Following the recent introduction of parent-controlled watchlists on Google TV and the revamp of its parental control app Family Link, Google today announced it’s also now bringing parental controls to its Google Assistant platform. The new features will roll out over the next several weeks to Google Home, as well as the Family Link and Google Assistant apps on iOS and Android, and will allow parents to limit or even entirely disable certain Assistant functionality, configure kid-friendly settings, adjust downtime and more.
In addition, the settings will allow parents to configure default services, restrict kids from making calls and limit what sort of answers they can get from the Assistant. The update will also introduce new kid-friendly features and new voices.
With the new Assistant features, parents will be able to select which music and video providers the child has access to, including YouTube Kids, YouTube and YouTube Music. This limits them from being able to explore content from other services.
With the parental controls, parents and guardians can specify which features their child can access through Assistant — like whether they can make phone calls on smart speakers, whether they can use Google Actions, what kind of answers they receive (basic or all, the latter which could contain mature content), whether they can play music or videos, whether videos are filtered and more. Parents can also choose to shut off access to news and podcasts on their child’s devices if they prefer.
A new feature called Kids Dictionary is being added, as well, in order to offer the option of having Google Assistant provide more age-appropriate answers. When the Assistant detects by way of the voice matching feature that a child is asking a question, it can switch to the Kids Dictionary to respond with easy-to-understand definitions better suited to younger people. This will work across smart speakers, smart displays and mobile devices, Google notes.
In addition, Google Assistant will gain four new kid-friendly voices that speak a little slower and in a more expressive style, designed to enhance the Assistant’s storytelling capabilities and aid in comprehension.
To complement Google’s existing screen time controls for other devices, parents will be able to set up downtime hours for Assistant, too. That way kids couldn’t stay up past their bedtime asking Assistant questions or playing music or games, for instance.
The changes are a part of a broader set of reactions among tech giants in the face of increasing scrutiny by regulators and lawmakers over how their tech products are used by children, how they do or do not protect children’s privacy, what sort of data is collected and how it’s used. In light of these developments, Google last year introduced increased protections for minors on its platforms, including Search, YouTube and other apps.
More recently, however, Google’s focus has been on empowering parents to adjust specific settings across select Google services to offer further protections that are more customized to their own family’s needs. This month, for example, the company redesigned its main parental controls app, Family Link, which now allows parents to configure geofences with alerts and make one-off adjustments to screen time without changing their normal schedule, among other things. The company also introduced new parent-controlled watchlists to its TV platform, Google TV, as well as AI-suggestions for kids.
The new Assistant features can be changed in the supported apps or with voice commands, like “Hey Google, open Assistant settings” or “Hey Google, change your voice.” They’ll become more broadly available in the weeks ahead.