Have the tech talk. Access to the internet is a powerful tool, and it’s important to talk with your kids about how to use the internet safely and productively.
…and check in on a regular basis. The best tech talk in the world can only last so long, so it’s important to check in on a regular basis to see how your kids’ internet usage is changing over time.
Kids younger than 18 months should use screens for one thing only: video-chatting. Connecting with people counts as quality time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, so you shouldn’t feel weird about giving your kid a tablet to say hi to grandma and grandpa if they can’t make it to their 1st birthday party.
Get your kids a device when their ability to use it wisely outweighs their tech-savviness. Consider how responsible your kids are with their existing possessions, how well they follow the rules you currently enforce, and whether you think a device could be a distraction at school.
Ensure teacher-approved apps are in your kid’s rotation. Google maintains a list of apps approved by academic experts and teachers led by Harvard and Georgetown faculty. Chosen for their age-appropriateness, quality of experience, enrichment, and delight, every app on the list is one parent won’t have to worry about.
Make sure your YouTube kids are using YouTube Kids. Automated filters, human review, and user feedback help filter the videos that are safe and fun for your kids. Parents can fine-tune the settings to limit how much time their kids can spend in the app and review what their kids have been watching.
Create a family media agreement. This template from Common Sense Media will cover all of the bases, from taking care of devices to taking care of personal information, but it also has blanks for any clauses you’d like to add. Sit down with your family, talk through it, and sign on the dotted line, creating an instant accountability tool.
Make your family a Google Family. By linking the parental accounts with the kids’ accounts, you unlock a slew of features, from parental controls to shared digital purchases to Google Keep, which you can think of as a digital family bulletin board/refrigerator notepad.
Use tools to keep kids on track during remote learning. If your kids are still struggling with virtual school, there are apps that can help them without parental hovering. These tools can block new tabs, make long texts easier to read, and let kids customize their experiences.
Talk to your kids about online stranger danger without freaking them out. If you ask them questions about how they would handle situations and gently correct them if stumble, you can keep the focus on what’s in their control and not the scary specifics of the worst-case scenarios.
Create a “classroom” in your house dedicated to virtual learning. Getting your kids into school mode without going to school is tricky. One thing that can help? Defining a specific space in your house as a space for virtual learning. If your kids help decorate, it can give them a sense of ownership over the space that can help motivate them to stay on task.
Don’t just track how much screen time kids are getting— track what they’re doing during it. The best screen time tools, like Google Family Link, do more than just track how long kids are using screens. They track what kids are looking at on those screens and allow parents to set limits on individual apps, nudging kids into improving the quality of the time they spend online.
Plan the block build of your dreams before spending a fortune on bricks. Mecabricks is an impressive website that lets you build 3D Lego models in what amounts to a web-based computer aided design program. It’s very cool, and there’s zero percent change it leads to you stepping on your kids’ blocks.
Use Google Lens to learn about the world around you. As its name suggests, Google Lens makes your camera as smart as Google. Simply point your phone at things you see and it can do everything from identify dog breeds and landmark buildings to translate text and reveal which menu items are most popular instantly. It’s the kind of thing that feels like magic, which means it’s sure to captivate your family.
There’s never a bad time to do a puzzle. Have a puzzle party with Google Arts & Culture and piece together famous works of art.
Help your kid set a virtual video chat background to make school more fun. They can keep it classic with a picture of a blackboard or classroom, or they can go nuts with something a little more outré. As long as their teacher is cool with it, why not let your kid choose spice up video chat time with a fun background?
Protect your young TikTokker. The main reason parents seem to be wary of TikTok is that they don’t understand it. We can’t do much to help with that, but we can mention the social video app’s parental controls. Restricted Mode lets you filter out mature content; Family Pairing allows you to sync your account to your kid’s.
Play screen-free games with Google Assistant. It’s better known as a way to playing music and controlling smart homes, but devices with Google Assistant have a hidden power: a solid library of audio-based amusements, from trivia to talking like Yoda to Mad Libs.
Set up YouTube restricted mode for teenagers. Once your kid outgrows YouTube Kids you can still use Restricted Mode to give them a cleaned-up version of the full site. Restricted mode can be set up on all of your kid’s devices, and it uses titles, descriptions, metadata, reviews, and age restrictions to filter out the stuff you don’t want your kid to see.
Play online games with Elmo.
Use ReThink to nudge your kids into online niceness. Created when its founder was just 13 years old, Rethink monitors what’s typed across apps on smartphones and tablets. So if your kid is typing something that the ReThink app flags as potentially harmful or offensive, interrupting them with a prod to rethink their phrasing.
Teach your kids to post only true, necessary, and kind content online. Playing Interland’s Mindful Mountain will foster this kind of critical thinking. (It’s also a lot of fun.)
