Android Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls: Complete Guide for Parents

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February 8, 2022

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This guide will help VIP members learn

  • How Android’s Digital Wellbeing helps “pull you in the direction you want to go instead of pulling you off focus”
  • What Android’s Digital Wellbeing is and why these settings can help parents and students with screen time concerns
  • Get tips on how to talk as a family about screen time
  • See step-by-step directions on how to access the Digital Wellbeing settings:
  • ~Screen time
  • ~Timers for specific apps
  • ~Focus modes
  • ~Bedtime
  • ~Driving monitor
  • ~Google Family Link

Why should parents & educators care?

  • Studies show that too much screen time can impact a child’s cognitive development
  • Tracking how much time your family spends on their devices (and how they spend that time) is a great way to start regulating screen time, building positive habits, and starting conversations based on the usage data
  • The best way to ensure your family's safety online, on devices, and on social media is to have regular and open discussions about digital safety

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Table of Contents

Android devices are popular choices for many students and families. Devices that operate on the Android system have built-in systems called “Digital Wellbeing” and “Parental controls” that can contribute to training students’ habits and help parents monitor what is being done on the device. This guide will help parents learn how to use Digital Wellbeing on an Android device.

Parent Training Video

What are Android’s “Digital Wellbeing” and “Parental controls”?

  • Devices that operate on Android operating systems have built-in screen time monitoring and additional controls through the Google Family Link app
  • Digital Wellbeing allows users to set real-time or scheduled screen time rules to help create and enforce good habits with their device
  • ~Digital Wellbeing is controlled on each individual device
  • Google Family Link allows parents to set restrictions on screen time and what apps kids can use on their device
  • ~Google Family Link is controlled and monitored on the parent’s separate device (including on Apple devices)


Too much screen time can be linked to: Obesity, Irregular Sleep, Behavioral problems, Impaired academic performance, violence, less time for play...

Mayo Clinic

What can parents do?

Smartphone & Social Media Agreement (A Course for Students & Parents)
  • Talk as a family about what guidelines, rules, and parental controls are appropriate for your kids–make sure to include your kids in the conversation to help set and understand the limitations from the start
  • Take the SmartSocial Smartphone and Social Media Agreement course to create a written agreement for your family
  • Whenever you introduce a new device into the family, take your time getting to know it yourself before giving it to your students
  • Once students do have access to the device, work together to discover and see how students use the device and what they find
  • Ask yourself if the limits you set for your kids’ devices are reasonable and enforceable for your family
  • Remember that some kids can figure out ways to get around all the parental controls or monitoring apps, so having open conversations and physically seeing how your student uses their device for yourself is the safest way to monitor and protect your kids
  • Take the time to regularly monitor the devices and screen time with the automated screen time reports in Digital Wellbeing

How to find and use Digital Wellbeing features?

Digital Well Being Logo
  • Tap "Settings" on your device
  1. Scroll down in the menu and tap “Digital Wellbeing and Parental controls”
  2. Check for the latest update to Digital Wellbeing by tapping the three dots in the top right corner and select updates if needed

How to set “Screen time” goals in Digital Wellbeing

  1. Tap “Screen time” in the Digital Wellbeing menu
  2. Tap the “Set goal” button in the middle of the screen to create a new daily goal 

(If you already have a time set, tap the button that says "Goal")

How to set timers for specific apps with Digital Wellbeing

(Note: Timers reset every day at midnight)

  1. Tap “App timers” in the Digital Wellbeing menu
  2. Search for an app by name, or scroll through the list of installed apps and tap on the app you want to set a daily limit for (Example: tap on YouTube Music)
  3. Tap the hour glass next to “App timer” to set the timer for that specific app

What is “Focus mode” and how to set “Work time” and “Me time”

