Google Accounts for Kids?
I’d like to see this happen. There are a lot of kids using Youtube. One survey shows that 26% of children under 13 have a Youtube account despite the fact that it violates Youtube’s terms of service. As a result, Google appears to be working on kid-friendly accounts for their services. Little is known now, but a report on The Information suggests that this new service will allow children under 13 to use Youtube and Gmail and potentially other services as well.
The issue Google will be facing is how to open services like Youtube and Gmail to children without allowing any inappropriate content through. At Yoursphere, we understand this challenge. And while Youtube has a lot of great content, it also has a lot of content that should by no means be available to children.With 100 hours of video being uploaded every minute, they’re going to have a hard time monitoring what kids will have access to.
What’s more, in order for kid-friendly accounts to be effective, Google would have to require users to log in to see content that has not been approved for the under 13 crowd just like they currently do for content deemed inappropriate for users under 18 years old. Otherwise, kids could just log out and watch videos without an account.
The other challenge Google will face is ensuring they comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which regulates what kind of information companies can gather on children under the age of 13 and requires a parent to provide something called “verifiable parental consent”. This is something that we already do at Yoursphere by asking a parent who they are so they can be “verfied and provide consent”.
Google will likely address this issue by requiring the same parental consent Yoursphere does and providing parents with a dashboard application that will allow them to monitor just what information is being collected and what content their children are watching. Google will have to require parental consent for children to upload content as well and censor personally identifiable information posted in comments and profiles to be sure that kids aren’t disclosing information Google cannot legally obtain.
Many speculate that Google is making a move on the education market. Chromebooks equipped with kid-friendly applications may prove to be the smarter choice for classrooms considering iPads as learning tools. Chromebooks are less expensive than iPads (though the iPad Mini is comparable in price) and they’re more focused on creating while iPads focus more on consuming. And for all the bad content on Youtube, there’s plenty of educational content that teachers may want their students to have access to.
None of this solves the issue of children under 13 creating accounts and lying about their age but it may curb it to an extent. Without a Youtube account, you can still go to the site and watch content that hasn’t been restricted to 18 and up users but you can’t make comments or upload any of your own content. Kids who want to make their own videos and need their parents help filming and editing could really benefit from having their own kid-friendly account. Simply being able to find videos you’d most be interested in may be enough encouragement for kids to want to use this service. I want to see this work. I want there to be more kid-friendly spaces online like Yoursphere. But I know Google has it’s work cut out for them. For our kids’ sake, I hope they’re able to overcome the hurdles in front of them in complying with COPPA and ultimately make this service work.