Internet services want users, and much like religions and smartphone ecosystems, it's best to convert them when they're young. But a string of US federal regulation, including the last year's overhauled COPPA rules, provide necessary restrictions and protections for youngling web surfers. But Google isn't giving up and is working on a legal and kid-friendly solution.
According to a paywalled report by The Information, Google is reconstructing its online properties in hopes of creating legal services for would-be users under 13 years old. The three changes highlighted were a possible kid-friendly version of YouTube, a control panel giving parents easy access to their children's web activities, and age verification on Android devices.
Facebook encountered a similar challenge when a report from 2011 uncovered that almost half of all online 12-year-olds in the US used Facebook "illicitly" considering the social network's 13-and-up user agreement. Facebook considered a kid-centric service later in 2012, but ultimately, nothing came of it.
As Gigaom mentions, under COPPA's expanded rules, websites must now get "verifiable consent" from parents so kids can legally use their service. This is particularly tricky and costly for sites like Google and Facebook to employ, but a stronger focus on internet safety and privacy protection for kids could benefit both parents and billion-pound social networks. Mum and dad get peace of mind while Gmail subscriptions get a noteworthy bump. Of course, what's stopping a determined, tech-savvy 12-year-old from outwitting his parents and doing whatever they want? That's just growing pains. [The Information via Gigaom]