Google courts controversy with plan for accounts aimed at children
Google looks set to allow children under 13 to create their own accounts to use popular services such as Gmail, apps and music.
The move will put privacy and parents groups on alert, although the search engine is said to be looking at ways to ensure the accounts are closely supervised.
The initiative is focusing on YouTube and Gmail access, with apps accounts also being considered.
Tablet computers are very popular with Irish children, outselling video game consoles here over the last two years. But Google's age restrictions mean that children have to use parents' accounts or lie about their age when trying to download apps on their own devices.
Google spokesman Peter Barron declined to comment on what he called "rumours and speculation".
But US reports claim that the move will allow parents to closely monitor their children's online activity, with access to statistics about what their children are doing using the Google services.
Nevertheless, the plan will cause concern for many parents, as children are seen as more vulnerable to data-gathering than legally consenting adults.
Rival services such as Facebook and Apple iTunes also require members to be at least 13 years of age, although Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he would like to see the service opened up to children of all ages.
The social networking giant recently filed a patent application that would allow children under 13 to nominate a parent already using Facebook as a safety sponsor. This adult would then gain extensive oversight controls over the child's Facebook account.
Google recently courted controversy when it revealed it scans personal Gmail messages for evidence of illegal images .
Online privacy has recently become a hot topic among social media users, with Facebook's Messenger app requiring access to smartphone cameras, microphones and contact lists.