Last month, as I geared up to teach my daughter “Bug” to code, we built a better map of our neighborhood than Google had. On one level, it was a moment of empowerment. But on a deeper level it was a lesson about the futility of fighting Mountain View: The Fusion Tables my 6-year-old and I used to build our map are just one of a suite of Google Drive apps, and all the data we manually pulled together went back to the mothership.
Kids generally (and Bug specifically) get this. If you want a peek into how deeply they trust consumer-facing brands, drive them to McDonald’s and order them something new, and note their willingness to try anything Ronald boxes up in a Happy Meal. Now attempt to swap generic oat circles for the big yellow Cheerios box.
Kids today want to trust brands, and that’s why digital companies are trying to break into the Happy Meal demographic. Google is reportedly aiming to build child-friendly versions of its services, and the Instagram-for-kids app Kuddle raised millions in funding. This all suggests a move toward a Nickelodeon-ization of the Internet that allows you to plant your kid and walk away.