In a first (official) move for social networking, Google is preparing to open up its venue for younger users. The company has announced that it will offer accounts for children under 13 years old, which could open up a potential new market for the site, but also some complications that could lead to problems down the road.

Beforehand, Google didn’t offer such accounts in Gmail and YouTube to younger kids, even though they could still log in anonymously and/or lie about their age when it came to verification.

The new system allows parents to set up the accounts for their kids, still keeping tabs on what kind of content they can see and access, as well as what private information is collected during their web-surfing sessions.

This follows the news that Google was looking to provide a younger user-friendly version of YouTube for tablet computers, also with parental controls, even though that project hasn’t been given a release date as of yet.

The main reason this could be a problem for Google is because of COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. With it, limits are placed in terms of how information can be gathered for young users on the Internet, with parents’ consent required. However, Google appears to be quite compliant with the rules when it comes to this move.

Not everyone is convinced, however. “Unless Google does this right it will threaten the privacy of millions of children and deny parents the ability to make meaningful decisions about who can collect information on their kids,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, an online privacy group.

That group has already talked with the Federal Trade Commission about Google’s new business practice, and plans to chat with its legal team on a plan to keep tabs on Google to make sure the services are properly rolled out.

No word yet on if the FTC had any response, as it appears to be ongoing.

What do you think Would you let your kids have their own Google accounts

Source: Wall Street Journal