How to manage your kid’s Android device with Google Family Link

Managing your kids’ digital activity used to be an exercise in frustration. Short of limiting the amount of time they spent on their various gadgets, keeping track of what they were doing — or preventing them from doing something they shouldn’t — was nearly impossible. But apps like Google’s Family Link are changing the paradigm.

Google’s new Family Link service, designed for kids under 13, gives you control over nearly every aspect of your kid’s digital experience. You can approve or block apps he or she attempts to download from the Google Play Store, see how much time your kids are spending on their favorite apps, and remotely lock his or her device. That’s just the tip of the iceberg — here’s how to get started with Family Link.

More: Our favorite, free parental control software

Setting up an account

Family Link is not available to everyone just yet — it launched as an invite-only beta on March 15 in the U.S. You can apply to join here. Once your account has been approved, you can set it up immediately.

First, gather the essentials. You will need:

  • A Google Account for your kid through Family Link
  • An Android device (running Android 7.0 Nougat or later) for your kid*
  • Your own Android device (running Android 4.4 KitKat or later)
  • Your own Google Account

*Family Link is also compatible with the following devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow: Alcatel Dawn, Alcatel Fierce 4, Alcatel Pixi Unite, LG K3, LG Stylo 2 Plus, LG X Power, Samsung Galaxy Luna, Samsung Galaxy Tab A, and Sony Xperia X.

Family Link does not support iOS yet, but Google said it is working on a client. It also does not support Google accounts provided through work or school — you will need a personal Google account, such as a Gmail account, to create an account for your child.

Download the Family Link app on your personal device from the Google Play Store. Then, install the same app on your kid’s smartphone or tablet and sign them in.

You will be charged a $0.30 fee when you set up your kid’s account because of “federal privacy regulations,” Google explains on Family Link’s FAQ webpage. “We’re required to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children, and credit cards are one of the FTC’s approved methods. Payment is required so that you have the chance to see the payment on your credit card statement and object if consent was improperly provided.”

You can only have one account installed on a kid’s device.

Manage your kid’s apps

One of Family Link’s most powerful features is the ability to manage the apps your kids use. When your kid attempts to download an app from the Play Store, you will get a pop-up notification containing the name of the app, the app’s publisher, the average star rating, and the number of downloads it has accumulated.

You will also see its maturity rating. In March 2015, Google adopted the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) content ratings. Apps like Google Maps get “G” ratings for example, while slightly more risque titles get “E” (for ages six or older) or “T” (for ages 13 and up).

Armed with that knowledge, you can approve or deny the installation.

Once an app is installed on your child’s device, you can control its permissions. You can deny the Facebook app access to the device’s camera and contacts, for example, or prevent a game from connecting to the internet.

You do not have to approve or deny every device individually. Family Link lets you set blanket content restrictions (i.e., nothing above “G”) for downloading or purchasing apps, games, movies, TV, music, and books. Or, you can limit restrictions to in-app purchases and paid content.

Limit your kid’s screen-on time

Family Link lets you limit the amount of time your kids spend on their device in two ways: By setting a Daily Limit, and by specifying your kid’s Bedtime.

With the Bedtime feature enabled, you can schedule a window of time when your kid won’t be able to unlock his or her device. You can selectively impose limits on weekdays (9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, for example) or weekends (10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday). Or, you can lift limits altogether on certain days of the week. It’s up to you.

More: How to set parental controls for your Nintendo Switch

Daily limit is a little less granular. You can specify a daily usage limit — a set number of minutes and hours your child’s allowed to use their device each day. Just like Bedtime, the amount can differ day-to-day.

If Daily Limit and Bedtime are not doing the trick, you can lock your kids’ device at any time with the Lock Devices Now option. They will be kicked off of their tablet or smartphone immediately, and can only gain access again when you toggle the setting off.

It works even when your kid’s device is not connected to the internet. A special Parent’s access code restricts the device’s features until you manually unlock them.

