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Google Family Link Review (2023) — It’s Free, but Is It Good?

Published on: May 25, 2023
Raven Wu
Raven Wu
Published on: May 25, 2023

Google Family Link Review: Quick Expert Summary

Google Family Link is a decent free parental control app for Android and Chromebook users, but it’s missing many features offered by premium parental control apps like Qustodio or Net Nanny.

Google Family Link has most of the basic features you’d expect from a parental control app, including web and app filtering, usage and screen time limits, and location tracking. Uniquely, Google Family Link also lets you restrict what apps your kids can download from Google Play and approve or deny their Google Play purchases.

What you won’t find on Google Family Link are features like more granular web filtering and screen time limiting tools, geofencing, or the ability to monitor your child’s texts. There’s no web app, so you can only monitor your child’s device usage from your phone. And it effectively ceases to function once your child turns 13-years-old (or the applicable age in your country), as they’ll be given the ability to turn off your supervision. Additionally, many of Google Family Link’s supervision features don’t work on Windows, macOS, iPhones, and iPads.

For all of these reasons, I can’t recommend Google Family Link as your primary parental control app. Rather, it’s more useful working alongside paid parental control apps like Qustodio, Net Nanny, or Norton Family, which will give you finer control and access to more advanced features with which to monitor your children’s online activities and to shield them from inappropriate online content.

🏅 Overall Rank Ranked 12th from 13 parental controls
🖥️ Web & App Filtering
⏲️ Time Limits
📍 Location Tracking
💸 Starting Price Free
📀 Supported Operating Systems Android, Chromebook
📱 Number of Devices Unlimited

Google Family Link Full Review

Google Family Link Full Review

After extensive testing and research of Google Family Link, I concluded that it’s a basic but functional parental control app.

Google Family Link allows you to filter websites and applications, set app and device usage limits, and track your child’s location. You can also filter the apps your kids can see on Google Play and manage their in-app purchases.

But Google Family Link is missing many useful features available on the best parental control apps. So if you’re looking for a more versatile and powerful solution, you should consider using a premium app like Qustodio, Net Nanny, or Norton Family instead.

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link comes with the following features:

  • Web and app filtering — Choose which sites your kids can visit and what apps they can install.
  • Time limits — Determine how long your kids are allowed to use their devices.
  • Location tracking — Shows you where your kids are.
  • Scheduling — Choose specific times of the day or week when your child is or isn’t allowed to use their device.
  • Activity reports — Shows you information about your child’s device use, including screen time, app installs, used apps, and more.

In addition, Google Family Link has some other useful features such as the ability to filter what your child can see on Google Play and to manage in-app purchases.

Important: When your child is 13-years-old (or whatever the age requirements to have a Google account are for your country), they’ll be given the ability to manage their own account. This means that they’ll be given the ability to stop your supervision of their Google account at any time without needing your permission. That said, you’ll receive a notification if they do so, and their device will be locked for 24 hours, giving you an opportunity to talk it over with your child.

Web Filtering & Supervision

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link’s web filters let you decide what kinds of sites your child is able to visit. It does this by giving you the ability to block explicit sites and search results and filter websites with a customizable blacklist and whitelist. I tested the filters out on my child’s device by entering search terms that would normally bring up results you may not want your child to see, and it successfully removed mature and explicit content (like violence and gore) from their Google search results. It even works for Google image search. Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link’s web filters and web supervision tools are very lacking compared to those of premium parental control apps. The options include Try to block explicit sites and turn on SafeSearch, but that’s it, whereas Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Norton Family all allow you to filter by various content categories like Entertainment and Music, Mature Content, Shopping, Advertising, File Sharing, Social Networking, Alcohol, Gambling, and more.

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link uses Google’s built-in browsing history function to let you monitor what your children are doing online. To that end, it gives you the power to decide whether or not your child’s Google account saves their activity on Google sites and apps.

But there are a couple major downsides to this feature. One, you actually have to log into your child’s account and go to their Google Account manager to see what they’ve been searching and which websites they’ve been visiting (the information is not accessible directly through the Google Family Link app). And two, it’s easily bypassed by tech-savvy kids, who can simply delete their browsing histories — because for some reason, Google Family Link doesn’t disable their ability to do that.

Google Family Link Features

If you want to monitor your child’s browsing history, I much prefer Qustodio or Net Nanny, which let you check your child’s browsing history directly from its parental control app and maintain records of your child’s online activities independently, so your child can’t just scrub the records.

