Phone Deal Finder
Plan Finder

Android Parental Controls: What Parents Should Know

a mom sitting on a couch watching her daughter use a cell phone

Every parent struggles with cell phone use for their kids. When is the right time to buy your child their first phone? How can you make sure they stay safe online? How much phone time is too much phone time? With so many questions to answer, it can be tempting to simply ban phone screen time altogether. 

But the world is increasingly dependent on cell phones, and kids need to learn how to use them responsibly. While there’s plenty of research on the negative impact of social media on kids and teens, much of which is consumed via phone apps, smartphones have their benefits. For example, certain apps help with schoolwork, and phones give parents a way to keep in contact.

But as you may know from personal experience, too much screen time can be detrimental to emotional and mental health, especially at a young age. Parental controls and setting healthy boundaries can help protect your kids without preventing them from learning to use cell phones.

Is it time to think about buying a phone for your child? If so, you can find the best phone deals with our unbiased Phone Deal Finder below. We also recommend checking out our best family plans article and our Plan Finder to compare cell phone plans at top carriers.

Find the Best Phone Deals

What Can You Do With Android Parental Controls?

Android devices don’t come with built-in parental controls, but you can add the feature through the free app Google Family Link. It’s also a good idea to use parental controls on other devices in your home that your child has access to, such as computers and gaming consoles.

Setting up parental controls on your child's Android device is easy - all you need is a Google account. You likely already have one, but it’s easy to set up. Once you have a Google account, download Family Link on your phone and your child’s. Then, sign in with your Google account on both phones.

From there, you can set daily time limits for your child on specific apps. You can also restrict the content they can access, manage their privacy settings to keep them safer, see their location, and more.

Remember, parental controls do not give you full access to what your child is doing. You won’t be able to listen to their calls or check their text messages through parental controls. But you will be able to provide safe parameters and monitor their usage.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of using Android parental controls:

  • Manage which apps your child uses and signs into.
  • Block and approve apps from Google Play.
  • Limit screen time for the phone or specific apps.
  • Lock the device remotely.
  • Set content restrictions.
  • Control app permissions.
  • Manage privacy settings for your child.
  • See where the device is at all times.

Note: Google Family Link works on iOS phones, too, not just Androids! 

How to Set Parental Controls on Android

Once you’ve added your child’s Android to your plan, you’re ready to get started. To set parental controls on Android, you only need to follow a few simple steps.

  1. Download the Google Family Link app on your device and your child’s Android. 
  2. Open the app on your phone. Select your Google account and “Parent.” 
  3. Select your child’s Google account as the account to be supervised.
  4. The app will ask you to get your child’s phone and give you a link code you will need for the next step. On your child’s device, open the Family Link app and navigate to their Google account. The child’s Android will ask for the link code you received from the parent device. Put the code in and verify through email. If it’s a new account, you will need to add it to your Google Family account before continuing.
  5. Finish the setup on your child’s Android by accepting permissions and naming the child’s device.
  6. Next, you’ll be led through the process to decide which apps your child should have access to. Take your time working through the list of apps to deny or accept based on what you want your child to be able to access.

Once you’ve finished the setup on your child’s device, everything else can be controlled on your own Android phone. You can set app restrictions, daily screen time limits, and even parameters to filter content to ensure your child is not accessing inappropriate or harmful information.

How to Restrict Apps on Android With Parental Controls

Using Family Link, you have full control over which apps your child can use. There are a few ways that you can set restrictions. To manage your child's account screen time effectively, you can set time limits on specific apps and require approval before any app downloads.

When your child wants to download an app from the Play Store, they need your permission. You’ll get a notice to accept or deny the app. We recommend getting permission for all apps, even the free ones. Many free apps have inappropriate content, so it’s best to review them first just to be on the safe side.

You can see an overview of how much time your child spends on each app, set time limits, and you’ll have a list of apps you can allow or block.