See how your kid is spending time

Family Link provides a convenient way to see how your kid is spending his or her digital time. You will get a weekly and monthly report showing how much time your kid spent with each app they accessed. A unified dashboard shows a summary of app activity over the past seven days. If your kid has spent more time in Candy Crush than his or her Amazon eBook library, for example, you will see that.

The analytics page is also where you will be able to see the device’s physical location and fine-tune certain settings. The Google Chrome web browser, for example, lets you switch between three levels of access: Unfiltered, SafeSearch (where Google blocks explicit websites and more), and Restricted (where the child is only allowed to visit websites you approve).

Yext is set to raise $115.5M in its IPO after final pricing


Yext today said it would price its initial public offering at $11, meaning the company will raise around $115.5 million in its IPO as it sets up for a debut tomorrow.

Yext will be the second enterprise company in the past week alone that will make its public debut tomorrow following this pricing. With Snap’s IPO seen as successful, as well as tech IPOs in general looking good so far, it seems like Yext may be able to capitalize on the appetite for freshly-public tech companies. The so-called “IPO window,” at least for now, appears to be open — and now it’s a matter of figuring out the balance of ensuring a good pop for the company while not leaving too much money on the table.

The company last said it would price its stock between $8.00 and $10.00 per share, offering 10.5 million shares (along with the option for underwriters to purchase an additional 1.6 million shares). That means it’s also following the steps of Okta, which ended up settling on an optimistic price at the top end of its range. Including the option for additional shares, the so-called “greenshoe,” Yext could raise as much as $133 million.

In addition to investors and employees finally getting paid out for their efforts — Yext was founded in 2006 — these events are at their core fundraising events. But even with the now-healthy demand for new tech IPOs, it’s still going to be important for these companies to at the very least look like they’ve had a successful IPO and a big pop on their first days of trading.

Yext filed for its IPO mid-March on the same day that Okta, an identity management software provider, publicly filed. Okta made its debut last week with a bang, finishing up more than 38% on its first day of trading following a so-far-consistent string of successful tech IPOs starting off with Snap earlier this year.

Like Okta, Yext makes software that going forward will be important to businesses going forward: ensuring that businesses — large and small — get the correct locations in search engines, maps and on social media. Retailers have to adjust to a world where fewer people will be going to their websites for addresses, which means they need to tap into a company like Yext that’s already built the infrastructure with all the necessary partners to make sure the addresses and locations are accurate.

Nintendo reveals Joy-Con battery grips and new color, standalone Switch dock


Nintendo will offer a special battery grip accessory for its Joy-Con controller accessory, which will be offered in sets of two and add more life to the already considerable 20-hour runtime of the Joy-Cons using their built-in power. Nintendo is also going to add a new color option for Joy-Cons, a Neon Yellow that will make sure everyone knows you’re using a Switch and can’t possibly look away from watching you do it.

The new Neon Yellow Joy-Cons will go on sale starting June 16, and if there’s one good reason to pick some up, it’s that you can be super sure they won’t have that Bluetooth issue that plagued some of the launch Joy-Con devices. The battery pack accessories go on sale the same day, and look like they’ll offer the side benefit of giving you more surface area to grip on the diminutive Joy-Cons.

Nintendo’s also going to start selling the Switch dock as a standalone accessory in “limited quantities” beginning on May 19. The Switch dock is currently the only official way to connect the device to your TV, and many users have been looking for ways to pick up additional ones in order to let them move their console between televisions within their house. It sounds like these might be in very short supply, however, so grab one quick if you’ve been looking for this additional functionality.

Facebook Messenger keeps on growing, now boasts a whopping 1.2 billion users

Why it matters to you

Messenger’s rapid growth likely means that users can expect even more new services will be added to the Facebook offering.

Facebook Messenger’s popularity is showing no signs of abating. Facebook reported in July that Messenger boasted a massive 1 billion users. Now, less than a year later, its up to 1.2 billion users. That’s despite the group of Messenger haters that still exist after Facebook forced users to download the stand-alone Messenger app if they want to message people — rather than just using the Facebook app.