Check in on the animals with zoo and aquarium livestreams.
Make sure remote learning doesn’t mean you’re skipping recess. Remember when recess was the best part of the school day? Make sure that your kids get to feel the (vital, healthy) joy of running around in the middle of the day even if it’s in the backyard and not the schoolyard.
Chase down Carmen Sandiego. She’s still out there, but now kids can search for her across the world on Google Earth.
Learn some TikTok-inspired family dance routines. Are you too old for TikTok? Maybe. Are you too old to get some real exercise with some silly dances while bonding with your kid? Absolutely not!
Create profiles for your kids on all of your streaming services. The major streamers have a ton of content for kids and kids-only profiles that keep all the adults-only stuff from autoplaying after their morning cartoons.
Introduce your kids to Ken Burns. Half filmmaker, half historian, Ken Burns has done an admirable amount of work to ensure his films get in front younger audiences. Ken Burns in the Classroom is an online database with clips from his films divided by topic and era, easier-to-digest bits than, say, all nine “innings” (and 18-plus hours) of Baseball.
Play I Spy with some of the world’s great work of art. You can even cast it to your TV so there’s no need to crowd around a smaller screen.
Use the 20-minute length of Fortnite matches as natural stopping points. They’ll still stop playing the crazy-popular online game begrudgingly, but at least it’s easy to avoid cutting them off mid-match.
Curb your own bad digital habits to set a good example for your kids. Do as I do, not just as I say.
Resist the urge to stalk your kids. It might be hard not to keep a close eye on your kids online, but constantly checking in, commenting on their posts, and generally not letting them establish an online space separate from their family life is a no-no.
Take a break from screen time with printable coloring pages. Whether they’re inside or outside the lines colorers, your kids could probably use some Zen coloring time every now and then.
Kid-focused apps are great. Kid-focused operating systems are even better. Google Kids Space is a tablet experience designed specifically for kids, recommending quality content based on interests they choose, all centered on a character they create.
Give your kids a tutorial in great password-making. A shocking number of people use “password” as their password. Teach your kids them how to build strong, unique passwords with Interland’s Tower of Treasure game.
Live in the moment by experiencing now and sharing later. The urge to document and post in the moment is strong, but time spent dreaming up the perfect caption is time not spent living in the moment. So once you take the pictures or video of your kid, say, picking out a pumpkin for Halloween, put the phone away and enjoy your time together. And when they have their own phones, make sure your kids do the same on any family outings.
Play games together to understand the good and the bad of your kids’ gaming hobby. The only way to know the nuances of the games your kid plays is to play with them.
Use your Google Nest network as a family intercom. Save your lungs from bellowing when dinner’s ready and/or a trip up the stairs to wrangle your kids. It’s a quite literal way for technology to bring your family together.
Pause distracting apps and stay focused with focus mode. It’s one of the best Android features for staying focused on what’s happening around you, and a great thing to use during the work day (and for your kids to use during the school day).
Help kids understand how the internet is awesome and blahsome. Interland is an adventure-packed online game that makes learning about Internet safety and citizenship interactive and fun—just like the Internet itself.
Explore 2,000 different museums without leaving your couch. You probably weren’t going to make it to the British Museum even if there wasn’t a pandemic, but with Google Arts & Culture you can explore its collections and those of many other museums from around the world.
Use We Flip to gamify screen time breaks — and make them cooperative. One of Google’s experiments is We Flip, a clever app that lets families take a mutual technology break, turning digital wellbeing into a game. Kids won’t want to be the one who breaks the fast, and they will want to see how long your family break can last.
Introduce your kids to the culture of your youth. Even if they don’t “get” why you loved Bill Nye as a kid, seeing how you react to the old episodes is a great way to connect.
Two steps are better than one. Make sure your kids know that, when they have the choice, they should always opt in to two-factor authentication, or 2FA, an easy-to-use security measure that does a lot to keep your account secure.
Sign up for email summaries from your kids’ teachers with Google Classroom. One way to keep track of your kid’s remote learning progress is with regular updates from their teachers. In Google Classroom, you can sign up for email summaries that include missing work, upcoming work, and class activities, a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your kids’ academic life.
Borrow some new kids’ books from the library without going to the library. Chances are better than good that your local public library card grants you access to an online collection of children’s ebooks and audiobooks, a practically bottomless pit of content that can keep them occupied.
Play around in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Kids pestering you for a phone? Make them give a presentation. They’ll get some valuable Google Slides practice and an opportunity to codify their argument. How convincingly they can argue that they should get their own phone is probably a pretty good barometer of how ready they actually are.
Turn off work when the work day is over. The internet makes it easy for the work day to never end, particularly when your home is your office. The easiest way to make sure after-work time is family time? Pause your Android work profile.
