Unveiled in beta form, Google's new Chrome "supervised users" allow parents to set up restricted profiles for their children that block specific sites or only allow access to approved "whitelisted" sites, providing granular control of a child's internet access.
"To help those who may need some guidance browsing the web, we’re kicking off a beta channel preview of a new feature called supervised users," said Pam Greene, a software engineer for Google in a blog post.
Sweep of history
Google's Chrome browser is available as a free download and will run on Windows, OS X and Linux, while its Chrome OS laptops such asa the Chromebook 11 are built solely around the Chrome browser.
Google's safe search can also be activated permanently, filtering adult content in search. Parents will also be able to view a child's browsing history.
Once set up, "you’ll be able to visit chrome.com/manage to review a history of web pages [your son] has visited, determine sites that you want to allow or block, and manage permissions for any blocked websites he has requested to view," Greene explained.
But as with any restrictions, children may be able to find a way to bypass them.
"If there is a "hack" to bypass Google's new features then kids will quickly find out what this is," said Richard Edwards, consumer IT specialist at research firm Ovum. He suggested that education of children to the dangers of the internet is just as important as content restrictions.
"If a child knows why his or her parents have put this layer in place then maybe they'll think twice before they sidestep it. Speaking as a parent, getting a child to think twice is ultimately the best you can hope for," Edwards said.
Google Chrome holds 40.8% of the browser market share of desktop and laptop computers according to data collected by StatCounter in September, significantly larger than the 28.56% market share for Internet Explorer and Firefox's 18.36%. Apple's Safari holds a smaller 8.52% of the browser market share.
Children using restricted user profiles will be able to specifically request access a site, which parents will then have to manually approve, allowing children to add sites with approval that are essential for homework assignments, for example.
"Chromebooks with this kind of potential for parental internet control, as well as Amazon's Kindle with its family settings, are a tremendous development," said Stephen Balkam, chief executive of Family Online Safety Institute.
"We are very encouraged by this kind of general development, particularly at a time when we're now seeing tablets for two-year-olds, the ability to restrict internet access for the young and shift to a more monitored environment as they grow older is incredibly important," Balkam explained.
Google has enabled the restricted user features within its test version of its Chrome browser called the Chrome Beta channel, which allows users to install early versions of Chrome to get new features faster and for testing, as well as its Chrome OS Chromebook laptops.
"Non Windows devices have little concept of shared or managed use, so I expect to see more of this kind of thing appearing on post-PC devices as parents focus on the actual use of these devices by their children," said Richard Edwards, consumer IT specialist of research firm Ovum.
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