So what’s the cause of all the growth? Facebook attributes the it to the launch of Facebook Messenger Lite, the lightweight version of Messenger that’s targeted at regions with slow connections and older phones. Facebook says the growth can also be attributed to rapid expansion of new features.

For example, Facebook has launched M suggestions, group payments, and Messenger Day, its Snapchat Stories clone, in the past few weeks alone. These new features might not be the reason people use Messenger — Messenger is still aimed at people messaging other people — but they certainly help in keeping the platform relevant and helpful.

Still, some have criticized the slew of new features, arguing that Messenger is becoming a little bloated. Despite the negative feedback, it’s likely that we’ll see more features added to Messenger as time goes on.

Facebook began evolving Messenger a few years ago, when it announced that Messenger would become a platform rather than just an app. What that means is that developers can create bots for Messenger — such as CNN’s news bot, which delivers daily news and allows users to request news related to different topics — all through artificial intelligence. Facebook is expected to unveil even more features for Messenger at its F8 Developer Conference, which takes place next week.

Who knows, maybe Messenger’s new features will push the platform to 2 billion users.

Nintendo’s new Zelda amiibo explains Breath of the Wild’s mysterious Fierce Deity armor

During one of its Direct live-streams this evening, Nintendo revealed three new Zelda amiibo alongside an avalanche of release dates for new Switch games. These amiibo include Link toys specific to N64 classic Majora’s Mask and the Wii U entries in the franchise, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. In doing so, Nintendo brought to a close one of the more enduring mysteries surrounding The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and how a certain armor set seemed to exist in the game’s code, discoverable only through questionable means.

The Fierce Deity set, as it’s called, is a set of spooky, cerulean armor that gives Link white pupil-less eyes and a coveted in-game attack boost bonus when you wear the cap, tunic, and trousers at the same time. It’s from Majora’s Mask, as a secret superpower of sorts that turns Young Link into a godlike adult with a double-helix sword. It’s obtained only by collecting every non-transformation mask in the game and exchanging it for the Fierce Deity mask with one of the children located on the moon at the end of game.

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In Breath of the Wild, Nintendo lets you scan these amiibo figures for a chance at unlocking these throwback armor sets as a cosmetic collectible. In the case of the Fierce Deity set, it appears Nintendo shipped the game with the armor set and double-helix weapon already accessible like the other amiibo-related gear and weapons. Yet for some reason, the company appears to have delayed the amiibo release, only just today revealing that the Majora’s Mask toy is coming in June. Or maybe Nintendo planned all along just to wait a few months until after BoTW’s release to push out these new amiibo.

Either way, without the ability to get the Fierce Deity armor through aboveboard means, game hackers found the code and created a method to let players obtain it themselves using NFC workarounds and spoofed amiibo codes. It may not be the most ethical (or legal) method, but it’s the only one available until the new amiibo are released, and sell out immediately, this June.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth review

Finding a Bluetooth speaker for outdoor activities is tough. It’s got to be small enough to be easily portable, but still substantial enough for robust sound — you want to hear your music and have it sound good while enjoying your time outside, after all.

Furthermore, with the outdoors comes certain hazards, so you need the peace of mind that comes with water resistance and even shock resistance. Still, even if a speaker can withstand splashes, knocks, and some mud, even the most hermetic water resistant design won’t prevent a speaker from sinking to the bottom of a lake or pool. Physics can be a pain.

Ultimate Ears’ Wonderboom wants to be the speaker to solve these issues. It joins the line of Ultimate Ears’ other shockproof and waterproof Bluetooth speakers, but it stands in the middle ground between the company’s cheaper, more portable models, and its bigger, louder, more expensive ones. However, instead of simply bridging this gap, the Wonderboom has its own unique features that give the tiny speaker its own identity.

Out of the box

As we’ll discuss, the Wonderboom is a simple speaker, and the packaging reflects this.

Sliding off a cardboard sleeve and opening a clamshell-like box reveals the speaker itself, its bungee loop hooked around a small tab within the box to keep it in place.