  • Focus mode allows users to set what apps can be used during a specific time with “Work time” and “Me time” or create an additional category
  • Users can add different apps in these settings for different purposes
  • Example: A user may chose to select work apps such as a calculator and calendar, but not social media or photos while in “Work time” or only Messages and Phone blocking all other apps during “Me time”
  • The Clock, Google Play Store, Phone, and Messages are always allowed in Focus mode
  1. Scroll down in the Digital Wellbeing menu and tap “Work time,” “Me time,” or “Add” under Focus mode to select what apps are allowed during a certain period and to start Focus mode

What is "Bedtime" and how to start or set a routine

  • During the set bedtime, the device’s screen will change to grayscale, and calls, alerts, and other sounds are muted
  • Users can set their Bedtime
  1. Scroll down in the Digital Wellbeing menu and tap “Bedtime mode”
  2. Tap “Turn on now” to manually turn on or off bedtime settings
  3. Or, tap “Turn on as scheduled” to slide the slider to on (blue) and set a schedule and what days the schedule should be automatically turned on

What is "Driving monitor"?

  • Driving monitor creates a report of how the device is used when it is connected to a car via Bluetooth
  • These settings will allow the user to turn on the report and connection to Bluetooth and will allow the user to set specific apps (like navigation) that are no recorded in the report
  • Remember that using a device while driving is dangerous and the excluded apps from the report should be set sparingly to help enforce safe driving practices
  1. Tap “Driving monitor” from the Digital Wellbeing menu
  2. Allow connection to Bluetooth if prompted
  3. If using Driving monitor for the first time, tap “Edit” and select the apps that should not be included in the screen time data while driving (for example navigation apps) and then tap the blue “Start” button
  4. To chose excluded apps if you have already started Driving monitor, tap the 3 dots on the top right and tap “Choose excluded apps”

What are Parental controls (via Google Family Link)?

  • Google Family Link allows parents to set digital “ground rules to help guide [students] as they learn, play, and explore online.” (Google)
  • Parents can view their student’s activity, manage the apps on their Android/Chrome OS devices, and get recommendations of apps for their students
  • Through the Google Family Link on the parent’s own device (including Apple products and web browsers), parents can set device limits for each member in their Google family and  even lock the device when it’s time to do something different
  • Students must have their own Google Account and this account must be the only user on the device the parents want to manage with Family Link
  • ~Students under 13 can sign up for an account managed by a parent with Family Link (Read more here: “How to Create a Google Account for Your Child” from Google For Families Help)
  • ~Students 13 and over have the ability to “stop supervision” on their device according to Google, but parents will be notified and the device will be temporarily locked and unusable if they make this selection

How to access Parental controls on your student’s Android device

  • Download the Family Link app on the parent’s device (Read more here: Get started with Family Link)
  • Login to the device you want to manage using the student’s Google account
  • On your student’s device, tap “Parental controls” in the Digital Wellbeing menu
  • If using Parental controls for the first time on this device: 
  • ~Tap “Get started”
  • ~Select “Child or teen” for who will be using the device 
  • ~Select your student’s account to be managed
  • Read the supervision information with your student and enter the student’s password at the bottom of the information
  • Tap “Allow” and follow the prompts from Family Link to set up key features like: 
  • ~Screen time limit (For more help view this Google resource)
  • ~Allow or block apps (For more help view this Google resource)
  • ~Find your child’s location (For more help view this Google resource)

More screen time and parental control resources for parents, students, & educators

More helpful resources about Google Family Link Parental Controls links

Additional resources

MomTalk podcast with Beth & Andrea

Conclusion

Tracking how much time your family spends on their devices (and how) is a great way to start regulating screen time and building positive habits. If anyone in your family has an Android device, consider configuring Digital Wellbeing and Google Family Link, but understand that there are still ways for students to bypass those restrictions. 

There is no substitute for trusted adults being involved with a student’s screen time habits, using the same apps that your student uses, and creating a supportive environment for your student to learn positive screen time behaviors. 

When parents understand how to set limits and dialog about them with their family they are better prepared for keeping their children safe in the digital world.


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