Here's how to use FreeTime, Amazon's answer to Google's Family Link parental control app

Previously only available on Amazon devices, the FreeTime app for Android lets parents control what their kids can see on their phones and how long they can use them.

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Earlier this year, Google launched an app called Family Link, a tool that lets parents remotely control the amount of time they spend and type of content they access on their Android phones. But while Family Link is still in invitation-only beta, a new Android app from Amazon can give help you keep tabs on your kids right now.

Previously only available on Fire and Kindle devices, FreeTime lets you control which books, videos, games, and apps that your kids can see by way of a special in-app launcher that locks them out of the rest of your phone. The new app is an extension of Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited service, but the $2.99 monthly subscription fee is not required to use the app.

Using FreeTime is pretty simple. When you launch it, you’ll be asked to enter your child’s name and birth date (and select a kid-friendly avatar), before heading into the content picker. The app will take you through any books, movies, and apps you have in your Google or Amazon accounts, and you’ll be able to select which ones they are able to view, as well as grant access to an age-appropriate in-app browser.

You’ll also need to allow two permissions for the app to operate. One is Usage Data Access, so it can report on how much time your kids are spending with FreeTime, and the other is a FreeTime launcher that restricts your child from leaving the app until a passcode is entered. Inside the settings you can set time limits for each activity and bedtime restrictions, as well educational goals (like requiring 30 minutes of reading before a game can be played). You can also set smart filters, limit web content, view your child’s history, and of course, subscribe to FreeTime Unlimited.

Then they only need to select their name to begin using it. The app's home screen will force itself into landscape mode, though books and apps will allow it to return to portrait as needed. Streaming and browsing is just as fast as it is outside the app, and the interface is simplistic enough for non-readers to understand it.

You can download the FreeTime app in the Google Play Store for free.

Watchful eye: While it's not as powerful as Google's remote Family Link app, FreeTime is a fantastic tool for parents looking to keep tabs on how much time their kids spend on their phones without needing to hover over them at all times. With time and content limits, as well as an easy-to-use and safe in-app browser, it’s a good alternative for parents still waiting for a Family Link invite.

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