The only literature or instructions included is a small safety and care guide, and an easy-to-read diagram on the box’s interior showing how to power on the Wonderboom and connect a smartphone via Bluetooth.

The Wonderboom also ships with a flat USB micro cord for charging, but that’s the totality of any supplemental materials.

Design

The Wonderboom’s design is simple and neat. It’s a squat cylindrical device, with slip-proof rubberized plastic capping the top and bottom, and a hard mesh grille of waterproof fabric around its circumference. A small bungee loop sits at the top, perfect for hanging the speaker from wires, carabiners, and more. For controls, a power button and all-in-one “UE” button sit on the top, and large “+” and “-” buttons emblazon the front of the speaker, controlling volume up and down, respectively.

The Wonderboom floats — no floaties needed.

Inside the 15-ounce Wonderboom are two 40mm drivers supported by two passive radiators, which is how the speaker achieves its so-called 360-degree sound output. The USB micro port is protected by a small tab on the bottom of the speaker, but Ultimate Ears assures that water won’t get gain access to internal electronics, even if this little door is left ajar.

Basically, it looks a lot like other Ultimate Ears speakers, but this time it’s a short cylinder, rather than a tall cylinder like the Megaboom and Boom 2, or tapered puck like the Roll 2.

Durability

The Wonderboom can take a beating that makes it more resilient than most speakers at a similar price point.

Unlike most other UE products, the Wonderboom floats — no floatie accessory needed, as with the Boom 2 and Roll 2. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s made to be in the water for long periods of time, nor is it designed for playback in water (Bluetooth frequencies have the unfortunate disadvantage of being unable to pass through water. Again, physics can be a pain).

The Wonderboom is rated IPX7 waterproof, so it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes with no issue. Of course, it’s buoyant design makes this an unlikely scenario in the first place. It’s also shock-proof, surviving up to five-foot drops unscathed. This durability makes the Wonderboom a no-brainer for outdoor activities, especially for lounging in the pool or a day on the lake.

Ultimate Ears

We do feel the need to make a couple small exceptions to this, however. While not much heavier than a Roll 2, the Wonderboom is harder to recommend as a backpacking or hiking speaker, simply because its cylindrical shape is bulkier than the disc-shaped Roll 2. Plus, its tiny bungee loop is harder to attach to things than the long strap found on the Roll 2.

Interface

The Wonderboom has a simple, bare-bones control scheme, but that simplicity comes with a learning curve, ironically.

All playback functions are handled through a single button on the top of the speaker; A single tap pauses and plays the current track, while a double tap skips to the next track. This resembles the tap controls of the UE mobile app, minus the app’s visual feedback. The UE button also handles pairing with another Wonderboom — holding down the button for a moment on both speakers simultaneously will pair the two. It’s a simple process and results in expanded sound, or even a quick multiroom setup. You can’t use the two speakers as a stereo pair, however, as you can with two UE Booms or UE Rolls.

Another point of departure from other members of the UE line is that the Wonderboom is not usable with the UE app. This makes for a simpler setup and more straightforward use than other UE speakers, which sometimes require the app for pairing with other devices or for playback. However, you’ll miss out on the benefits that come with this app, like changing EQ settings, or Siri integration on iOS, not to mention a visual interface.

In fact, outside of the basic control scheme, there is no form of user interface on the Wonderboom at all — not even a battery life indicator. Instead, holding down both the volume up and volume down buttons simultaneously will elicit a tone indicating how much juice the Wonderboom’s battery has left. These are easy to understand, with an ascending tone corresponding to high battery, a neutral tone for average battery, and a descending tone for low battery.

The gestalt of these different elements makes for a speaker that’s easy to use once you’ve memorized its various controls and functions. While we can appreciate the aesthetic considerations of having less happening on the speaker itself, we would have preferred more transparency when it came to battery level, or whether a song was paused versus if there was nothing cued up at all.

Performance

So those 40mm drivers? They make for pretty decent sound output for the Wonderboom’s size — 86 dBA, to be exact. In simpler terms, this is about equal to the loudness of a vacuum cleaner or blender. So, pretty loud.

