The suggestion that Google was looking into launching redesigned versions of its products for kids under 13 first surfaced over the summer, and now it seems like it’s really happening.
The company is gearing up to roll out child-oriented versions of its most popular products next year, the Web giant’s VP of engineering, Pavni Diwanji, told USA Today this week.
No specific products were announced, but in the ‘popular’ category you’ll obviously find the likes of YouTube, Search, and Chrome.
Diwanji said the company was motivated to launch the project as more and more Googlers were starting families, a situation which has resulted in a drive “to change our products to be fun and safe for children.”
To encourage use of its services and to mark them out from its existing adult-oriented products, Diwanji said educational tools and initiatives will be incorporated into the Web-based offerings.
Despite awareness that the company is stepping into something of a minefield with its initiative, the Google executive is adamant it can be rolled out in a responsible manner to “give parents the right tools to oversee their kids’ use of our products.”
Google will certainly be mindful of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which imposes strict limitations on how data is collected for advertising purposes from those under 13 years old.
The Federal Trade Commission has used the law to hit 20 firms with fines over the last 15 years after it was found they’d mined information from kids without their parents’ consent.
Diwanji said she was reminded about how kids see things differently when her eight-year-old daughter did a Google search for “trains” and was surprised to see Amtrak train schedules show up.
“She came to me and said, ‘Mommy, you should tell Google about Thomas the Tank Engine, because Google obviously doesn’t know about him,'” Diwanji recounted.
Of course, getting children familiar with its products early on also helps Google to hook users into its ecosystem early on in their lives, though it’s fair to say that plenty of kids are already highly familiar with many of the company’s online tools, in some cases even teaching their parents a thing or two about them.