Judging by the age selector option in the new Google+ Pages that lets admins limit features to those over the age of 18, users under 18 will eventually be able to join the social network. Currently, Google+ is limited to those ages 18 and over, and excludes those ages 13-17 who are permitted to set up a Gmail account. While it was assumed that Google+ would lower its age restriction to the COPPA-compliant 13 and over demographic when it completed its “field test”, the age selector option makes this all but assured.
Using the age selector on the Google+ Pages product launched this morning, admins can set it so “interactive features that require the user to be logged in will be limited to users that are that minimum age or older” according to Google+ support. The age options include ‘Any Google+ user’, and ‘Users 18 and over’. The second option would only be necessary if users under 18 could some day use the service.
When Google+ first launched and again when it was opened to the public, some were surprised it excluded a demographic known for sharing high volumes of content. That sharing and the willingness of younger demographics to invite their whole network to new services could have helped Google+ grow. Google may have assessed that building in walls to separate minors from the rest of the user base wasn’t a priority.
That might not have been the wisest move as I see Google+ as having squandered its initial growth momentum such that it will never attain the wildfire spread of Facebook. That growth may not be crucial to Google’s plans or the service’s longterm success. It could also have helped set more mature norms about the types of content and relationships hosted on Google+. Still, raw user count is important to attracting developers, brands, and more users.
Now it seems that when Google+ is ready, it will admit those ages 13-17, and Pages related to topics unfit for minors such as tobacco will be able to exclude logged in youngsters. Furthermore, the potential ability for Google+ Pages to target posts to specific age groups such as minors could be a way to one-up Facebook’s Pages product.