This is where the speaker’s 360-degree design comes in handy. From any angle, whatever you’re listening to will sound like you’re facing the speaker head-on.

This also means the speaker can be audible in situations with lots of background noise. For example, we used the Wonderboom while driving on the highway in a 1993 Subaru that isn’t exactly the quietest drive. Cheaper Bluetooth speakers in the past have failed to produce audible sound within its cab that can compete with the engine, but the Wonderboom was entirely audible. Even the winding, technical riffing of math rock group Tera Melos — which could easily be rendered into a blanket of semi-melodic cacophony with enough interfering sound — was clear amid the background noise.

For outdoor use, the Wonderboom would compete well against the neighbor’s lawnmower or mechanical pool pumps. In quieter, more ideal listening environments, one can better appreciate the Wonderboom’s sound.

One of Ultimate Ears claims with the Wonderboom is that it has better bass than UE’s other outdoor-focused speaker, the Roll 2. From our time testing, we certainly would back up this claim. The Wonderboom’s low end performance is notable given its size. The driving bass of Run the Jewels’ “Talk to Me” was a powerful thrum, and at louder volume had some real impact, while still giving enough room to the rest of the mix; Killer Mike and El-P’s verses came through loud and clear, and the instrumentals were crisp.

The Wonderboom is loud enough to compete well against the neighbor’s lawnmower.

However, push the volume too much and there’s some distortion in the lower register. This was especially apparent when listening to a podcast or spoken word track, as speakers with deeper voices tended to sound boomier than they naturally would. Heavier tracks, like Mastodon’s “Leviathan” were naturally touchier with the volume, too. But we never found any track unlistenable, even at max volume. Given how loud the Wonderboom is anyway, it’s not likely to cause much of an issue.

Distortion at higher volumes aside, we were pleased with the Wonderboom’s sound and performance. It’s loud, the bass is sufficiently robust even outdoors, and its 360-degree output takes any guess work out of where to place it for optimal directionality. It’s a definite step up from UE’s other highly-portable speaker, the Roll 2. However, if the highest quality sound is your goal and you don’t need a smaller speaker, we would suggest dishing out a few more dollars for the more powerful and capable UE Boom 2 instead.

Battery life and Bluetooth range

The Wonderboom is rated for ten hours of battery life at 75 percent volume, but Ultimate Ears often makes conservative battery estimates, and we’re willing to bet it may be better than what they’re touting. We never had an issue with the battery life, even after a weekend of heavy listening, upon which the battery check tone indicated the battery level had dropped to somewhere in the mid-level range.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker Compared To

As for connectivity range, the Wonderboom can maintain connection up to 100 feet. We found the speaker performed well even when the phone we were using for playback was in another room at the other end of the house. This would make having a couple Wonderbooms in separate rooms of a large house during a party feasible. While we don’t claim that two synced Wonderbooms could achieve what a Sonos or PlayFi multiroom setup could, it would be a simple and affordable configuration nonetheless.

Our Take

The Wonderboom’s features and design seem tooled for outdoor use, and with summer approaching, this is important. It’s durable, sounds good, and it floats. At $100, there’s a strong case to be made for Wonderboom as one of the best mini Bluetooth speakers for the price.

Is there a better alternative?

The Wonderboom sits right between other UE products like the Roll 2 and Boom 2 in terms of size, price, and sound. If you need something that’s a bit more portable, the Roll 2 will cover those few instances that the Wonderboom might be too big to bring with. Equally, the Boom 2 is bigger, louder, and its current pricing isn’t that much more than the Wonderboom.

The DT Accessory Pack

For something outside of the UE family, consider the JBL Flip 4, which offers much more robust bass in an equally waterproof speaker, though it will not float.

How long will it last?

Between its shock resistance, IPX7 water resistance, buoyancy, and strong sound, the Wonderboom is one durable Bluetooth speaker. It’s a great speaker at the $100-level, though it will likely still be in working condition even if you decide to move onto more expensive models in the future.

