On COVID Homeschooling and Technology

My latest fight with technology in the face of COVID: Setting up accounts for my daughter that don’t allow for parental controls that respect her blended family.

The thing that’s driving me surprisingly nuts about trying to homeschool my daughter during “these trying times?” Not the time management; I expected that to be bonkers. Instead it’s the technology.

I’m a software engineer. How can the technology be a problem?

As a developer, I know the limitations of our industry and I can see when my use case isn’t impossible, just the product wasn’t designed for it. I’m also well aware of our industry’s history of designing for the situations that developers themselves are most familiar with rather than that of their potential customers.

As such, today’s frustration comes due to Google and 1Password and their definition of “family.”

The kid has an Android tablet, which she uses with a locked-down guest account, with my Google account as the primary user. Part of that lock down is that she doesn’t get access to Chrome. This has never been a problem when the tablet was “just a toy” but now that she’s using it for school, she needs Chrome.

The way to manage what sites she can go to is with a child account administered by me. Okay, fine, I didn’t want to give her a Google account at this age but Google has the option for accounts to be managed by a parent so I’ll give it a shot. But I can’t create her account – even though I can manage it after it gets created – because my wife and I have a family group for sharing of media and my wife is the manager, so she has to do the initial setup. A small hurdle but an annoying one nonetheless.

But wait! This means that my kid’s account will be tied to our family group! The problem there is that she has two other parents – her mom and step-dad – who should also have the ability to manage what she can do with this new Google account of hers. Shockingly, my ex-wife and her husband are not a part of our Google family group. The end result is that my daughter’s account can either be managed by her dad and step-mom or her mom and step-dad (assuming they have a Google family group over there, that’s none of my business) but not any other combination of the four of us.

And it’s not like Google doesn’t know about this problem, there was a support thread created about it over a year ago.

So I set up this new Google account and drop the password for it into 1Password, where I have a vault of the kid’s passwords. That vault is shared with her mom, of course, right? No, because, like with Google, she would have to be in my 1Password “Family” for me to be able to share that. I can share my daughter’s vault with her step-mom but not her birth mother.

To be fair to 1Password, there is a workaround in which I could give my ex-wife a guest account on my family that only has access to our daughter’s vault. However, if the whole point of shared vaults is to give each user a  single place to access everything, that point is lost by forcing her to have two separate 1Password logins.

This is two different tech companies both independently deciding that “Family” means a bunch of people living in the same house, and real world families look way different than that.

As I said, I know this industry has a problem with developers building solutions for people who look like them. It’d be easy to say the stereotypical development team of young, single guys didn’t consider the possibility of a blended family using the product.

If you do that, though, you have to also assume that the team of young, single guys included no children of divorce, which just isn’t statistically likely. So, instead, I can only assume that both Google and 1Password made the conscious choice that blended families don’t count.