Google has announced a new section in Google Play which has been designated as being safe for kids. The section will come with a “Family” button that will feature a green, smiling star icon and will show alongside content that has been designated as being family friendly. Google had already announced its intentions to earmark a section meant for children with a “Designed for Families” initiative, aimed at developers. This will require mobile app publishers to voluntarily undergo an additional review before their apps are earmarked as being safe enough to be included in the ‘family friendly zone’ of Google Play. There is also another new addition to the Play Store, a button bearing the label “Children’s Books”, which will allow guardians of minor children to filter content by their genre, and also by their kids’ age. While the new features have not gone live on Google Play just as yet, the company says it will introduce them around the world within the next couple of weeks.
Google has also made good on its promise, made last March, to work closely with various ratings agencies around the world to develop age-based ratings and make more information available to parents, with a view to helping them make a more informed decision. Some of the international organizations that Google is said to be working with are International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) and its various affiliates, like the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), Australian Classification Board, Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) and Classifica§£o Indicativa (ClassInd). What this means in essence, is that apps on the Play Store will, from now on, come with the exact same ratings that are found on boxed software. The ratings will vary from country to country, and by working closely with regional bodies, Google will be able to denote local ratings to its apps, as deemed fit by each regional ratings agency, and downloads can be restricted through parental controls, based on the awarded ratings. In the U.S. for example, Play Store apps and games will come with familiar ratings like “Everyone (E),” “Teen (T),” “Mature (M),” etc.
But strict ratings is not the only thing Google is planning to introduce on Google Play. The company also revealed that it plans to bring “family star badges” to its app store – a feature, which will denote the age-appropriateness of a given app, movie or book, to help parents understand for which age group the app is most suitable for. Apps with ads and “freemium” apps that might offer in-app purchases will also be clearly demarcated, for parents to take cognizance and exercise due diligence. Google has also tried to make it easier for parents to find games and apps dedicated to favorite kids’ characters, including those from PBS KIDS, Porono, Peppa Pig, Nickelodeon etc. Many well-known children’s brands are apparently already part of the program, including, but not limited to Crayola DJ, Cutie Patootie, Thomas’s Musical Day for Percy, Doozers-Play Along Stories, etc.