How to Set App Time Limits on Android Phones

Even if you approve an app for your child to use, you may not want them to have unrestricted access to it. Luckily, there are a few ways to set time limits using Android parental controls.

First, you can set daily limits under “Screen Time Restrictions.” You can restrict use on a daily basis or on a set schedule. For instance, you might allow two hours of screen time on weekdays and four hours on weekends.

Second, you can set a bedtime. This feature will shut the phone down at a predetermined time every night, so you don’t have to worry about your child secretly watching Mr. Beast videos at midnight on their device.

Lastly, you can set time limits for individual apps. For example, you might not have a problem with your child using Spotify but not want them to have unrestricted access to an app like TikTok. To use this feature, navigate to Controls and then App Limits. You’ll see the list of apps your child has access to. Choose the app you want to restrict and set the time limit.

How to Limit Content on Android Phones

What about setting restrictions on types of inappropriate content? One way to limit content on Family Link is by specifying the maturity level of the content your child is allowed to download. You can apply your maturity level restrictions to apps, games, movies, TV, books, and music. 

Inappropriate content within apps, like an explicit post on Facebook, won’t necessarily trigger maturity level restrictions. You’ll need to use the parental controls or restrictions provided by the app. Meta, for example, offers specific parental controls to help monitor usage, which is a great tool to use in conjunction with Google Family Link.

If you prefer to decide on apps on a case-by-case basis, you can also set up a password or verification for Google Play to make certain that your child can’t access apps you wouldn’t approve through a shared account. The person in charge of the account creates a PIN they will need to make any changes to parental controls. 

Once you create a password, you’ll need to remember it or keep it in a safe location. You may need to use it to download apps, movies, books, and so on.

Best Parental Control Apps for Android

We’ve been discussing Family Link, a free app. But it’s also a Google app, so it really enforces controls in the Google ecosystem. There are limitations to restricting apps for other companies, such as Apple. It works well for Android, but iOS Family Link doesn’t have as many features. If, for whatever reason, Family Link doesn’t meet your needs, you can always check out other third-party parental control apps. 

Here are a few of the more widely used:

  • Kaspersky Safe Kids: This one is very user-friendly and easy to use. Kaspersky also offers some security tools, such as an antivirus and a data leak checker. If cybersecurity is important to you, this might be a natural fit for your parental control needs. It offers a lot of the same features as Family Link but also allows you to monitor social media. By connecting to your kids’ social media accounts, you can view posts on their timelines and get reports on their activity.
  • Mobicip Premium: This app also has social media monitoring capabilities and is good for both restricting and monitoring content and app usage.
  • NetNanny: This one also gives you all the features of Family Link, with content screening features you can use on social media and other sites so that kids can use these platforms safely. Net Nanny’s internet filter lets you customize filters to alert you or block types of content, such as profanity, pornography, and graphic violence.

None of these apps are free, but some of their features are a little more robust than Google Family Link. Social media monitoring and content screening can be great tools, especially with the amount of time kids spend on social media.

Tips for Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

Android parental controls provide excellent tools to support your effort to supervise your child. But tools can only do so much. It’s important that you help your child build healthy phone and screen habits, and that starts with you.

If they see you on your device all the time, they will often mimic that behavior. If you want them to disengage from devices during family time or dinner, it’s important to set that as a whole family rule that applies to everyone.

Openly discuss their phone use and online habits often. See where they like to spend their time online and what they like about it. And talk with them about balancing their online and offline activities.

Setting screen time limits is a good starting point, not just for health and well-being – it can also help you save money by reducing how much data you need on your family plan. 

The Bottom Line

While it’s not possible (or particularly healthy) to look over your child’s shoulder every second of the day, it’s natural to want to protect your child against some of the more harmful aspects of living in an always plugged-in, always-connected world. Parental controls via Google Family Link is one great, simple way to do that.

Ready to purchase your child’s first Android phone?  Try our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder to find phone deals on the Android phone of your choice.

Find phone deals based on your
trade-in and carrier
Find a Phone Deal

Phone Deals