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Giving kids and teens a safer experience online


Google has announced phased introduction of child online safety features to enrich product experiences that minors and teens aged below 18 have online.

The features include a default SafeSearch On that restricts minors and teens from accessing adult content.

This is part of Google’s ongoing efforts to create age-appropriate experiences that includes inbuilt features that bar businesses from posting age-sensitive ads targeting teens.

A new feature where minors and teenagers aged below 18, their parents or guardians will be able to request deletion of their images from all Google portals will also be activated.

This in addition to Google’s digital literacy program, Be Internet Awesome that helps children learn how to use the internet safely. Earlier innovations by Google have enabled parents through  Family Link to launch supervised google accounts for their children.Other Google products for young digital citizens include YouTube Kids app, Kids Space and teacher approved apps in Play.

Products to be affected by the new policy in the coming months include Google Workspace for Education that provides teaching aids, Google Search where the SafeSearch on feature will be activated by default for existing signed-in users under 18 as well as be made available by default to teens setting up new accounts.

The new children safety policy also includes text and voice-operated Google Assistant, to use its artificial intelligence capabilities to ensure no adult content surfaces when children are using the digital gadgets. Users of Google Assistants can open apps, send messages, make calls, play a specific song on YouTube Music, check the weather, control smart devices, set timers and many other things via voice commands.

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Location History that is permanently off by default for children aged under 13 years is soon to be extended to teen users under the age of 18 globally without the option of turning it on.

In Google Play  a new safety section that will let parents know which apps follow our Families policies”has been launched and it requires that developers provide more information on how they use personal data collected from users of their applications thereby making it easier for parents to choose applications they feel are right for their children before they download it.

Mindy Brooks, General Manager, Kids and Families at Google says the new digital wellbeing tools allows parents to use Google’s  Family Link to set up supervised accounts for their children, set screen time limits as well as keep tabs on what their children do while online.

“We are committed to building products that are secure by default, private by design, and that put people in control. While we do not allow children under 13 to create a standard Google account, we have worked hard to design enriching product experiences specifically for them, teens, and families,” she adds.

Ms Brooks says the development is informed by increased internet usage by children during the pandemic to study as well as get informed, connect with their families and friends as well as be entertained.

“As kids and teens spend more time online, parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts, and policy makers are rightly concerned about how to keep them safe. We engage with these groups regularly and are always working on new ways to tailor our product experiences and user controls specifically for younger people,”said Ms Brooks.