(Credit: Screenshots: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

With Americans reportedly staring at their phones for an average of four hours every day, mobile addiction has clearly become a problem for many of us, and we're talking about fully grown adults who should be able to manage their time better.

When it comes to kids, they may not be able to set up manageable usage rules on their own, which is where Google's Family Link app comes into play. And today, it's getting a sizeable expansion to its target audience.

SEE: Google to kill Inbox email app in March 2019, refocus on Gmail

Launched a year ago this month, the free Family Link app (Android, iOS) gives parents tools to limit how much their kids use their phones and tablets each day, manage which apps they can use, and enforce bedtime hours. Until now, this app was intended for children up to age 13, but by popular request, it's been expanded to teens up to age 18. However, this second group doesn't have to follow the same set of rules.

Most notably, if you're a Family Link user between the age of 13 and 18, you will be able to disable the app's restrictions at any time, without tricky hacks or workarounds -- but your parents will be notified when you do. It's an interesting way to tackle those rebellious teenage years, and it may impact Family Link's popularity among stricter parents, since child monitoring apps have become a cottage industry with a variety of options.

On the other hand, with mobile monitoring apps continuing to suffer personal data leaks due to hacking or design oversights, you may feel safer with Google's eye in the sky, rather than a company you haven't dealt with before. Plus, Family Link is completely free to use, and it works just as well on iOS as it does on Android, despite Apple's device security restrictions.

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Google also announced that Family Link is coming to the Chromebook, which is the company's line of laptops and tablets that run Chrome OS. It's a cousin of Android, and it can run some Android (and even Linux) apps. It's arguably a safer environment than Windows, thanks to being effectively immune to viruses and most other types of malware like MacOS.

However, you can pick up a Chromebook at the fraction of the cost of a Macbook, hypothetically giving you the best of both worlds: value and security. Be aware, though, that most Chromebooks have limited internal storage capacity, because you're meant to store most of your data in the cloud, on Google Drive.

The takeaways

  • Google has expanded the age range of its Family Link child monitoring app to add children ages 13-18.
  • This second age group will be allowed to disable the app, but their parents will be notified.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.