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.
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.