Google Pulls The Plug On Supervised Users

PRITHIV on January 17, 2018

Chromebooks in action

Last week parents woke up to a disconcerting announcement in the EdTech and internet safety world. Google shut down it's Chrome Supervised Users initiative which was the go-to parental controls tool for thousands of families using Chrome on their Chromebooks, desktops and PCs. According to research by Netmarketshare, Chrome enjoys over 60% browser market share across devices and platforms; so this sudden announcement could immediately impact a large number of digital families.

Released in 2013, the Supervised User feature allowed parents to enforce Safe Search by default, filter websites by blocking access to certain pages, lock down the Chrome browser and maintain browsing history; thus an effective control over what the kids could do and access over the Chrome browser. According to an official email from Google, the company has learned a lot from the feedback over the years and “is working on a new set of Chrome OS supervision features specifically for the needs of families to launch later this year”. For many, this move renders their family devices unsafe in one stroke.

What does that mean for parents who set up Supervised Users?

Mother and children using a tablet

  • Parents can still operate the Supervised Users created before January 12, but unfortunately, they won’t be allowed to review browsing history and site visits or manage black/white lists. Supervised Users will still be there, but parental control has been effectively disabled.

    • Apart from Safe Search, parents will have no tool to ensure internet safety!

  • Google will not be providing an alternative to Supervised Users in the interim.

    • Google suggests that parents learn more about Family Link, which provides parent-controlled Google accounts for kids on Android devices. But this is absolutely inadequate and irrelevant as a replacement for Chrome Supervised User used by a majority of families with Chromebooks, PCs and Macs. Also, initial reports suggest that Google's upcoming parental controls will be an extension and improvement of the Family Link program.

    • However, Google is yet to roll out Family Link on a global level, as it is only available in select countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland among others. So, the international Chrome community will have to wait it out until Google brings out a universal solution, hopefully later this year, that works across all major platforms.

    • Family Link at present can only be set up for children under the age of 13. This could effectively remove teens from parental purview until further notice.

    • No fixed date has been announced for the release of the new Chrome OS supervision features. All we know is that the new offering is to be released "later this year".

“It really is a shocking move. And, parents are extremely upset,” observes Chris McKenna, Founder of Protect Young Eyes. Google Forums are abuzz with irate and distressed parents who have to contend with unsupervised internet access for their children.

What can parents do to cope with this sudden change? Is there a replacement for Supervised Users?

A worried parent

  • Parents will have to physically monitor or ensure that devices are placed in accessible and open areas at home to ensure proper internet use.

    • But that still won’t serve the purpose of protecting your children from chancing upon improper or adult content online!

Kids today are exposed to a lifestyle that is increasingly dependent on digital devices connected to the internet. It takes conscious effort and constant course correction to bypass the pitfalls of this digital environment and their related impact on the parent-child bond. Above all, finding the perfect balance between the virtual and the real, requires the active support of Tech Giants like Google, Apple and Facebook. These big corporations thrive on the dependency syndrome brought about by the digital ecosystems they govern. It is imperative that they compliment parents in their pursuit to creating a safe and secure internet use for their children; in that lies that future of digital citizenship!

Dependency Syndrome

 

 
Writing credit: Authored by Prithiv, a Mobicip blogger constantly researching on the latest in digital trends.
 
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