Google Earth

App review by
Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Media
Google Earth App Poster Image
Must-see geographic exploration tool; watch for iffy videos.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about our amazing world through first-person data -- actual satellite views of the Earth. Kids can see melting ice sheets in Antarctica, devastation from Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, and mining operations in Colombia, as well as photovoltaic arrays in San Francisco and thriving wildlife refuge areas in Hawaii. Unfortunately, the search database is abridged and it lacks the PC version tools and special views as well. Google Earth app is an unparalleled tool for exploring the Earth, though much less powerful than the PC version.

Ease of Play

Not difficult to navigate, but the controls aren't entirely intuitive or well named. Locational icons are sometimes incorrect or incorrectly placed.

Violence

Entries include access to YouTube videos, which may include violent content. With enough tapping around, kids can get to videos that include a range of violent activities.

Sex

Entries include access to YouTube videos, which may sexual content. With enough tapping around, kids can get to videos that include nudity; some but not all of these videos require age verification by signing in to Google.

Language

Entries include access to YouTube videos, which may include iffy language. With enough tapping around, kids can get to videos that include harsh language.

Consumerism

You may randomly encounter commercial locations but no direct ads. Entries include access to YouTube videos, which may include commercial content.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Entries include access to YouTube videos, which may include references to drinking, drugs, or smoking. With enough tapping around, kids can get to videos that glorify these activities.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although it doesn't offer the same level of functionality or search power as the PC version, the Google Earth app is still a must-see for any citizen of the modern age. You can still zoom around the earth, select layers, and submit eye-level photos served up courtesy Panoramio. However, you cannot access the full search or other databases or make use of the fantastic PC-version tools and special views. One item unique to the app is a menu of nearby iconic images that you can tap for quick access. Parents should be aware that city entries include access to YouTube videos, which can include iffy content. With enough tapping kids can get to the desktop version of YouTube within the Google Earth app, where they can search for anything they want.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byCooldee July 16, 2012

See the world without leaving home!

If you love to travel and see different parts of the world, you will love Google Earth. Google Earth is also for people that cannot afford to travel, love to e... Continue reading
Adult Written byJulian W. February 17, 2018
Teen, 16 years old Written byBlueDragonMaster98 May 30, 2010

Fun and Educational

See the Earth, moon, and mars with amazing detail considering the moon hasn't been visited in many decades and mars remains lifeless as it has for many yea... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 18, 2010

What's it about?

Google Earth flies you across the globe using time-delayed satellite images of the Earth including overlaid icons providing facts and services. Look Around button anchors you — limiting viewing to tilt up and down and 360 degrees. When Look Around is off, Pan mode (both ironically named) allows user to explore freely across terrain by swiping. Zoom in with a double click and zoom out by placing and spreading two fingers.

Is it any good?

Google Earth is an outstanding and unprecedented resource for curious explorers. You can see a satellite view of your own home, famous landmarks, contours of the ocean floor, and open terrain -- all with astonishing detail. You can also share screen shots or submit your own ground-level photos for display on Google Earth. Layers function allows you to display information about notable places, businesses, and relevant outside websites including Wikipedia entries. It's a little creepy to consider that privacy has been altered so dramatically, but at the same time, how cool to be able to zero in on the home of your third cousin on the other side of the country to see where your great-grandfather was born.

The app search function is not nearly as powerful as the PC version, and controls are not entirely intuitive (but help and tutorial provide relatively clear explanations) and screen navigation can lead to selecting informational icons by accident. Loading time can be slow depending on virtual altitude and connection speed, and image quality is occasionally poor. Icons can litter the display when all layers are selected. Most importantly, because the app allows access to YouTube, kids can easily stumble onto (or search for) very iffy content. A setting to block this functionality would be a major improvement.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Plan a virtual trip to India to see Gandhi's birthplace.

  • Create a special family tour by stringing together searches of residences or travels -- trips you've taken or plan to take someday.

  • Play "Where are we?" 20 questions.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding, geography, global awareness
    Science: ecosystems, geology, plants, weather
    Arts: photography
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, asking questions, collecting data
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: December 19, 2012
  • Category: Reference
  • Size: 0.00 MB
  • Version: varies with device
  • Minimum software requirements: varies with device

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