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Should I set up a Google user profile for my kid?

Google offers a few ways to manage kids' online experiences. The most robust controls are in the company's Family Link app, which is designed for Android phones only. This parental control acts as internet "training wheels" for kids under 13. You can set up kids' accounts, approve apps, set time limits, apply content filters in Google products, and turn off the kids' devices remotely.

But Family Link has some limitations and serious privacy issues. By signing up your kids, you're technically providing consent for Google to track your kids' data, collect information on their device use, and tailor content to them. The list of what the company is allowed to do with kids' data is long. Once kids turn 13, the restrictions are lifted -- a feature parents can't disable, even if you think your kid isn't ready for the whole internet yet. Family Link also requires kids to be using a new Android device running the latest Android operating system.

You can always set up supervised users for free in the Google Chrome browser on any device, for kids of any age. Because it's not a full Google account, the data tracking and collection is on your account, not your kids', and it's a good option if you're not ready to turn their online habits over to Google just yet. With a supervised user, you can manage and view the websites they visit -- but only when they're logged into your account. Though tech-savvy and mature kids may be able to get around this feature, it's handy for younger kids.

Here's how to set up a supervised user in Chrome:

  • Open Chrome and click on the menu icon (the three vertical dots at the top of the page; it should say "Customize and control Google Chrome").
  • Click Settings.
  • Then select Manage Other People.
  • You'll get a pop-up where you can add a name and an avatar.
  • Next, go back to your settings page and click Manage Supervised Users.
  • For each user, you can block sites, view the sites they've visited, and a few other features.
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