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One of the benefits of the best Chromebooks and ChromeOS tablets is how budget-friendly and simple they are to use. This means that it's great to hand off to a child for use for schooling and even casual things like going to YouTube. Of course, you might not want your child to go to certain websites or download unnecessary apps, which is why you'll need parental controls. ChromeOS has these controls that are managed through the secondary Family Link app to your phone or through the web.

What you need to know before setting up Chromebook parental controls

Before diving into the settings, there are a few things you need to do first. The best way to use parental controls on ChromeOS is to add a child account to a Chromebook and then hand it off to them, this is usually done right out of the box, but it also can be done with a reset. A child account will automatically get you access to parental controls.

However, if your Chromebook has been set up without manually child account during setup, you can add parental controls to any account later on. There's no difference, really as managing is done through the separate Family Link app. A child account on a Chromebook has Incognito mode disabled, and it also lets you manage websites that can be visited and will block sexually explicit and violent sites. It's required to use the Family Link app, too.

You can set up a Chromebook for a child with a Child account as soon boot up a Chromebook for the first time, but you can also do this by resetting the device. However, you can enable parental controls on a regular, existing account. You'll also want to disable guest browsing, so your child can't get into a guest session that doesn't have parental controls. Once set up, you'll get access to managing websites and limiting website visibility, so you can prevent your child from going on websites where they really shouldn't be, as well as prevent changes to these settings. Incognito browsing is automatically disabled on all child accounts on a Chromebook.

How to set up a child account on a Chromebook from scratch

Setting up a child's account can be done right as a Chromebook is unboxed. If you already have a Chromebook and want to reset the Chromebook for a child from fresh to hand it off to them without converting that existing account, sign out of all accounts, press and hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R, select restart, then choose Powerwash, and Continue

  1. When your Chromebook is turned on for the first time, simply select A child from the Who would you look to add to this Chromebook screen.
  2. From here, create a Google account specifically for this child, and add their name, birthday, and gender.
    Chromebook set up screen
  3. Keep in mind that for children under 13, you'll have to link their account to your parental account instead.
  4. You'll get a step-by-step guide on the lock screen and will have to link their account using your own with your password.

Once a child is logged in to a Chromebook, a parental password will be required to add new users for security purposes.

How to add parental controls to an existing account on a Chromebook

If you want to add parental controls to an existing account for your child, it's easy. Just log into that account as usual and follow the steps below.

  1. Log into the account.
  2. Click on the time in the lower right corner of the screen.
  3. Choose the gear icon to open settings.
  4. Choose Accounts from the sidebar in the settings app.
    Parental controls in the ChromeOS app
  5. Choose the Set up button.

A guided tour will appear on your screen. Follow the steps to add the necessary controls.

Disable guest browsing on your Chromebook

Once you set up a child account, it's a good idea to also disable guest browsing on a Chromebook so they can't work their way around parental controls. Here's how.

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click on the time in the lower right corner of the screen.
  3. Click on the gear icon.
  4. Choose Security and Privacy.
  5. Choose Manage other people.
    Disabling guest browsing in ChromeOS
  6. Turn off Enable Guest browsing.

All the parental controls on a Chromebook

There are several levels of parental controls you can use and all of these require you to use the Family Link app. There's the option to choose what apps your child can use, manage your child's browsing on Chrome, block or allow certain websites, and change permissions. You even can set screen time limits. These permissions will be managed with Family Link, which can be accessed as an app on iOS, Android, or via the web.

Manage app limits and apps

You can manage which apps your child can access via the Google Play Store through Family Link. This includes blocking apps, allowing apps, requiring approval for apps, blocking mature apps, and setting controls to play games.

  1. Open the Family Link app.
  2. Select your child's account.
  3. Select Controls.
  4. Choose App Limits.
  5. Tap the app you want to block, allow, or want to set up limits for.
  6. For content restrictions, go to Controls, Content Restrictions, then Google Play.

Manage browsing on Chrome

You use the Family Link to manage what apps your child can browse on Chrome.

  1. Open the Family Link app.
  2. Select your child.
  3. Tap Controls, Content restrictions, and then Google Chrome.

You'll find a number of options here to customize your child's browsing experience.

  • Choose Allow all sites, so your child can visit all sites except the ones you block.
  • Choose Try to block explicit sites, so adult content is blocked automatically.
  • For the most control, select Only allow approved sites, so your child will only be able to visit the sites you allow.
  • There are also controls for Approved sites, Blocked sites, and Advanced settings that you'll want to check out to set up permissions for site apps and extensions.

Add a parent access code

You can make it harder for your child to circumvent the controls you set by adding a parent access code. Make sure your child's Chromebook is connected to the internet.

  1. Click Parent access on your child's device.
  2. Enter the password for the parent's account.
  3. Click Next and follow the steps on the screen.
  4. You also can do this from the Family Link app by clicking the Menu and choosing Parent Access.

Add screen time limits

There are a lot of other controls you can play with in the Family Link app. If you want, you also can select Screen Time and select Set up.

  1. To set a bedtime: Select your child, in the bedtime chat, pick Edit schedule.
  2. To set daytime limits: Select your child, in the Daily limit card, pick Edit limits, and follow the prompts on your screen.
  3. To set downtime: Select your child, choose Controls, then Downtime.

And that's it! There are ways to manage the sites your child might go to, and also the apps they might download. Similar to what you'd get on a great Windows laptop, the controls are very in-depth and put you in absolute control of everything and anything relating to a ChromeOS device. If this all sounds good to you, you can pick up any of the best Chromebook for kids.

HP Chromebook x2 11

If your child wants something small, the HP Chromebook x2 11 combines the power of Chrome OS with the portability of a traditional tablet. They can also use it anywhere thanks to the optional 4G LTE capability.