By Amanda Weston
As students and teachers prepare to go back to school, Google is rolling out new features and games to improve online learning tools used in the classroom.
Among the latest offerings is The Be Internet Awesome game, which is designed to teach children healthy online habits.
"We know the importance of monitoring our online identity, taking care of our passwords, our safety and security, but we've thought about, 'how do we get this to kids in a way that is simple for them to understand?'" LaToya Drake, a Google spokesperson and media outreach lead, said Tuesday in an interview on Cheddar.
The light format shouldn't distract from the important lessons contained in the games, she said.
"It has a host of games and activities that kids can use to learn exactly the things that we as adults think about," Drake said. "But you want kids to start learning this early on because it will be something that sticks with them, and it hopefully teaches them that 'good hygiene,' I like to call it, in staying safe online."
Drake said 30 million teachers and students use Google Classroom worldwide. The program includes a "locked mode" for its testing software, which prevents students who are taking computerized pop quizzes from searching for easy answers online.
Google is also considering how to help children disengage when they need to shift their focus away from screens, Drake said.
"Internally, we call it 'the joy of missing out,' and we're starting to put these features in the devices," she said. "Example one is, if you turn over your phone, you'll start to see this in Android, it's called snooze mode. So it's as easy as just flipping the phone over. It turns off the sounds. It turns off notifications. It allows you to kind of step away."
Drake also shared Google's top back-to-school search terms for 2018. They include clothes, hairstyles, do-it-yourself locker decorations, and the best ways to bring a healthy lifestyle to campus, she said. One of the most popular searches was for glue. It's the key ingredient in homemade slime, which is popular among children.