Google Family Link’s web supervision is pretty barren in terms of bonus features. For example, you can configure Qustodio to alert you if your kids try to access certain websites (rather than block it outright), and Norton Family allows your kids to request access to a blocked site directly through the app, so they don’t need to call or message you, in case you accidentally blocked a safe website.

Google Family Link’s search filtering relies on the in-built SafeSearch function of Google. Thus it doesn’t work if your child uses a different search engine (you can try to get around this by using the website blacklist, but it’s inconvenient and not a perfect solution). Its web filtering also only works on the Google Chrome browser, but thankfully, you can use Google Family Link’s app filtering function to block access to unsupported browsers.

Overall, Google Family Link’s web filtering and supervision is not one of its highlights. It’s incredibly limited compared to other parental control apps, not particularly user-friendly, and some of its features can be easily circumvented.

Time Supervision

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link lets you set up daily device usage limits and restricted times for your kids on Android and Chromebook. Daily limits can be set individually for every day of the week. It starts as low as “no limit” and can be adjusted upwards in 15-minute increments to a maximum of 8 hours. You can also decide to have a device “locked all day.”

The Bedtime tab allows you to select a period of time during which your child’s cannot use their device — so they don’t stay up all night playing on their phones or chatting with their friends. You can have different “Bedtimes” for different days of the week, in case you want to be more lenient on Friday or Saturday nights, for example.

When your child has exceeded their daily screen time limit for a particular day or once it’s their designated bedtime, your child’s device will be automatically locked and they’ll be unable to do anything on it except make emergency calls. You can also manually lock their device from your dashboard (either immediately or after a certain amount of time).

I found Google Family Link’s existing time supervision features to be quite intuitive and they worked flawlessly during my testing. Compared to the time supervision features offered by other parental control apps though, it’s a bit lacking in functionality. You can’t, for example, set up multiple restricted times using Google Family Link as you can using Qustodio and Net Nanny. It bothered me that I couldn’t set a “Bedtime” and also restrict my kid’s device usage between 5pm to 7pm, when I wanted them to concentrate on doing homework.

I would’ve also have liked to see a feature like Norton Family’s School Time, which allows parents to exclude device usage during school hours from being counted for the daily screen time limits, as well as set web filters specific to school hours (allowing you block websites like YouTube or Reddit that might distract your child from their studies).

Overall, Google Family Link’s time supervision features are pretty good, but the limited range of settings didn’t give me as much control over my kid’s device usage as I would’ve liked.

App Supervision

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link’s app supervision for Android and Chromebooks is excellent, offering parents very granular controls. It lists all of the apps installed on your child’s device and allows you to block or set time limit restrictions for each of them individually. You can even designate certain apps as “Always allow,” so the time spent using that app won’t be counted towards their daily screen time limit.

One of the most powerful and unique features of Google Family Link’s app supervision is its ability to manage what your child can browse, purchase, or download on Google Play. You can set filters on what they can see on and install from Google Play without your permission based on the rating of the content. You can also make it so that your approval is required for your child to make in-app purchases. To help prevent your child from getting around these restrictions, you can disallow the installation of apps from sources other than Google Play.

Google Family Link Features

Other parental control apps have no ability to filter what your child sees when they’re browsing Google Play or what they can download — they can only block or restrict apps that are already on your child’s phone. They also lack the ability to manage Google Play purchases. This is a good argument for using Google Family Link in tandem with other parental control apps.

Overall, I’m very happy with Google Family Link’s app supervision feature. It’s easy to use and has a lot of advanced features that are not available on other parental control apps. It’s a shame it can’t be used on iOS or non-Chromebook operating systems, though.

Location Supervision

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link’s location supervision is pretty rudimentary. It lets you see where your child is (or their last known position) by indicating their position on Google Maps when they’re using an Android or Chromebook. It also gives you the ability to play a sound from your child’s device to help you locate it — which can be handy if your child has lost it somewhere in the house, for example.

However, Google Family Link doesn’t offer a location history feature, which would show you detailed information about where your child has been and when, and a geofencing feature, which would notify you when your child enters or leaves a predefined zone.

If you’re looking for a parental control app with great location supervision, I’d recommend checking out Norton Family instead. It has a location history feature and allows you to create multiple geofenced zones, each covering up to 2 miles (a huge range compared to most parental control apps). You can also set it up to alert you of your child’s location at scheduled times throughout the day, and it provides a less invasive alternative to real-time location tracking (in case you don’t want to be too invasive) by letting your child share their location with you using their kids app instead.

Overall, I think Google Family Link’s location supervision lacks the advanced features necessary to give a parent true peace of mind. It’s good for seeing your child’s current location but nothing more.

