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Google: Children-friendly products are in the works

In a new initiative, Google is developing versions of its most popular products for children. That means search, YouTube and the Chrome browser specifically engineered for the needs of kids 12 years of age and younger are coming. The Mountain View, Calif., company did not announce a timetable for the rollout.

Google already has introduced kid-oriented virtual Maker Camp, Doodle 4 Google competition and Made with Code initiative, USA Today reported. The new initiative is a “full-time effort” out of the so-called Kids Studio at Google’s San Francisco Bay Area offices, where the employees’ children experiment with new product prototypes.

Leading the new initiative is Google vice president of engineering Pavni Diwanji, who spoke with USA Today extensively. The mother of two children herself, Diwanji said “there’s a push to change our products to be fun and safe” for kids.

USA Today notes that Google’s new initiative may be controversial, because targeting the youth segment with products and services has landed 20 tech companies in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The cases involved “mining young user information without parental consent.” The most recent case involving Yelp, which was “fined $450,000 for failing to implement a functional age screen in its ratings app.”

Diwanji shared an anecdote with USA Today involving one of her children that illustrates how Google’s products may mystify children. When her daughter Googled “trains” and the results showed Amtrak train schedules, the 8-year-old came up to Diwanji and said, “Mommy, you should tell Google about Thomas the Tank Engine, because Google obviously doesn’t know about him.”