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Chromebooks for Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Setting Up Supervised Users

The world wide web can be a wild place, but with the Chromebook’s new Supervised Users feature parents can begin to fence in the playground.

A Parent's Guide to Supervised Users

Debates discussing how young is too young to have access to the Internet will always exist, as will discussions about how much parental oversight is justified. One thing is certain, however: parental controls have long been a very popular feature request for Chromebooks.

The request hasn’t fallen on deaf ears – the Chrome Team has been busy building a comprehensive feature called “Supervised Users” that supercharges local accounts on Chrome OS devices and binds them to a web management tool. Parents can set up a new user account for each child and remotely monitor web activity, block sites in real-time, and configure SafeSearch.

If you happen to be a parent gifting a Chromebook this holiday season, look no further than this easily printable guide for making sure your children are safe online.

Configuring Supervised Users on a Chromebook

The first item to note is that this feature is still in beta, which means it requires being activated. I expect the feature to reach maturity soon in an upcoming milestone release, but I cannot promise that will happen prior to Christmas morning. As a result, I’m including the easy activation instructions alongside this guide – they will be made irrelevant in the future and may be edited out at that point in time.

Step 1: Log in to the Chromebook with Your Google Account

This is a crucial, but easily missed requirement. For supervised users to work, they must be connected to a Google Account that can manage them using the online tool. This means your first course of action is to setup your own profile on the device.

Step 2: Enable the Supervised User Flag

The Supervised Users flag was is enabled by default as of Chrome OS 36.

Chrome OS uses a hidden menu for storing beta features, allowing them to be off by default for most users but opt-in for people interested in trying them out. In the case of the Supervised User feature, enabling the option is easy:

  1. Open a new tab and visit chrome://flags
  2. Scroll down to “Enable Supervised Users”
  3. Select “Enable”
  4. Restart your session
Enable Supervised Users

Enable Supervised Users Flag

Step 3: Create a New User

Once the feature is enabled, you can begin the process of creating a new local managed user account on the Chromebook. The process is simple and quick.

  1. Sign out of your account or restart the device
  2. On the login screen, select “Add user” from the bottom left menu
  3. When presented with a login screen, select “Create a supervised user” from the right panelº
  4. Fill out the user credentials, including selecting a password and a profile photo
Create A New Supervised User

Create A New Supervised User

°If you don’t see the option listed you need to uncheck the ‘Restrict Sign-in’ option in Settings > Users > Manage Other Users. 

Step 4: Verify the Account and Manage it on the Web

Once the steps above are completed, your child should be able to log successfully into their user account. You can verify it is a supervised account because of the “Supervised User Account” text in the user tray at the bottom right of your screen. Congrats, you’re now ready to manage the account online.

Permission Control Dialog

Permission Control Dialog Shown to the Superviser

The management tool is available at chrome.com/manage, and is entirely free to use. You may be prompted to log in to your Google Account prior to having access to the tool – please use your own account credentials (not the username and password you created for your children).

Navigating the tool is a breeze; you may select users from the left panel and permissions for each account are shown at the top right. User browsing activity may be viewed at the bottom, with requests for access to specific sites directly above it (handy if your child needs access to a school-approved website for homework and you’re still at work!).

Request Permission Dialog

Request Permission Dialog Shown to the User

For those curious, when a website that is blocked is visited on the device a message appears, informing the user and directing them to contact the account holder that manages their own account. The message provides an easy way to request permission to view the website in question.

Relax, and know that your children are browsing safely with their Chromebook

If you run into any questions or concerns when using the tool, please consult the dedicated FAQ Page. Additionally, since this feature is still in beta, the Chrome Team would love to hear your feedback on how the tool could be expanded and improved. There is an ongoing discussion thread on the official Chrome support forum. Please feel to chime in!

Visit the Chrome Supervised Users FAQ

Visit the Chrome Supervised User Management Tool

Provide Feedback to the Chrome Team About Supervised Users

  • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

    It’s in normal chrome too! :D

  • Derek Birnie

    Great start, but building a whitelist or a blacklist from scratch will be a daunting task. No pre-built profiles for age groups?

  • scoobette01

    Supervised User is a lame feature. You can’t add any apps to it so your kids can do their homework with Google Docs or play games from the app store.

    And Chromebooks are lame for kids without some sort of parental control feature. I think Google knows this and couldn’t care less. It is ridiculous that a company that will put considerable resources into projects like Google Glass and Google Car cannot even do it’s customers the courtesy of creating a parental control extension or app that actually works. I mean, c’mon, just copy what Amazon has already managed to do really well with its Kindle Free Time app. Seriously, please copy Amazon.

    I’m going to give this farce another month to see if anything usable actually gets developed. If not, I am disposing of both Chromebooks I bought for my kids, because right now they are useless.

    • Jeremy

      Did you get rid of them? I am considering getting rid of my wife’s due to how lousy Cloud Print is. I really like the Chromebook for her usage and the price we paid, but the horrible print support is really a deal breaker.

