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Using Google Chrome’s parental controls

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parental controls on google chrome
Google’s Chrome web browser has taken over the world. It’s the go-to browser choice for a majority of internet users and as likely as not that includes both you and your kids.

Who is Chrome’s ‘Supervised User’ feature for?

No doubt you’re well aware of the potential dangers the internet can hold for impressionable young minds, perhaps that’s why you’re reading this page. Google’s aware of them too, which is why Chrome offers a useful tool to help parents control and monitor what their kids are doing online.

If your kids are likely to make a concerted effort to look for ways round any restrictions, Chrome’s ‘Supervised User’ status is unlikely to be a major obstacle for them, but if they’re going to accept the net as it’s presented to them and you just need a way to keep them from drifting into the wrong sorts of places, this can be an effective tool for your needs.

Setting up a Supervised User

It’s easy for any existing Chrome user with a Google account associated to set up a new supervised user (if using a Chromebook the set up is slightly different).

  1. Go to ‘Settings’ via the menu that looks like three horizontal bars in the top right of your browser window.
  2. At the bottom of the page there’s a section called ‘People’. Press ‘Add person…’ and choose a name and icon for them. Most importantly, make sure you tick the box at the bottom which asks if you want to ‘Control and view the websites this person visits’.
  3. From the settings page, at the bottom of the ‘People’ section there’s a link labeled ‘Supervised Users Dashboard’, click this and choose the user you just set up, this is where you’ll set up restrictions. It’s also where you can view any sites that have been visited by that user.

Limiting web sites

You have two options for limiting the sites available to your children, though both of them are potentially labour intensive to set up. First press ‘Manage’ in the ‘Permissions’ section. Here you can choose to either block all of the web and then manually enter the addresses of sites you’re happy for your kids to use or choose to allow all of the web and manually block sites that you’re not happy for them to go on.

The first option is probably better for young kids who don’t need the ability to browse so much as access to specific pre-determined sites. For older kids, the 2nd option will be more appropriate as they’re more likely to need the freedom to browse (eg. for homework research).

You can find pre-made lists of dodgy and unsuitable sites online to copy and paste into the entry field (frustratingly one at a time), but they won’t be completely failsafe and may even leave out some popular sites that you deem inappropriate. It’s probably worth checking your child’s activity, at least for the first couple of weeks after you set up the account, to see if they’re visiting any other sites that you’d prefer to put on this list too.

All supervised accounts have the ‘Safe Search’ feature locked on as default, you probably want to leave it that way.

Activating the user

It’s easy to change to your supervised user, there’s a button in the top right hand corner of the browser window with the name of the current user, click there and you have the option to switch person. If you want to make sure that your child can’t just switch back to your user profile though (a problem found in other parental control systems), I’d suggest using the ‘Exit and childlock’ feature from the menu 1st, then activating the supervised user.

Why I use Supervised Users despite the loopholes

I said at the beginning that a determined child could find a way round this system. There are two loopholes that I’ve discovered and there could well be others. One involves the child deleting their supervised user account, I’m actually not too worried about this as it’s the sort of open defiance I don’t expect from my kids. If it does happen you’ll be able to see that they’ve done it and can either remake the user in combination with a stern talk about the rules or you could take it as a sign that you need to invest in something more robust.

The 2nd loophole is more concerning to me and involves kids browsing the internet as a ‘guest user’. This one’s a little harder to spot, you’d need to look for gaps in the browsing history when you know they were online. Or, use our preferred method and just occasionally physically check in with kids when they’re online, you can see the name of the user they’re browsing from in the top right hand corner.

For a free tool I find the supervised users a pretty solid addition to my arsenal, though I can see that for more rebellious kids it might not cut the mustard. And we as parents might need more comprehensive parental control software.  For those parents whos kids are using Google Chrome on their mobile devices some tips how to block websites on Chrome Mobile  will be also very helpful.

Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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