Video Supervision

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link’s video supervision feature just applies the same broad filters used for its web supervision to YouTube. This means that you have little control over the specific types of content that are being removed from your child’s YouTube.

Google Family Link also gives you the power to decide whether or not YouTube saves your child’s search and watch history. But this feature shares the same problems as Google Family Link’s web supervision. Firstly, information on what your child has searched and watched on YouTube is buried inconveniently deep in your child’s Google Account Manager (meaning you have to log into their account to see it) rather than being easily accessible through the parental control app. Secondly, it doesn’t prevent your child from simply deleting their YouTube search and watch history.

Google Family Link Features

Overall, Google Family Link’s “video supervision feature” is pretty bad. If you’re concerned about what your child is watching online, consider using Qustodio instead, which can also filter inappropriate content on YouTube, keeps track of your child’s search and watch history independently on its app (so your child can’t just delete the search and watch history themselves), and is much easier to use.

Activity Reports

Google Family Link Features

Google Family Link offers no convenient way to see all of your child’s activities in one place. This doesn’t mean the information isn’t available, but you’ll have to go digging for it.

One screen will show you how much time your child has spent on their device or on individual apps. Another screen located somewhere else will show you what apps they’ve installed recently. And in order to see which websites they’ve visited and what YouTube videos they’ve watched, you’ll need to sign into their Google account and then navigate through several screens to reach their browsing/watch history.

This, as you can probably tell, is incredibly frustrating. In contrast, Qustodio organizes all of the information it acquires neatly and makes it available to you in a centralized location (in your dashboard), so it’s super easy to review.

Overall, I’m disappointed by how painfully difficult it is to monitor a child’s activities using Google Family Link. It’s a bizarre oversight considering this is one of the primary functions of a parental control app.

Google Family Link Installation & Setup

Google Family Link has parental control apps for iOS, Android, and web browsers, as well as apps for kids on Android and Chromebook.

Apps for Kids Apps for Parents
Android and Chromebook iOS, Android, web browsers (Edge, Firefox, Chrome)

Downloading and installing the parents app and the kids app is fast and easy with clear, on-screen instructions to guide you through each step in the process. The whole thing should only take 10-15 minutes, which includes the time spent setting up the initial permissions for the child’s device.

To use Google Family Link, you’ll have to download and install the Google Family Link app onto your device from your device’s app store. Then, open the app, select Parent when asked who will be using the device, and click I’m ready when asked to create a family group.

Google Family Link Installation & Setup

Next, you’ll be asked if your child has a Google account already. If you select No, the app will guide you through the process of creating a Google account for your child. If you select Yes, you’ll be prompted to get your child’s device and follow a set of simple on-screen instructions to set up parental controls.

One thing that I liked about the setup process is that it’ll detect if there are multiple accounts on your child’s Android phone and get you to remove accounts until there’s only one left. This is an important step as otherwise your child may be able to bypass your supervision by signing in using a different account.

Google Family Link Installation & Setup

Once you’re done, you should be greeted by a screen that tells you you’re all set to modify the settings and permissions for your child’s device.

Google Family Link Installation & Setup

Google Family Link Ease of Use

Google Family Link’s parental apps are a mixed bag in terms of user-friendliness. Most of its basic functions are fairly intuitive (though the sparsity of advanced features is partly the cause). Every setting and feature is clearly labeled and includes short explanations to help you understand what they do. However, there are a few settings and features on Google Family Link that can be difficult to find or access, and it’s annoying how its web app isn’t fully-featured.

On the other hand, all of the Google Family Link’s kids apps are pretty straightforward. If your kids want to see how much screen time they have left or what they can and can’t do without approval, it’s all laid out very clearly. Do note, however, that Google Family Link doesn’t have a kids app for iOS.

Mobile & Tablets

Google Family Link Ease of Use

Google Family Link’s parental apps for Android and iOS are the best way to access your parental controls, but they have some issues. The interface is clean and changing settings and permissions is fast and simple for most basic things. The Android and iOS apps are also virtually identical in terms of design and features, so you won’t have any problems switching from one to the other or be disadvantaged by using a particular operating system.

However, I dislike that there’s no centralized location from which you can easily check on all of your child’s activities, and some advanced features are located illogically. For example, in order to change whether or not your child’s YouTube search and watch history will be saved, you must dig through the Google Search settings — and not the YouTube settings as you might expect. Similarly, the feature that lets you play a sound from your child’s device (to help you find it if they’ve lost it somewhere in the house, for example) isn’t directly under the Location tab for some reason.

