Google revamps Assistant parental controls and adds a kids' dictionary

You can limit what your kids play and ensure answers are age-appropriate.

Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Kids love to use smart speakers, but it's all too easy for things to go horribly wrong — including content that's decidedly not family-friendly. Google is trying to address those worries by both revising parental controls for Assistant and providing more child-oriented responses. To start, an update will let you disable some Assistant features, restrict the services children can use and establish downtime hours. You can bar kids from making calls, or limit them to watching YouTube Kids on a Nest Hub.

The controls will be available in the "coming weeks" through the Google Assistant, Google Home and Family Link apps for Android and iOS. They'll be available in the Assistant settings for your child's account.

Google is simultaneously encouraging kids to ask more questions. It's adding a "Kids Dictionary" to Assistant that provides age-suitable answers on speakers, displays and mobile devices. If your young one asks what a telescope is, for instance, you'll get a simple explanation rather than discussions of optics and electromagnetic radiation. There are also four new "kid-friendly" voices that are slower, more expressive and otherwise better-matched to childhood development.

Google is relatively late to these kinds of features. Amazon's Alexa has had parental controls for a while, and can help kids read stories. Even so, this is good news if you've wanted more choice in kid-oriented smart speakers and displays. You can likely get the device that meets your grown-up needs without worrying quite so much about your little ones.