Ever since Google opened the digital doors to its Google+ social network in June, it's been an adult-only area.
Today, the company changed the terms of joining the network, allowing in teens for the first time. In the United States and most other countries in which Google+ is available, anyone 13 or older can now join. Facebook has the same age requirement.
Google vice president of product Bradley Horowitz, a co-leader of the Google+ effort, announced the move in a post on the network, taking a swipe at competitor Facebook along the way, noting that teens have unsatisfactory networking options now.
"Unfortunately, online sharing is still second-rate for this age group," Horowitz wrote.
He pressed the point, suggesting that other unnamed services are essentially blunt instruments for sharing information, making it difficult to selectively notify friends of personal tidbits that would be of interest to them.
"In life, for instance, teens can share the right things with just the right people (like classmates, parents or close ties). Over time, the nuance and richness of selective sharing even promotes authenticity and accountability," Horowitz wrote. "Sadly, today's most popular online tools are rigid and brittle by comparison, so teens end up over-sharing with all of their so-called 'friends.'"
Not only does that diminish the functionality of the service, it also reduces privacy and raises safety concerns. When teens share personal information broadly, there's the potential for predators to see it.
Google+ lets users create circles of friends, groups such as "The Soccer Team" or "The Chess Club," which they can then share posts with directly. That way, they don't overwhelm other contacts with information that might not be relevant to them.
In addition, Google has launched a new Google+ Safety Center with tips for teens and parents to prevent unwanted behavior.