Google Family Link’s mobile apps will be your primary means of managing your children’s account settings, device permissions, and more, so it’s good that it’s generally intuitive. But sooner or later, you’re bound to run into some frustrations due to a couple strange oversights and questionable layout decisions.

Web App

Google Family Link’s web app isn’t the greatest. Accessing it on your browser is pretty convoluted. First you have to be logged into your Google account, then you have to go to Manage your Google Account, click People & Sharing, and then click Manage your family group. From there, you’ll finally be able to select the child whose activity you wish to view or whose permissions you wish to change. I recommend bookmarking the site if you’re going to use it regularly.

Google Family Link Ease of Use

Another major issue I had with Google Family Link’s web app is that many features aren’t available on it. The web app lets you change various settings, such as turning off and on SafeSearch or Restricted mode on YouTube, edit the list of blacklisted or whitelisted websites, and allow or block specific apps (but not set daily usage limits).

Google Family Link Ease of Use

However, you won’t be able to do things like set screen time limits, view how long your child has used their device or an app on a particular day, or track your child’s location through the web app. You also can’t add additional parents or supervised members to your family group. These functions are only available on the mobile app.

The amount of clicks it takes to even get to Google Family Link’s parental controls on a browser and the large number of missing features is pretty frustrating. As such, I find Google Family Link’s web app to be pretty lacking compared to Norton Family and Qustodio’s, which are almost identical to their mobile apps.

Google Family Link Customer Support

Google Family Link Customer Support

Google Family Link doesn’t have a dedicated support channel — so you better hope the help center and FAQ on its website is able to answer your questions. That said, I found the articles there to be fairly detailed and helpful.

The help center provides instructions on how to use virtually every feature of Google Family Link, including how to manage your child’s screen time, app permissions, purchase approvals, and more. The FAQ section answers many common questions about the app like “What happens when my child turns 13” or “Can parents use Family Link on iOS?”

Combined with Google Family Link’s user-friendly interface and the simple on-screen explanations and instructions provided within the app, I didn’t experience too much trouble installing or navigating the app for the most part.

If you’re still confused despite the help center articles and the FAQ though or if you have a very specific question that’s not answered by any of the articles, you don’t have much recourse.

Other parental control apps offer much better customer support. Qustodio, for example, has an excellent ticketing system and priority phone support if you’re on their Care Plus plan, and Norton Family has 24/7 live chat support.

Google Family Link Is a Free Parental Control App, but Is It Good Enough in 2023?

While its pricing is unmatched (completely free!), Google Family Link is too basic and awkward to use at times for me to recommend it as a standalone parental control app.

It has all the essential parental control features such as web and app filtering, time limits, scheduling, location tracking, and activity reports. Its app supervision features stand out as one of the best things about it, giving you powerful tools to restrict what your child can see and download from Google Play and to manage their Google Play purchases. However, almost all its other features are missing useful functions that you can find in other brands like Qustodio, Net Nanny, Norton Family, and Bark.

Its web and search filtering is a particularly glaring example. Rather than letting you filter by content category as other parental control apps do, Google Family Link merely gives you an easy way to turn on and off Google’s inherent SafeSearch setting, plus a website blacklist or whitelist. Similarly, its browsing history and video supervision “features” merely give you the option to prevent your child from disabling the browsing and watch history saving functions inherent to Chrome and YouTube — and does nothing to prevent them from deleting the records regardless.

Its lack of support for kids apps on iOS and non-Chromebook operating systems is also a big minus for me, alongside its extremely limited web app for parents. I don’t understand why I can’t see my child’s location, set screen time or app usage limits, or access activity reports from its web app. Finally, if you’re going to use Google Family Link, you should be aware that once your child hits the age of 13, they’ll gain the ability to stop your supervision of their device at any time without your consent (though you’ll be notified if they do).

All-in-all, Google Family Link should not be your first choice as a parental control app in 2023. It may be free, but this comes at a hefty price. At best, I would consider using it as a companion alongside better parental control apps purely for its unique app supervision features.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Google Family Link really free?

Yes, Google Family link is 100% free. There isn’t a premium version or any features you have to pay money to use. You get access to everything Google Family Link has to offer just by having a Google account.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a price: Google Family Link simply doesn’t have the same depth and breadth of features available on the best parental control apps on the market. Qustodio can monitor your kids’ calls and text messages. Net Nanny has advanced content filters and real-time text analysis to better protect your kids from inappropriate online content. And Norton Family has one of the best location supervision features out there.