    • Guest

      Couldn’t they just go to Google Docs through the Chrome browser instead of using the app?

      • scoobette01

        That sounds like a decent work around. I haven’t tried it yet though.

        • Ghenghis john

          my kids access Google Docs through Chrome and it works well. I agree with you about the apps, though. I would like them to have enjoy themselves a little on the computer, but not too much. Kids can spend all day on youtube if you let them. It would be nice if there was some way to limit the time they can spend on certain sites.

      • penina

        how do you do this. been trying for the last hour . everytime i make it an allowed site it is still blocked when i try and access it as the kids? help!

    • Inferno BJ

      Don’t say that

  • blue_wolverine

    Great concept……terrible delivery. User dashboard couldn’t block a site if my life depended on it.

    I REALLY like how Google anything is always in BETA. That’s so they don’t have to support any of it. Instead they just remind you it’s still in BETA. At least, that’s the responses I always get.

  • mundo2

    I can’t seem to get the same supervised account to appear on multiple Chromebooks without having to setup another account. Is there a way of doing this or is this yet another limitation?

  • Chris Woods

    In Chrome Browser, how do you keep the supervised user from simply clicking on the drop down at the top and switching to the parent’s account and thus bypassing all of the restrictions??

  • Jennifer Burton

    went to chrome://flags and didn’t find “Enable Supervised Users”

    • http://twitter.com/d0od Joey-Elijah Sneddon

      Hi Jennifer,

      Supervised Users is now enabled out of the box. You no longer need to enable the flag – just skip those instructions and start at Step 3.

  • Michael Golan
    • http://www.freshtraxoutdoors.com/ Tom Ryle

      Same here…what’s the point??? I bought these for my girls so they could do their school work. they use Chromebooks at school. I set them up and then find out they don’t have access to Docs, Drive, or anything for that matter! Seriously, Google? They have access to Search but not Docs? Make no sense…someone please tell me I’m wrong here.

  • Lori

    my son wants to play games but his profile wont let him. I tried downloading on my profile but how do I share to him?

  • chas

    I call bunk. Supervised Users do not have access to Apps or Extensions. This is almost renders the account useless.

    • Cody

      Agreed.. These Chromebox/book systems really don’t have parental controls at all. It’s a joke.

  • No presumption

    my children have access to all of the applications their school has. They got the access from the school itself and their google drive and word processing apps from google come through the school as well with a gmail account associated with the school. Who cares about the games; what a bunch of cry babies.
    Go outside and look at something real and get their faces out of the screens.

    • Shawn Hendrick

      We care about the games…The kids should be focusing on schoolwork in school..not playing games behind teachers backs. Heck, at the school my step son goes to, some of the dern teachers give them “Game time” at the end of class when they are done with work. What a crock. I just looked and saw that he uses this time to email people and browse the internet online…which I THOUGHT was suppose to be a no no at school but the dern school doesn’t care. If you don’t care that your kid could be playing games during class time behind the teachers back then your being much of a parent…cause if they are doing deceitful things in school, they sure as heck are doing it to you behind your backs as well…

      • Jim Albert

        Shawn, my point was about NOT being able to access the games through the “supervised user” setting; which I think is an excellent idea. We’re on the same page.

      • concerned parent

        Yes and my step children are downloading videos. On instagram, an Facebook. I specifically said I didn’t want them on any social media! And emailing people! How can we obtain their email an password to find out what kind of emails are being sent to who? We’ve recently grounded my stepdaughter from her phone an internet because of nudes being sent back an forth!! If we are trying to monitor them at home and we can’t be sure that you all aren’t monitoring them and abiding by our wishes then do away with the chromebooks!!

  • CHyatt

    In my opinion based on many of the comments below, parents are being hoodwinked. Parents, not Google are raising their kids. Some parents don’t give a crap if a kid spends decades playing games, it’s a cheap baby sitter. Our school has informed us that Google Chrome Book will be required. Not if it means we don’t have parental controls. School will lose one student. Many parents MIGHT be shocked by all the WONDERFUL apps that Google is supporting. Take for instance the VPN sites that allow a student/child to add an extension to their Google Chrome Browser that lets the child then bypass all 3rd party parental control software website blocking. Or say the games that encourage the shooting of people, such as Sniper Assassin. Anyone remember Sandy Hook? Not to say the games caused it, but shooting and killing games should be reserved for college and adult years. And spare me, you have no clue what your kids are looking at. As evidence I give you SnapChat, Instagram and KIK. All designed to communicate behind the parents back. Technology is great, but just like kids who are not mature enough to drive a car at 14, so are these same kids not mature enough to navigate the internet. The question really comes down to is there any responsible people out there in these anything goes companies? My observation, not really.

  • Marilyn Cahill

    Does this work in Google for Education?

  • Inferno BJ

    Won’t work at my chromebook