Google is revamping certain services in order to make kid-friendly versions so that it can target children under age 13 in many markets, including the United States, legally. Officially, children are not targeted or offered Gmail, YouTube, and other accounts, though there isn’t much blocking them from getting accounts there. Legally, to target child-age users, Google must make kid-friendly versions that require adult OK’s and block certain inappropriate content.
Legally, this realm is a tough one to navigate, but several companies successfully do so, usually as part of their business model. Many online games, kid-targeted brands like Disney, etc. use filters and blockades to allow children in and keep unwanted content out. Google, however, wasn’t built from the ground-up to do this and has a broad base of users in its various services that are not children. So the task will be far more complex for the search giant.
Google says that the reasoning is simple: kids are already online and using the company’s services and parents are often complicit in this. In order to advertise to those kids specifically, however, Google would have to target them and to legally do that, they’d have to comply with federal and some state regulations first. Hence the moves.
Of course, this is not without its naysayers. Some privacy and child safety groups question how smart this is and whether it will create nonchalance among parents who will trust Google to keep their kids safe online rather than being vigilant themselves.
Google had already been working on a children’s version of YouTube as a means of capturing the numerous underage users who already populate the site. The company has not released details on planned roll outs or when/if these changes would actually take effect.