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Beginning next year, though the exact time has not been specified, Google plans to create specific versions of its most popular products for Googlers aged 12 and younger. The products that are likely to see change are YouTube and its evergreen search engine.
Pavni Diwanji, the vice president of engineering charged with leading the new initiative, said: “We want to lay the foundation right, and then make sure every single part of Google is great for kids. They are the future, so why not give them the tools to let them create it.”
Google processes 40 000 search queries a second, which translates to over 3.5-billion searches a day and 1.2-trillion searches per year worldwide. Assuming that a big chunk of those are children, suggests that bringing out child-friendly versions of its products is a pretty good idea.
“The big motivator inside the company is everyone is having kids, so there’s a push to change our products to be fun and safe for children,” said Diwanji.
“We expect this to be controversial, but the simple truth is kids already have the technology in schools and at home,” says the mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 13.
“So the better approach is to simply see to it that the tech is used in a better way.”
Google executives have noted that this will be a full-time effort.
“We want to be thoughtful about what we do, giving parents the right tools to oversee their kids’ use of our products,” said Diwanj.
“We want kids to be safe, but ultimately it’s about helping them be more than just pure consumers of tech, but creators, too.”
These kid version of popular Google products follow the company’s recent kid initiative such as virtual maker Camp and Doodle 4 Google competition and Made with Code, which will see the lights of White House Christmas trees lit based on coding programmes by kids from coast to coast.
Google has also cleared legal issues surrounding obtaining children’s user information without parental consent.
Diwanji admits the challenge Google will face in targeting kids and the limits, but adds that as a parent she “is a big believer in coaching moments for kids, rather than just blocking what they can do. I want to enable trust in them. Thirteen isn’t some magical number. I want to teach them what’s right and wrong, and bring families together using technology.”
Google is also figuring out ways in which parents can oversee their child’s interactions with Google’s technologies and limit usage to set time frames.
“We want to enable supervision but not be regimental,” Diwanji told USA today, “but that’s challenging because no two parents are alike. I have friends who are helicopter parents and others are even more liberal than me, but everyone has to be accommodated by whatever we create.”