I was excited about the possibilities that a project like this coming from an organization like Google could bring. Everything Google does is cool and cutting edge and I was hoping for another home run in their long list of successful ventures (YouTube, Picasa, Buzz, Blogger, Gmail, Chrome, and about a hundred other subsidiaries, not to mention their ever-improving search engine). Like a fan at a Red's game, I watched the pitch with great anticipation as the launch of Google Family Center approached...the swing of the bat...a hit....and...a short little blooper over the short stop's head. A single...but definitely not a home run.
A few months ago I did an article about Disney's lame attempt at child safety online. Companies like Disney...and Google, with all of their power and momentum, should be able to come up with something ground breaking; something that really advances the cause of Internet safety for kids. Instead, both came up with a lukewarm attempt that was just a repeat of stuff other people are already doing. Almost as if they were just looking to "say" they are doing something instead of actually doing something. Google could have done a lot more than they did.
So what does Google Family Center offer parents and teachers? Here's the list:
- Google Safety Tools - this is the most useful feature of this new service (though that's not saying much). It contains directions for enabling safety features in Google search and YouTube.
- Report Abuse - provides instructions for how to report abuse or offensive content found on YouTube, Buzz, Picasa, and Blogger
- Advice from Partners - a list of links to the standard Internet Safety websites
- Video Tips for Google Parents - a small collection of videos of (apparently) Google employees talking about Internet safety issues with their own kids.
If it were anyone else, I would probably give the site a 4+ on my 10 point scale, but because of what Google COULD do if they really wanted to, I give Google Family Center a 3- (barely). Maybe this is just the first step. Maybe a year from now this service will be super cool. I hope so. But for now, don't waste your time. Come on Google...you're better than this.
Here's the link: http://www.google.com/familysafety/