s cyber safety experts.

There’s no cost and this offers you peace of mind that your settings will be age-appropriate and will develop as the internet changes.

This is not available in Google Family Link.

In the Family Zone App, go to Settings > Internet filters & rules and choose the cyber expert rules. 

App alerts

When your child installs an app on a device which has the Family Zone app active you will be notified. This notice will include expert advice on the app and suggestions for controls and conversations with your child.

This is not available in Google Family Link.

School time

If your child is enrolled at a participating Family Zone school then your child’s school can take control of internet rules during school time.

This is not available in Google Family Link.

Safe WiFi

Family Zone allows you to specify WiFi networks that you trust to keep your child safe. This is called Safe WiFi, and when your child connects to a Safe WiFi network, Family Zone disables.

This is not available in Google Family Link.

In the Family Zone app, go to Settings > Safe WiFi.

Snapshots & Reports

Family Zone provides you with weekly snapshots of your child’s activity, including installed apps and internet and app usage. Family Zone also provides you with the ability to drill down into detailed reports on your children’s activity.

This is not available in Google Family Link.

In the Family Zone app, go to Snapshots.

Manage your child’s apps and in-app purchases

Today there is a constant stream of new apps and in-app options for our children. There are so many apps and so much change that it is beyond any parent to keep up.

Not only is this vast ecosystem exposing our kids, there are real financial consequences with today’s apps, being mostly free, and cleverly tempting us into in-app-purchases and subscriptions.

How can I provide safe independence to my child?

We recommend using a children's debit card in conjunction with a personal Google account, Family Link and Family Zone to manage this challenge. They serve these purposes:

  • Use a children’s debit card to limit your financial exposure and teach your children about the value of money and importance of budgeting.

  • Provide your child with a personal Google account so they can spend their own money in apps and in-app purchases. 

  • Use Family Zone to notify you of newly installed apps and provide you with advice and links to find out more where apps are detected as risky.

  • Use Family Zone to block the internet access of risky apps.

  • Use Family Link to limit the time your children spend on certain apps.

What are children’s debit cards?

There are a variety of providers of children’s credit cards. These services let you register a debit card for your child and give them a periodic allowance (which can be linked to completion of chores). 

A great example is Spriggy (an Australian-based provider), however there are many options. Google "kids debit cards" or "pocket money apps".

The benefit of these services is you can register this debit card to a personal Apple ID for your child. This allows them to download apps and complete in-app-purchases without requiring your intervention (as required by Apple Family Link). It also means you can limit their purchases and teach your child about the value of money and budgeting.

If you go with this option we recommend you use Family Zone to notify you of downloaded apps so you can intercept any risky downloads and have a conversation with your child.