Does Google Family Link work on PC and macOS?

Yes and no. Google Family Link has a web app for parents that you can access using any operating system and from any browser (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc.), which allows you to change various settings and permissions for your child. However, its web app is very limited in function compared to its mobile apps.

Additionally, while Google Family Link can manage some of a child’s account settings no matter what operating system they’re on, many of its parental controls are unavailable if your child is using Windows or macOS. If you want to supervise your child’s laptop usage, you’ll have to get them a Chromebook.

For a parental control app with a good web app and fully functional supervision for PC and macOS, consider using Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Norton Family instead.

Does Google Family Link work on iPhones and iPads?

Yes and no. Google Family Link has a parental app for iPhones and iPads that you can download from the App Store, which allows parents to monitor their child’s activity and change various settings and permissions.

However, if the child is using an iPhone or iPad, many features will be unavailable. This includes the ability to filter apps and block apps, set app and screen time limits, locate their device, and more.

If your kids use an iPhone or iPad, try one of our top iOS parental control apps instead.

Does Google Family Link work for children over the age of 13?

Yes and no. You can continue to supervise children once they’re over the age of 13 (the exact number may vary depending on what country you’re from), but they can opt out of the supervision at any time. That said, when they turn off the supervision, you’ll be notified and their device will be locked temporarily (for 24 hours, unless unlocked by the parent).

Qustodio, Net Nanny, and Norton Family don’t allow a child to stop supervision without your permission and may be more suitable to your needs.

Can I monitor my child’s calls and text messages using Google Family Link?

No, Google Family Link doesn’t have the ability to block calls or monitor text messages. A good parental control app that offers these features is Qustodio, which allows you to read your child’s text messages and block or whitelist incoming or outgoing calls. Bark is another good alternative. It won’t let you block calls or contacts and only lets you see text messages with problematic content (relating to bullying, violence, or suicidal ideation), but it’s a great choice if you want to be less invasive. Bark can also monitor your child’s social media.

Can my child bypass Google Family Link by changing accounts?

No, Google Family Link has a setting that stops your child from bypassing supervision on supported devices and platforms. It does this by preventing them from adding or removing users on the supervised device. This setting is enabled by default.

Can Google Family Link see browsing history?

Yes and no. Every user’s browsing history is saved by Google by default unless you disable it in the settings, and Google Family Link can prevent your child from disabling it. The catch is that Google Family Link doesn’t prevent a tech-savvy child from simply deleting activity history entries that they don’t want you to see. In addition, it also doesn’t save search history on other search engines.

Other parental control apps that don’t rely on the in-built Web & App Activity history function of Google like Qustodio, Net Nanny, Norton Family are much better for monitoring browsing history.

Can Google Family Link see YouTube history?

Yes and no. Every user’s YouTube search and watch history is saved by YouTube by default unless you disable it in the settings, and Google Family Link can prevent your child from disabling it. The catch is that Google Family Link doesn’t prevent a tech-savvy child from simply deleting search and watch history entries that they don’t want you to see.

Other parental control apps that don’t rely on the in-built search and watch history functions of YouTube like Qustodio are much better for monitoring YouTube usage.

Can Google Family Link see activity in incognito mode?

No, Google Family Link simply blocks your child from using incognito mode. If you want a parental control app that takes a less brute force approach, try Qustodio, Net Nanny, or Norton Family. All of these parental control apps can monitor and block sites even when your child is using incognito/private mode.

Google Family Link Products & Pricing

Google Family Link Free
$0.00 / year
Bottom Line

Google Family Link is a decent, entry-level parental control app, but it falls short of its competitors in breadth and depth of features, user-friendliness, and compatibility. It has all of the basic features you’d expect from a parental control app, including web and app filtering, time limits, scheduling, location tracking, and activity reports. In addition, it has very unique app supervision features that let you manage your child’s Google Play browsing and purchases. However, its web filtering, time supervision, and location tracking features are very lacking. What’s more, it effectively stops working once your child is 13-years-old, it’s missing kids apps for iOS and non-Chromebook operating systems, and its web app leaves a lot to be desired. Google Family Link is completely free, so it’s hard to judge it too harshly, but there are plenty of affordable alternatives that simply do its job better.

About the Author

About the Author

Raven Wu is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. He is a strong advocate of internet freedom and is very passionate about technology, and he’s honed his craft by researching and writing about a variety of other topics including education, literature, health, pop culture, and games. Outside of work, he's an amateur novelist and history enthusiast who enjoys hard games, spicy food, and thinking way too hard about everything.

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