Hey Google, why can’t my kids phone home?

During Google I/O summit, Google announced calling capabilities for Google Home, but there is a problem

Earlier, I wrote the article “IoT is going to kill your smartphones.” I stand corrected. Google and Amazon are moving toward that in the future. Yesterday at the annual Google I/O Summit, Google announced new capabilities for its Google Home device that takes your phone away from it.

Google Home is attacking the core features of a phone: making calls. Yes, you can now call people from your Google Home device. Google can either tie your existing phone number to your account or offer a private number, as Google already offers a number through Google Voice service.

But those are just the details, which Google will iron out in time. The bigger picture is that Google is going to change the way we interact with each other. It will change the dynamics at home and in the work environment.

Because Google Home can now detect up to six users, it means when you tell Home to call your mom, the call will be connected to your mom, whereas when your wife gives the same command it will call her mom.

However, there is one big problem in Google-verse. I found Google to be very unfriendly towards kids. What happens when my son says, “Hey Google, call mom”?

Who will Google call?

Unlike Apple, Sony, Nintendo and many other companies that offer content for the entire family, there is no official way where I can add my children to Google services. They can’t have their own playlist on Google Music or YouTube, but they can have their profile on Netflix, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, iPad, and iPhone.

This is a bit disappointing because it also means that my kids can’t use Google Home. If Google expects people to replace phones with Google Home, it needs to become family-friendly.

Here is what Google must do. Google must offer supervised accounts for children that can be managed by parents or guardians. Child accounts would have access to online purchases—including apps, games, and content, made by parents in addition to an option for parents to allow or restrict kids from making their own purchases. Parents would have full control over which apps or services should be accessible to children. It’s no different than the way we do things in the real world. Simple.

However, there is one condition. There is one restriction that I would put on Google. The company must create a policy for supervised accounts where it will not store any online activity or search history of supervised users on its server or use it for any advertising or tracking. No such data ever leaves the device. I know the value of learning through usage to improve experience, but kids are off limits. What Google could do is store and process all such data locally to improve the user experience, without compromising privacy.

The result would be that my children could play YouTube videos, listen to music, play games, ask questions, and literally do everything that I do, without messing up my account.

Supervised accounts will also allow my kids to use Home to call me, my wife, their au pair, or friends. Right now if my son says “Hey Google, call mom,” Google doesn’t know who to call. What if there is an emergency?

I see Google Home as an integral part of my household, we use it all the time. But lack of support for supervised accounts is limiting its usage.

Google has ignored family values for way too long. I think it’s about time Google become kid-friendly.

Hey Google, are you listening?

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