Google Play streamlines kids app policies as regulations tighten – TechCrunch | Team Cansler

Google Play today announced a number of changes to its programs and policies around kids’ apps. The company describes the update as an extension of its previously launched “Teacher Approved” program, which includes a review process where teachers and experts review apps not only for safety elements, but also for educational quality and other factors. The newly revised policies now affect how apps qualify for this program, giving apps access to the Kids tab on the Play Store.

These changes should help streamline some of the guidelines for apps for kids, which in turn will increase the number of apps eligible for the teacher-approved program. Additionally, these policy updates and other changes will force Android app makers to comply with stricter regulations and laws regarding software targeted at children.

Previously, Google Play ran two (sometimes overlapping) programs around apps aimed at kids.

App developers were required to participate in Google’s Designed for Families program if their app targeted children, and could optionally participate in the program if their app targeted both children and older users. The Designed for Families program included a set of requirements related to the app’s content, its functionality, use of ads, data practices, use of alerts, feature set, underlying technology components, and more.

All of the apps in this program were also eligible for the teacher-approved program, which had stricter guidelines, but participation was not guaranteed.

Now the additional policy requirements for the Designed for Families program are being merged into the Play Store’s broader family policy. These latter guidelines require apps to comply with applicable laws and regulations related to children, such as the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Family Policy also prohibits access to precise location data, prevents developers from transmitting children’s device IDs, and includes additional privacy and content restrictions, among other things.

For developers, the merging of the Designed for Families requirements into the Google Play Families policy simplifies and strengthens the rules for developers around apps that target children. And with this change, all apps that meet the now stricter family policy can apply for the teacher-approved program.

However, the requirements of the teacher-approved program do not change, and only a subset of apps that meet the overall family policy qualify.

The teacher-approved program itself was first rolled out in April 2020 – at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. By that time, many schools had switched to virtual learning, and children were spending more time on their devices to learn and be entertained. The apps selected for Teacher Approval not only met safety and regulatory requirements, but were also reviewed by a panel of academic experts comprised of more than 200 US teachers.

The panel evaluated the apps, among other things, on various aspects such as age-appropriateness, quality of experience, enrichment and whether children enjoy using the app. This information is then displayed in the app’s Play Store listing if the app is approved so parents can determine if the app is appropriate for their child.

Consumers can find these teacher-approved apps under the Kids tab in the Play Store, or they can look for the Teacher-Approved badge in an individual app’s listing. With the update, all apps that comply with the family policy will also soon receive an additional badge that will appear in the “Data Security” section of their app list. This badge indicates that the app is committed to the Play Store family policy.

Photo credit: Google

In addition to merging its two family policies, Google also noted that it recently updated its Families Self-Certified Ads SDK program. Vendors of SDKs (software development kits, or software used by developers to extend the functionality of their apps) now need to determine which versions of their SDKs are appropriate for use in family apps.

In 2023, Android app developers in the Families program will only have to use the SDKs identified as suitable – although Google suggests developers now switch to these more secure SDKs.

These changes aren’t just for developers or consumers – they’re also helping Google comply with tighter regulations being considered, drafted and enacted around the world on how software is allowed to handle children’s data – like the EU GDPR and the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code . Failure to meet these requirements can result in significant penalties, as Meta recently learned when it was fined around $400 million for handling child data on Instagram.

Leave a Comment