Google working on child-friendly sites – report

Firm said to be developing versions of YouTube and Gmail to which it could let children under 13 sign up. Google is reportedly developing a new version of its products designed specifically for children. The firm is reported by the Wall Street Journal to be creating a child-friendly YouTube and Gmail as part of the move, that would for the first time allow children under 13 to set up Google accounts.

Google executives are sensitive to the fact many parents are wary about allowing their children on YouTube, fearing they will be confronted by X-rated pop videos or expletive-laden comments. A new child-friendly version would potentially include a Google dashboard to give parents greater control over what their children are doing online, the report said.

Google refused to confirm or deny the claims. A spokeswoman in the UK said: "Google has nothing to say on this as it is founded in just rumour and speculation." The US advocacy group Centre for Digital Democracy said child-friendly services could invade the privacy of millions of children unless designed correctly.

In the UK, the acting director of Big Brother Watch, Emma Carr, said: "It was only a matter of time that online companies started to target their products at younger users. This demographic is immensely susceptible to advertising and are therefore a huge untapped source of revenue for these companies.

"It is imperative that Google, and any other company that directly targets products at children, ensures that privacy safeguards are automatically in place to ensure that both parents and their children are very clear about information will be collected, analysed and used. Failure to do this jeopardises losing both the parents and children as future users of these products, a fate that few companies would want to materialise."

The guardian.com


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