Should you buy it?

We’re comfortable recommending the Wonderboom. It makes a strong case for being the best speaker for summer-time activities or outdoor functions, especially given its simple controls, setup, and durable construction. Most importantly though, it’s loud and has a decent bass that will handle your favorite tunes well.

Supreme Court of India rules to shut down cell tower after man’s cancer claim

Why it matters to you

While it’s doubtful this will set any global precedent, building future cell towers in India may become more problematic.

Can radio signals from a cell tower cause cancer? The Supreme Court of India seems to think so. In a unique case, the court ruled to shut down a cell tower after a man alleged that radiation from the tower is the cause of his cancer.

The man, Harish Chand Tiwari, approached India’s apex court — the country’s largest court — about the tower in 2016. The tower was owned and operated by Indian telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). According to Tiwari, the tower was illegally installed on his friend’s roof — which happened to be less than 50 meters away from his house. Tiwari says he was exposed to “radiation” for 14 years — which he suggests is what afflicted him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“We direct that the particular mobile tower shall be deactivated by BSNL within seven days from today,” said Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, according to the Times of India. This tower will be the first to close based on an individual petition alleging harmful radiation.

It’s important to note a few things. Despite numerous scientific studies, cell towers have yet to be proven to be the cause of any kind of cancer or other illness. Still, many refute the studies, and citizens in India have even attempted to block the installation of cell towers in their neighborhood, according to Mashable. India’s IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even had to address the concerns himself.

“Mobile towers are not harmful! Doesn’t America have mobile towers? Doesn’t Europe have mobile towers? There [sic] tele-density is much higher than in India. This planned campaign against [installation of] mobile towers is totally uncalled for,” Prasad said in a statement.

This case does set a precedent, at least in India and it will be interesting to see if more people follow up with similar claims.

Splatoon 2 is coming to Nintendo Switch on July 21st

The squid kids are back. Today Nintendo announced that the sequel to multiplayer ink shooter Splatoon will be coming to the Nintendo Switch on July 21st.

The original Splatoon debuted on the Wii U in 2015, and marked Nintendo’s first proper foray into the world of competitive multiplayer shooters. The game pitted teams of four inklings — creatures who can swap between humanoid and squid forms — against each other, and differentiated itself from other shooters with a focus on color and non-violence. Instead of trying to take out the other team, the goal was to paint a stage a particular color. It was like paintball, but with squids.

Splatoon 2 expands on the original with new weapons, multiple control options, both local and online multiplayer, and — most importantly — new fashions to deck out your inklings. And like the original, Nintendo says it will continue to support Splatoon 2 post-launch with regular new content. It’ll also launch alongside new Splatoon amiibo, which you can check out below.

Nintendo introduces new neon yellow Joy-Con color and controller battery pack

Nintendo today announced a few hardware add-ons to its one-month-old Switch console, revealed during one of its Nintendo Direct live-streams. There’s now a neon yellow Joy-Con color option for both the left and right controllers and the wrist strap. The company is also introducing a battery peripheral for the controllers that will keep them powered up via AA batteries.

It’s unclear what exactly the battery pack is designed to offset. As it stands today, the Joy-Con controllers rely on internal battery power when attached to the Switch’s tablet screen or when docked into the standard controller grip that comes with the console. Those batteries last about 20 hours each, which is a substantial amount of time. Still, it’s nice to know you can have a bit of back-up juice in the event you’re traveling with the Switch without the charging dock and the controllers may be running low.

Both the new neon yellow Joy-Con controller and the AA battery pack will be available on June 16th with the launch of Arms.

  Photo: Nintendo

You can buy a second Nintendo Switch dock on May 19th

Nintendo will start selling standalone Switch docks on May 19th. The company announced the release date today, saying that the docks will be available in “limited quantities” next month. They’ll be available to purchase from Nintendo’s online store as well as select (though unannounced) retailers. A second dock isn’t necessary for using a Switch, of course, but is a useful addition for those who want to use the tablet with more than one TV. Additional docks cost $89.99 each.