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Google+ & Tech Savvy Kids: #COPPA Fail?

Samantha DeVita
Google+ & Tech Savvy Kids: #COPPA Fail? Samantha DeVita

"Hey Sam, my boss' 8-year-old son just joined Google+ and sent him a friend request. Surprise! He didn't even know about Google+. He wants to know about parental controls and how he can activate them on his son's account. Do you have any insight into this…"

This is not one I get everyday at R2integrated, that is for sure. I received this email from a friend, and at first I was shocked that an 8-year-old was able to sign up for a G+ account. But, as FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently stated: “In this era of rapid technological change, kids are often tech savvy but judgment poor.” I have to agree. And as a parent myself, I started thinking about the larger issue –online privacy and security related to G+, and what it means for parents and children/adolescents.


In January, children 13 and older in the U.S. became eligible for a Google+ account. In accordance with the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Google introduced a number of security and privacy settings to help protect underage users.

If you are a parent with a child online, you need to familiarize yourself with this information.

I would start with the Parents’ Guide to Google +, a basic primer on the workings of Google Plus and how it fits into the larger social space. More importantly, it is full of tips and instructions for having conversations with your kids about the Internet as well as instructions for implementing settings that will help protect your children.

Google has a number of tips and advice for parents in their Family Safety Center. Here’s a quick and dirty run down of the special default settings Google has instituted for teens:

  1. Setting profile sharing to only “my circles” for information such as gender, introduction, bragging rights, occupation, employment, education, places lived, links, other names, “looking for” and relationship status.

  2. Information defaulting to “Only Me” includes home contact information, work contact information and birthdate.

  3. Google+ does not display the names of people under 18 alongside ads and does not allow people under 18 to co-watch age-restricted videos in hangouts.

  4. Google+ prevents teens from navigating directly to pages that are designated for 18 and older. Teens also can’t add those pages to their circles but it may be possible for a teen to see these pages in search results or in a comment on someone else’s post.

Keep in mind that Google works with the information they’re given about a user. Children can overthrow these default settings by giving an older age, which could be what happened in my friend’s situation. So, my question to you is…Does COPPA fail if it can be quickly overridden? Do you think this type of moderation is a parent’s responsibility? Or in a perfect world, is it a combination of both?


to leave comments.

Commenter: Jerome Singh

2009, August 24

David, Today one has to always question how the research by those who normally do a good job and have the reputation to back it up arrive at such misplaced conclusions. The recent FDA directive on mercury amalagam tooth fillings as safe after posting warnings about its toxic effects is a similar mind altering event.
Who pays the piper calls the tune??

Commenter: Florian Pihs

2007, August 29

I think Atlas' research provides an interesting perspective on Search advertising. The results definitely make sense to me, their conclusions and recommendations are questionable. Even if I believe that search advertisers should spend less on their own branded keywords (which I so), wouldn't it make sense to distribute the search ad budget on other keywords instead? You can do SEO for maybe 10 keywords to get great organic results, but you can buy ads for several thousand keywords and phrases. These keywords and phrases will continue to generate effective and targeted search traffic, as compared to spending more on less targeted banners.

Commenter: Adam Lefton

2007, August 26

The equation to value the impact of branded paid search goes something like this: maximum spend = direct marketing impact from branded terms (i.e sales margin) + brand building impact (i.e. lift in brand awareness, favorability and intent to purchase) Youn Bean's assertion that marketers may be sub-optimizing by spending too much on branded terms addresses efficiency, not maximum spend. The equation to maximize efficiency of the spend is something like this: efficient spend = direct marketing impact from branded terms (i.e sales margin) + brand building impact (i.e. lift in brand awareness, favorability and intent to purchase) - excess spend (i.e. paid spend where purchasers would have clicked through on the organic results) The problem with the latter equation is something advertisers have faced for a very long time... We know half our advertising dollars are wasted, the problem is we don't know which half.

Commenter: Sean Cheyney

2007, August 23

David, Your assessment is right on the money. As much as I respect Young Bean Song, his assessment of bidding on branded terms is way out in left field. For us and other marketers that I have spoken to, the branded search terms yield the highest ROI.