With Google’s new version of Android comes improved multi-user functionality. Google explains:
Share your tablet with friends and family – each person has a separate customizable space, including personal homescreens, wallpaper, apps, storage, and more. You can also manage access to apps and content to create an experience that’s appropriate for each member of the family.
Each member of the family? Really? What about those family members under 13 years old? Here’s what you get when you try to create an account for kids under 13:
Google does this because of COPPA, a U.S. law that requires online web sites and services to get parental consent for all children under the age of 13 before they can share any information with the web site.
At the press event announcing the new Nexus 7, Google demonstrates a child’s profile and how the access restrictions can be managed by parents. In this situation, the child user does not appear to be old enough to have a Google account. This child’s profile is sort of sub-account that lives within the tablet’s environment and does not need to be associated with a Google account.
However, without a Google account, the child cannot manage his or her own content used in other Google services. Apps like Drive, Calendar, and Maps will need an account to save content. Many parents just let their child use a parent account for these other Google services. Other parents create an account for their child with a false birthday. I suspect that most parents don’t use the multi-user features at all.
I think Google could do more for families. We have Google Apps for business and education. Why not for families? Instead of prohibiting accounts for children under age 13, Google should redirect to a space where parents can create and manage accounts for their kids. Here parents could control access restrictions for the accounts and pass the account over once the child is old enough.
Google already has a plan for the death of Google accounts. It’s time they improve the process for the birth of Google accounts.