Google is Making a Porno-Proof Search and Other Kid-Friendly Versions

By Kate Knibbs on at

As much as parents want to protect their kids, it's near impossible today to totally block access to the internet. Google is moving forward with plans to create child-friendly versions of its most popular products to help kids under 12 go online safely.

Google's VP Engineering Pavni Diwanji, who leads the project, talked about the plan today, discussing how her own children were motivators. "I don't want them to feel like they're going to the back room to use technology," Diwanji explained. She didn't mention a timeline or which specific features would get their 'Lil Guy Kidz version, beyond showing screenshots of a child-friendly search un-creatively named Safe Search Kids, though it's likely YouTube and Android will make the cut.

We'll know more as soon as more details are revealed, but I suspect this will be incredibly difficult to implement. According to the children's online privacy law COPPA, websites and services need to get consent from parents to legally be used by children under 13. Many services, like Facebook and Snapchat, formally do not allow people under the age limit to use their services. But there are tons of 12-and-unders using social media because getting around the age requirement is as easy as taking candy from a baby who is too busy posting to Tumblr to properly guard his lollipop. Kids just put in a different date of birth.

The primary way most of these services enforce the rule is by age-gating, a profoundly stupid and ineffectual policy. Google doesn't even have an age gate though, so F for effort—an actual newborn could search "breastfeeding yum" and see some seriously freaky shit if they had substantially accelerated motor skills and access to the internet.

The challenge Google is up against is making services for children that are legitimately more appealing than their normal services in the eyes of children. Otherwise it'll be hard to force kids to switch, especially when they're in the 10-12 age range, which is primetime for your first "what is a rim job" Google experience. [USA Today]

Screenshot via USA Today