Share your screen time with your kids. A screen time fiat you hand down from on high can be a source of tension for kids who don’t think it’s fair. That’s why sharing how much screen time you’re getting along with what you’re doing to maintain a healthy balance can help kids understand their limits and respect you for imposing your own.
Create a family media plan to plot your family’s schedule. The American Academy of Pediatricians has a clever tool that allows families to plan how they spend their days, establish screen-free zones and times, and making commitments to being good citizens.
If you want your kids to be able to buy things online, give them a reloadable debit card.
Run a privacy checkup on your accounts to get a handle on what you’re sharing. See and modify your privacy settings from one place, and if you’ve set up a supervised account for your kids with Google, you may run a privacy checkup on that account as well.
Don’t just limit screen time, schedule plenty of non-screen time. You don’t have to come up with elaborate plans, but giving kids something else to do in lieu of spending time online is a pretty good way to keep them from spending too much time online.
Explore the heavens with Google Sky. It’s Google Earth, but for space, and a very cool example of what augmented reality can do.
Catch up on all the news that’s fit to print, fit for kids. The New York Times Learning Network has been around since 1998, and it’s a great way for kids and parents to stay up to date on (and think critically about) current events and history with age-appropriate articles and activities.
Turn your photos into works of art. The Google Art Transfer app lets you turn your photos into digital works of art inspired by the styles of renowned artists from van Gogh to Kandinsky. It’s a great way to get kids using their devices to create not just to consume.
Play Geoguessr and learn about geography. The premise of Geoguessr is simple. The game drops you into a location somewhere on earth using Google Street view images and mechanics. You can move up and down the street, searching for clues, before guessing where you are by clicking on a map. It’s an outstanding way to learn about the world and use critical thinking skills that’s only mildly addictive.
Color in some masterpieces. There are coloring books and then there’s the Google Art Coloring Book, which lets kids make famous works of art their own. All kids have to do is pick a work of art and start coloring.
Don’t forget to set up parental controls on video game consoles. The ESRB—the people who give games age-based ratings—has a great tool to walk even non-gamer parents through the process of setting up parental controls on their kids’ consoles whether the goal is to block inappropriate content, control spending, limit gaming time, and/or restricting communication with other gamers.
Make beautiful music in an online beat laboratory. The Chrome Music Lab has a ton of web-based apps that let kids make music in new, creative ways. Whether your kid is a piano virtuoso or musically inexperienced, they can have fun figuring out how to make new sounds.
Land Apollo 11 in your living room.
Enforce an internet bedtime. Staying up late is bad enough when it’s reading under the covers, but the blue light that screens emit is disruptive to circadian rhythms. For a well-rested kid with an intact circadian rhythm, either store the phone outside of the bedroom or set up parental controls that turn it into an expensive clock until the rooster crows.
Make sure every IRL time-out is also a digital time out.
Use Google Chrome filters to keep the bad stuff out. The Google Family Link app lets parents adjust which sites are blocked on their kids’ devices and whether their kids can share their location and camera access. They can also look at their kids’ Chrome history.
Teach kids to be positive and combat negative behavior online. Interland’s Kind Kingdom is a side-scroller that can only be won by doling out kind hearts to the less than happy
Work together in a co-op video game. Instead of going mano-a-mano with your kid (a matchup you’re destined to lose) try a cooperative video game that lets you work together. There are some great ones out there no matter which console you use.
Make sure your kids’ accounts have recovery phone numbers. That way if they get phished or hacked, they can regain control of their information.
Have your kids stretch out their stresses with some kid-friendly yoga. YouTube isn’t just for music videos and learning how to re-grout your bathtub. Cosmic Kids Yoga is a channel full of free yoga lessons for kids.
Keep track of everyone’s lives with a family calendar. Kids are busy. Adults are busy. That’s why Google automatically creates a Family calendar when you set up a family on the site. All family members can see, create, edit, or delete events on the calendar, and you can even invite non-family members (i.e. a piano teacher or tutor) to those events to keep everyone on the same page.
Discover the wonders of nature. Despite its name, Google Arts & Culture has tons of natural history resources for when your kids have already watched Planet Earth a dozen times.
Experience the magic of VR. Virtual reality is really damn cool, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on a viewer. And feeling like they’re out exploring after a year of being cooped up inside makes VR a particularly great area of tech to explore with your kids now.
Learn how to draw. Stick figures have this place, but the Art for Kids YouTube channel can help kids and adults take their art skills to the next level.
Set up a family protocol to talk about the unknowns. It might be an inappropriate video or a pop-up ad, but wherever it is it’s a good idea to set up a protocol—maybe even a codeword—that your kid can say to start a parental conversation ASAP.
