Understanding how to use Google’s Family plans and apps

Google's family tech tools are not the easiest to wrap your head around

Google has a handful of apps and services that allow parents to keep track of their kids and their digital habits as well as sharing purchased apps, movies and games. That said, none of it is very straightforward, so here’s a guide to explain the features and how to use them.

There are two main components to Google’s family software, a set of apps called Family Link and a service called Google Families. Family Link is geared towards monitoring and controlling your child’s phone and phone usage. Google Families is for sharing photos, apps, movies, TV shows and more with your family.

If you use Apple products you can use a similar feature on those devices as well. Check out this how-to to learn about it. 

Family Link

To use Family Link you need to download ‘Family Link for Parents’ on your device. You can download it on either Android or iOS. The other half of this is ‘Family Link for Children and Teens.’ This app is only available on Android.

Once you have both of the apps set up you can take a look at your kid’s screen time usage. This gives you a glimpse into what apps they’re using the most.

In this setting, you can set limits on the kid’s device. For example, you can set it to lock after 2 hours of use. To take this a step further, you can lock it down after a specific time. That means every weeknight you could schedule the phone to lock at 7:30. You can also remotely lock the phone from your app whenever you want.

You can also enable a setting that will send your phone a notification every time your child tries to download an app so you can approve it. You can also disable in-app purchases or hide specific types of apps from the child’s store.

In Family Link, you can even track your child’s phone’s location. The app will offer you quick directions to them and it mentions how long ago that location was updated.

Another cool trick with Family Link is that it allows you to create Google Accounts for kids under the age of 13

Google Families

Google Families is the less restrictive side of Google’s family software since it’s geared towards sharing things.

You can add up to six people to your Google family. That number includes you. You can add people from this website or on an Android phone by following these steps:

Open Google app > account switcher (picture of you) > Manage your Google Account > People & Sharing > Manage your Family Group.

Once you’ve added all of the members of your family to your group, you’ll be able to schedule calendar appointments under a ‘Family’ tag, create shared Google Keep notes, share Google One cloud storage space and more.

You can also share your Google Home app layout with family members so that everyone can control things like smart lights and plugs easily from their phones.

Family members can share apps, games, movies and TV shows purchased from the Google Play Store as well. You can also share a single payment method with your family.

You can learn more about both of these tools on the Google for Families Help website.