Google+ offers more restrictive user experience for teens

The safeguards are intended to protect teenagers from over sharing and strangers

Google+ is now officially welcoming teenagers and tailoring the experience of the social networking site for them by making it more restrictive and potentially safer.

Until now Google+ had been technically for people 18 and older, although it is well-known that minors routinely enter false ages to get access to sites that have a minimum age restriction in their terms of use.

Be that as it may, teens who sign up with their real ages at Google+ will have a user experience that features special safeguards intended to prevent them from "over sharing" and to protect them from strangers with bad intentions.

For example, Google+ will display a warning whenever a teen user tries to share content -- photos, videos, posts -- publicly with everyone on the site, instead of just with the hand-selected people they have on their contact lists, which are known as Circles in Google+.

In addition, people who aren't in a teen's Circles will not be able to contact them via the site. Also, in the video chat Hangouts feature of Google+, teen participants will be booted from the session when someone outside of their Circles joins, and then given a chance to re-join if they wish.

The approach has been to "build awesome features that teens really want, encourage safe behavior through appropriate defaults and in-product help, and make abuse reporting tools easy to find and use," wrote Google+ Vice President of Product Bradley Horowitz in a blog post on Thursday.

More information about Google+ safety features, practices and policies can be found on the site's Safety Center.

Other social networking sites also offer safety restrictions for minors, including Facebook. The problem has been that it's very difficult for these sites to verify users' ages, so many teens and children get around the restrictions, as several studies have found. For example, last year Consumer Reports did a survey and found that 7.5 million Facebook users were under the site's minimum age of 13, including 5 million who were 10 and under.

For Google+, the age definition of a teen is 13 or older in the U.S. and elsewhere, except in Spain (14 or older), South Korea (14 or older) and the Netherlands (16 or older), according to a Google spokeswoman.

Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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