Google and Home Schooling

April 8, 2020

Ah, Google—good enough is good enough, right? Except when a pandemic comes along, and good enough really won’t cut it. Digital Trends reports, “Google Chromebook Quirk Forces a Decision: Parental Controls or Schoolwork?” Now that schools have been forced to close and students are studying remotely, a Google Chromebook/ Family Link foible is suddenly much more of a problem than when it was discovered last year. Writer Mythili Sampathkumar explains:

“When school districts all over the country announced they would be shutting down to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, many parents purchased the relatively inexpensive Chromebooks to mimic students’ classroom experience. Parents can use Google’s Family Link app to control what websites and apps are accessed, when, and for how long for accounts identified as minors. But some students can’t sign into their schoolwork using those accounts. They need to use school-provided email addresses to access their schoolwork through Google Classroom — but Family Link parental controls can’t be synced to those school accounts. The Family Link app doesn’t allow parents to add a school email account for the same child user, preventing the child from using different logins to sign into the Chromebook and Google Classroom. It seems the situation is forcing parents to choose between what the Family Link website itself called ‘healthy digital habits’ and accessing learning materials for school during the lockdown, a choice many in the forum and those who spoke to Digital Trends do not think they should have to make.”

Schools do not have to worry about leveraging Family Link’s safe browsing features—they typically place universal security restrictions on their entire networks. Doing so at home, though, is not a good option for most parents. Not only would that block certain sites for parents, it would also restrict when they could use their devices. That just won’t do for parents who suddenly must work from home and help their kids with schoolwork. Will Google step up and fix the problem? Perhaps there is a way to cut down on Chrome glare?

Cynthia Murrell, April 8, 2020

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