How to Set Parental Controls for Smart Speakers and Digital Voice Assistants

Smart speak­ers and dig­i­tal voice assis­tants are a com­mon fea­ture in many mod­ern homes. In many ways, they are ben­e­fi­cial. Hands-free automa­tion and lim­it­ing screen time are just a few ways in which they help us. That said, it’s impor­tant to know when it comes to the safe­ty of your child, there are oppor­tu­ni­ties for exploita­tion or mis­use of these devices.

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Parental Controls for Smart Speakers

You like­ly know about parental con­trol fea­tures that come stan­dard with almost any phone or tablet. With­out them, it’s pos­si­ble that your chil­dren can vis­it inap­pro­pri­ate web­sites, lis­ten to uncen­sored music, view images not fit for young eyes or make unin­tend­ed purchases.

So, how do we pro­tect our kids from the dan­gers of the inter­net when they’re just an ask away?

In this post, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to enable parental con­trols on the best and most pop­u­lar smart speak­ers and dig­i­tal voice assis­tants like:

  • Ama­zon Echo
  • Google Home
  • Apple Home­Pod

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can set up parental con­trols for these devices and their asso­ci­at­ed dig­i­tal voice assistants:

How to Set Up Parental Controls for Amazon Echo and Alexa

The Ama­zon Echo is a top-sell­ing brand of voice assis­tants and smart speak­ers devel­oped by mak­ers of the same name. The Echo can con­nect to your entire home and responds to your voice, allow­ing you to do things like turn lights on and off, lock and unlock doors, make calls, send mes­sages and more. Not only that, but Alexa, the infa­mous dig­i­tal assis­tant that comes stan­dard on Ama­zon Echo, has found her way into count­less devices, from your ther­mo­stat to your car.

Here is a step-by-step guide to set­ting up parental con­trols via Free­Time, Amazon’s parental con­trol experience:

  • Step 1: Access the Alexa app through your smart­phone or tablet
  • Step 2: Open the three-line menu and tap Devices.’
  • Step 3: Select the device for which you are set­ting parental controls.
  • Step 4: Scroll and tap Free­Time’ under the Gen­er­al’ section.
  • Step 5: Open the menu next to Free­Time. Tap Set­up Ama­zon FreeTime.’
  • Step 6: Set-up your child’s pro­file and select con­tin­ue. You may have to sign into Ama­zon again.

Once you enable Free­Time, you can con­trol what your child can access and when they can access it from the com­fort of your device by tog­gling the fea­ture on or off.

As a side note, Ama­zon does now offer an Ama­zon Echo Kids Edi­tion, which is designed specif­i­cal­ly for chil­dren and auto­mat­i­cal­ly fil­ters explic­it con­tent. It also sup­pos­ed­ly pro­vides addi­tion­al pri­va­cy pro­tec­tion for young users.

Out­side of this, you’ll like­ly also want to set up a lay­er of addi­tion­al pro­tec­tion against unwant­ed pur­chas­es made through your Alexa-enabled device. This can be done via the fol­low­ing steps:

  • Step 1: Access the Alexa app through your mobile device or tablet
  • Step 2: Open the three-line menu and tap Set­tings.’
  • Step 3: Tap Account Set­tings” and tap Voice Purchasing”

Here you can com­plete­ly dis­able voice pur­chas­ing, or enable it with the added secu­ri­ty of a voice pin code. Last­ly, you can also con­fig­ure voice pur­chas­ing using the asso­ci­at­ed Kids Skill.

How to Set Up Parental Controls on Google Home Smart Speakers

Google Home is anoth­er voice-acti­vat­ed device that is com­mon­ly found in smart homes. Cus­tomers enjoy the con­ve­nience of link­ing to their already-estab­lished Google account to per­form a vari­ety of actions sim­i­lar to those men­tioned above with Alexa. Here is how to set up parental con­trols for Google Home Smart Speak­ers and Displays:

  • Step 1: Set up Google Fam­i­ly Link on your smart­phone or tablet
  • Step 2: Use Google Fam­i­ly Link to cre­ate or sign in to a Google Account for your child
  • Step 3: Have your child use his or her voice to cre­ate their account and con­firm voice recog­ni­tion on your Google Home.
  • Step 4: Work with­in the set­tings to dis­able third-par­ty apps and Google Pay Assis­tant to avoid unnec­es­sary charges.
  • Step 5: Put YouTube into Restrict­ed Mode from the Google Home app.
  • Step 6: Dis­able Access to Explic­it songs in the Google Play app (Three Line Menu > Set­tings > Parental controls.

The same con­trols apply to Google dis­plays as well, such as Google Nest Hub. You can find addi­tion­al instruc­tions via Google here.

While Google devices are a bit more com­pli­cat­ed in terms of set up and require a few extra steps to lock down, it makes sense since they have mul­ti­ple media out­lets that chil­dren may access.

How to Set Up Parental Controls on Apple HomePod

The Home­Pod is Apple’s smart speak­er and voice assis­tant (Siri) that rivals the oth­er devices found in this post. It con­nects across your Apple devices and appli­ca­tions with rel­e­vant safe­ty fea­tures that today’s fam­i­lies need. That said, the HomePod’s parental con­trols are fair­ly basic, as mim­ics its func­tion­al­i­ty. Here is how par­ents can set up parental con­trols for the Apple Home­Pod Speaker.

  • Step 1: From the Home App (on iOS or Mac), tap and hold Home­Pod.’
  • Step 2: Tap Set­tings’
  • Step 3: From here, you can enable or dis­able explic­it con­tent. Note, at this time, this is device-wide ver­sus on an indi­vid­ual basis. To date, Apple does not have a way to dis­able explic­it con­tent for spe­cif­ic users
  • Step 4: Dis­able Per­son­al Requests.” With Per­son­al Requests enabled, any user includ­ing chil­dren, would be able to send and read mes­sages from the main user’s linked iCloud account and per­form oth­er per­son­al” tasks using their voice

It is worth­while to note that new mul­ti-user sup­port is expect­ed to be released for Home­Pod very short­ly (Fall/​Winter 2019), allow­ing voice recog­ni­tion for mul­ti­ple users and like­ly allow­ing for parental con­trols to be set for indi­vid­ual users who are minors.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

All in all, there are many oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ents to pro­tect their chil­dren through smart speak­ers and dig­i­tal voice assis­tant devices. Not to men­tion, they are now com­ing with video func­tion­al­i­ty on Ama­zon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub. Par­ents today must take addi­tion­al pre­cau­tions to ensure their lit­tle ones stay safe as tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to advance and pro­vide new use cas­es for consumers.