Google Makes Safety Changes to Chromebooks to Protect Children from Graphic Content Online
By Movieguide® Staff
After Google’s Chromebook made the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s annual “Dirty Dozen List” due to minimal safeguards for children, the company announced new safety features.
The NCOSE claimed that the Chromebook laptop “perpetuated” the sexual exploitation of children with minor restrictions on graphic sites like pornography. As the COVID-19 pandemic meant many schools shifted to online learning, the NCOSE noted the danger that the Chromebooks posed to students who were issued them for school.
However, Google announced that they added new settings to help protect students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We’re launching a new age-based access setting to make it easier for admins to tailor experiences for their users based on age when using Google services like YouTube, Photos and Maps,” Jennifer Holland, director of education program management at Google, said. “Starting today, all admins from primary and secondary institutions must indicate which of their users, such as their teachers and staff, are 18 and older using organizational units or groups in Admin Console.”
Holland added that following Sept. 1, underage students’ Google products would act differently.
“For example, after Sept. 1, students designated as under 18 in K-12 domains can view YouTube content assigned by teachers, but they won’t be able to post videos, comment or live stream using their school Google account,” Holland said. “If admins don’t make a selection by Sept. 1, primary and secondary institutions users will all default to the under-18 experience, while higher-education institutions users will default to the 18-and-older experience.”
While schools already implemented safety tools like SafeSearch and SafeSites, Google plans to add these same tools as a default to student’s devices.
“Now, SafeSearch and SafeSites will be on by default, and Guest Mode and Incognito Mode will be off by default. Admins can still change each of these policies on Chrome OS for individual organization units,” Holland said. “The Google for Education team is committed to creating tools and services that are secure by default and private by design, all the while giving you complete control over your environment.”
NCOSE CEO Dawn Hawkins responded to the changes, commending Google on taking action to keep “millions of kids safer.”
“These crucial improvements will drastically limit the amount of exposure to harmful content and potential predators through school-issued Chromebooks,” Hawkins said. “These changes will also greatly ease the burden on administrators and teachers — who are often left without sufficient IT support — to try to figure out how to turn on all the safety features.”
Movieguide® previously reported on NCOSE’s “Dirty Dozen List”:
The concern surrounding the Chromebook is its increased use in online schooling due to the pandemic.
“Google has refused to take simple measures that would significantly reduce kids’ exposure to pornography and predators,” NCOSE reports. “Even prior to the pandemic, we read countless news stories and received personal accounts of children easily accessing harmful material through their school-issued Chromebooks — at school and at home,” explained NCOSE.
The report continued: “Now, with overburdened school administrators and overwhelmed teachers and parents trying to navigate new technology tools and the challenges of virtual schooling, devices are often left insufficiently protected: leaving children even more vulnerable to accessing harmful material like pornography and being accessed themselves by predators.”
Outside of the classroom setting, the concern around the safety of children in relation to media has made tremendous strides following investigative journalist Nicholas Kristof’s scathing expose uncovering the illegal activity of MindGeek and Pornhub.