If you’re using Chromebooks in the classroom, you’ll want to ensure that your students are given a safe learning experience. Fortunately, it’s relatively straightforward to make a Chromebook child-friendly and in this article, we’ll show you how it’s done!
Out with Supervised Users, in with Family Link
If you’ve used a Chromebook in the past, you may be familiar with Supervised Users. This was the feature used previously to help adults control the content that could be accessed by younger users. Google phased out this feature in January 2018, and have replaced it with parental controls through the Family Link feature.
Family Link allows parents and guardians to set up a Google account for a child to use on Chromebooks and Android devices and these accounts have in-built restrictions that help to keep young users safe online.
Setting Up Parental Controls Through Family Link
The first step in this process is to set up a Family Link account for each student who will be using a Chromebook. This can be done on a Chromebook, or another laptop, smartphone, or tablet, this is easy to do if you have a regular class, or you can instruct your IT support to help you with a list of users. For mobile devices, there are dedicated apps that will walk you through the process.
Next, open the Chromebook and select ‘Add Person’ from the lock screen. If each student will have their own individual Chromebook, you’ll need to do this just once per machine. If there are communal Chromebooks, you can choose to set up Family Link accounts with generic usernames, rather than one for each individual child. For example, rather than using ‘John Smith,’ you might decide on Student One, Student Two, and so on. This allows you to use the same accounts for more than one year and saves time setting it up for the next batch of students.
For each account, you will need to enter the username and password to sign in to the Chromebook. You’ll then be prompted to sign in to the parental account that has authority over all of the Family Link users which will be the teacher account.
A screen will then pop up, providing you with details of which restrictions are provided by Google. These are currently limited to website blocking, safe search, no incognito mode in Chrome, and no Play Store access. You can also manually check each user’s browsing history. Restrictions do not extend to apps and screen time control, but in a classroom environment children will be supervised so this is not a limitation.
The options offered natively by Google may not be sufficient for the needs of your students, particularly those who are older or more curious. In that case, you can extend control by using a third-party app.
Advanced Controls for Curious Kids
If you are working with older children who have the skills to circumvent basic controls or would prefer to take an extra level of precaution, third-party apps can help you to lock down a Chromebook to make its purpose purely educational.
There are several options available, according to the controls you wish to implement. Omnito is an app that has been created specifically for the classroom. From one screen, teachers are able to view and monitor all open tabs on their students’ Chromebooks. You’ll also have the option to close any tabs that are not conducive to learning, restrict website access, and remotely lock devices. In addition, Omnito offers full integration with Google Classroom. For teachers already using the platform, or looking to introduce it to their classroom, this permits automatic syncing. In theory, this should make starting a lesson more efficient. Go Guardian and Blocksi offer similar features; try a free trial of each app to establish which one works best for you and your students.
Alternatively, you can try apps that are designed primarily for parental control but have features that are transferable to the classroom. Mobicip is an app that provides wide-ranging supervision of each Chromebook. As well as restricting website access, it allows you to enforce time limits on usage, check what has been downloaded, and monitor all devices from one account. If you’re managing multiple Chromebooks in the classroom, this can help to make the practical side of supervision significantly easier.
Now that you have the tools to help protect your students when using Chromebooks, you’re ready to put their educational potential to good use!