Help your kids master the art of email. Kids write informally online, but an email to a teacher or other adult shouldn’t use abbreviations, emoji, or GIFs. If your kids are emailing with their teachers, make sure they know how to do so appropriately.
Go online together. It’s easy to use a screen as a way to distract your kid while you take care of other things, but it’s also important to remember that you should encourage them to share their online lives with you. Because at the end of the day, they just want to connect with you too.
Don’t feel like you have to keep your kids offline. It’s a Sisyphean task, for one, and the evidence suggests that home internet use has no adverse effects on children’s social or psychological outcomes and positive effects on their academic outcomes.
Remember that social media can enhance depression in adolescence. A study of over 3,800 adolescents found an association between social media usage and symptoms of depression in adolescence. If you teen seems sad, asking about their social media life could help you get to the root of the problem.
Don’t forget about violence. Much of the content parents worry about online is sexual in nature, but kids themselves report that violence is nearly as big of a concern, with boys more worried about it than girls.
Remember that digital parenting is about building long-term trust. The Family Online Safety Institute recommends an approach that changes over time, from conversations and rule-setting for young kids to a the shift of the balance of trust (from kids trusting adults to adults trusting kids) once kids enter their teenage years.
Give your kids the opportunity to talk to you about online problems. One survey found that 40 percent of kids would turn to friends first when facing serious problems online compared to 33 percent who would go to a parent. Being proactive about asking about those problems and ensuring kids feel comfortable talking to you about them is key to making sure your kids are part of the latter group.
Don’t just set limits on your kids’ apps. You can also use Google Family Link to always allow important apps like those your kids only use for school.
Install antivirus and antimalware software. More than a quarter of teens online had accidentally allowed their home computer to become infected with malware. Building the ability to spot fishy sites takes time; in the meantime, make sure your devices are protected.
Set up remote playdates to preserve your kid’s friendships. Family video calls are common during the pandemic, but it’s also important for your kids to preserve the relationships they have with their friends, particularly if some have moved with the advent of remote work and school. Remote playdates are a valuable social outlet, one that can hopefully stick around even after the world returns to something closer to normal.
Separate yourself from your kids’ classes. Resist the urge to listen in on your kids’ classes. The better bet is to check in at the end of the school day, just like you used to do when school happened in-person.
Show your kids how to flag inappropriate content if they come across it. There’s lot of talk about upstanding in cyberbullying cases, but kids can help improve the online communities they’re a part of if they know how to report inappropriate content so other kids aren’t exposed to it.
Admonish your kids to keep their personal information personal. Want to share something online? Check in with mom and dad first.
Research websites before you allow your kids to join. Common Sense Media maintains a robust database of websites with plenty of parent-specific information.
Remember that identify theft isn’t just an adult phenomenon. It’s a good idea to pull your kids’ credit report around their 16th birthday, which gives you two years to correct any errors due to fraud or misuse before they become an adult.
Encourage your photo-taking kids to upgrade to a more powerful camera app. There are tons of camera apps available, many of which do more than the one that comes with the phone. Using them can teach kids the basics of digital photography and potentially spark a longer term interest in photography.
As the world returns to normal, ease back on screen time. Digital overuse and its associated problems rose during COVID-19. As vaccination spreads and restrictions are lifted, take the opportunity to ease off.
Don’t let your smartphone distract you from parenting. Smartphone use :may create a source of distraction that disconnects us from the people in our immediate social environment.” One study found that frequent phone use made parents feel more distracted, imparied feelings of social connection, and how meaningful time with their kids felt to them.
Take advantage of the California Consumer Privacy Act (even if you’re not in California). The state law gave Californians more control over the personal information tech companies collect, and many of those companies are extending those options to residents of other states. org is a great place to see what companies collect and what you can do to get control over your family’s personal information.
Take a Google Security Checkup. In just two minutes, you can see all the apps that can access your family’s data, the devices you’ve logged in on, and other information that can help you protect your information. That time your kid logged in to check their email on a friend’s tablet? You can revoke access with one click.
Use location tracking. You have two choices: texts that your kids will find annoying asking where they are or glancing at the map in the Google Family Link app to make sure they got to their destination safely. It might feel Big Brothery to have that capability, but as long as you’re open it can make family life that much easier.
Set up a kids profile on your Google TV. Google is expanding the Family Link app to its streaming platform, giving parents an even easier way to keep track and limit what their kids are watching online.
Teach your kids how to spot a scam. There are plenty of warning signs that an email or website is less than legit. By playing Interland’s Reality River, kids will learn what they are and therefore how to avoid phishing scams.
Check with your kid’s school. There’s no shortage of internet safety curricula out there. If your kid’s school is using one you can read up to know what they’re learning. If they’re not, you can encourage them to add one—because it’s not just your kid who needs to know how to have fun online safely.