Google’s parental control software for mobile devices, Family Link, will now help parents of teenagers, too. The company announced this morning the addition of new features aimed at parents of children over the age of 13. Perhaps the most controversial choice Google has made with this expansion is that teens can choose to turn off supervision via the software. While this does send an alert to parents, it’s a decidedly odd choice.
After all, if parents are planning on controlling smartphone use through Family Link – which lets them do things like manage and track screen time, view the location of the device, or control which apps are able to be installed, for example – it seems that parent and child would have already had a conversation about the topic.
And while it’s a nice gesture to ask teens to give consent to monitoring, it’s a hollow one – teens, after all, are still children, and parents likely bought them their device and are paying the phone bill. Parents at this point should have already established that using a phone is a privilege, not a right, and that there are ground rules, as well as what those rules are.
Parents should have had the conversation about how usage and location is tracked, and discussed what sort of content should or should not be viewed and shared on the teens’ phone. Allowing the kid to just “opt out” should not be how that conversation starts.
Plus, you can’t really argue that teens could somehow be surreptitiously monitored by parents, given that parents are approving their app downloads and setting screen time limits, among other things, if on Family Link. They must have some awareness there’s a control mechanism in place.
The software’s support for teens rolls out this week worldwide, Google says, as part of Family Link’s global expansion. The applicable age for a teen varies by country, but in the U.S. it’s 13. The app will also be available for Chromebook devices. And soon, parents will be able to manage Family Link devices through Google Assistant voice commands, too.