Google Play is introducing a program called “Designed for Families.” Developers of apps will be able to opt into the program if their games and apps meet the requirements for the family-friendly label. The program will expand the range of games and apps that have video game ratings for parents.
This will include some obvious requirements like no alcohol use, sexual content, or violence. There will also be a few others that parents might be pleased about:
- The game must be rated E10+ (or below) by the ESRB—something the ESRB has only recently implemented for many mobile and indie games.
- If the game displays ads, they must comply with legal standards for advertising to children. They cannot include Internet-based advertising. They must contain content consistent with the app’s rating. Advertising must not contain deceptive information or placement, such as pop-ups that appear in front of app buttons. Ads must also be clearly distinguishable from normal app content, and there can only be one ad per page or screen.
- Any interactive elements must be fully disclosed. That includes any sharing of information, location disclosure, or online interactions with other users.
- Apps must not use Google+ sign-in or Google Play game services as the login experience for the app.
Google notes that Google Play currently houses a lot of well-trusted, quality apps and games (like those from PBS and Tynker). But these family-friendly games are basically mixed in with some that might be less appropriate for kids. The process of reviewing apps submitted to the Designed for Families program will be a little more rigorous than the usual ratings review. If developers lie about their content their product could be removed from Google Play entirely—a high price to pay. This could keep shadier companies from sneaking in unsafe apps.
Parents will be able to click on the star and find apps, games, movies and TV homepages that are rated and organized by target age group. Users will also be able to restrict content using parental controls.
These changes to the Google Play store will be rolling out over the next few weeks. Let us know what you think!