August 10, 2015

Google Products Like YouTube and Google Maps Are Becoming More Kid-Friendly

A young girl sits cross-legged and plays with her smart tablet.
By Megan G. 

Last December, VP of engineering at Google Pavni Diwanji was interviewed by USA Today and asked about the company’s upcoming initiatives for 2015.  She revealed that Google was going to create family-friendly versions of its products, an initiative created in response to the growing number of Google employees who were starting families.  

This initiative would include everything from Google Chrome, to Gmail, to YouTube, and even Google Maps, the latter two being their most recent child-friendly projects.

How has YouTube become more family-oriented and how would a child-friendly Google Maps work?  Let’s explore both of those ideas in this Tek Shouts article!

YouTube Kids Kicks Off… With a Slight Stumble  

The YouTube Kids Logo, featuring the YouTube "play" icon with a smiley face.
The YouTube Kids app logo.
Like a Teletubby, but a TeleForeheady.
Image from 
Google Play.

The creation of YouTube Kids is one of the many moves Google has made to create more interactive and useful online experiences for kids via Google products.  

The application went live Android and iOS app stores back in February, and the product featured an eye-catching design and search functions to family-focused content.  At least, that was the intent.  

Unfortunately, YouTube Kids has run into some filtering hiccups that include inappropriate adult content, including a Casino-inspired spoof featuring Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street

A screenshot of the YouTube Kids app
A screenshot of YouTube Kids.  Image from Ars Technica.

According to an interview with Variety, Google works “to make the videos in YouTube Kids as family-friendly as possible... and [YouTube makes] it possible for anyone to flag a video.  For parents that want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off search.” 

Perhaps a rather blunt response to parents wanting to protect their children from vulgar content, Google’s response acknowledges the fact that YouTube has always been a platform open to the public.  That’s part of what makes YouTube so awesome.  On the flip side, humanity is known to have its dark side.  With every adorable kitten video that’s uploaded, there’s something vulgar not far behind.

A photograph of a scared-looking Persian Cat kitten.
“Why did I click on that… why?”  Curiosity scarred the cat. 
Image from Autumn Bench.

All this being said, there have been no reports of inappropriate content reaching young viewers for a couple of months.  

Google is known for its quick responses to user concerns, such as with the Google Map Maker kerfuffle, so the Tek Team has no doubt the internet company means to amend this problem as soon as possible. 

Overall, the YouTube Kids app appears to be well-received, with nearly 15,000 5-star reviews on the Google Play Store and a slew of happy parents in the comment section. 

Job Posting Reveals Plans for Google Maps Kid-Friendly, “Enriching” Content

Still viewable through Google Career search, the job listing “Product Counsel, Geo” was posted last week by the tech giant.  The position involves working “on the most exciting legal issues as disruptive technological innovations require creative and proactive legal guidance.”  I love the term disruptive technology.  It makes techies sound so rebellious.

A still of Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta, from the movie Grease.
Hey girl, can I disrupt your world with my beacon program?  Image from Rap Genius.

The most interesting part of this job listing is the second paragraph—

“You will be the Product Counsel for a mixed portfolio of work across Geo and Google’s efforts to make our products more useful to kids.  In this role… You’ll work closely with teams from a wide range of product areas as they explore products designed to delight and enrich kids."

According to speculations from Business Insider, Geo products like Maps and Earth could be due for a kid-friendly revamping.  Although there has been no comment from Google in regards to their future plans for Google Maps, we can guess that the internet company would build an educational and vibrantly designed program much like their other kid-focused projects.  I wouldn’t doubt the inclusion of interactive activities like the ones featured in Camp Google.

A screenshot from Ocean Week of Camp Google:  What's Down There?
One of the many activities from Google’s online summer camp.  Image from Camp Google.

Also, with Google Maps-powered games such as GeoGuesser already available for adults and kids alike, I could definitely see some educational games coming out of the woodworks for Maps.  I know one of the toughest sections in school for me was memorizing the States and other geographical facts.  Heck, I still don’t really know where Montana is.  (Sorry, Montana.)

An image of the state Montana highlighted on a map of the United States.
“We’re not even that far from California, Megan.”  Image from Wikimedia.

A high-tech, fun interactive experience from our favorite tech company might be the trick to keeping subjects like geography interesting and accessible for kids… and geographically-inept adults like me!

What else could a kid-friendly Google Maps have to offer?  Let the Tek Team know about your ideas in the comment section!   

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