The new features added recently to the Google Play store help parents to find apps, games and videos that their children can enjoy. This includes a Family filter for parents to find games, movies, TV shows and apps that are appropriate for all ages. There’s a new star badge that shows the age range for apps and the ability to search apps based on age range. In addition there are pages on the store that are specially created for popular children’s brands.
Google Play product manager Eunice Kim has said in a blog post that parents can now ‘find destinations’ in the Play store and there are new features that allow them to browse by age and interest. The blog post goes on to say “We’re also providing more useful information about apps and content on Google Play and improved tools so you can decide what’s right for your family.”
Google announced in March that it was launching a new age-rating system for Android apps and games. This has been realised in the star badge system which now allows parents to easily see which age range a game or app is suitable for. There’s also a new review process for all apps to go through before they’re allowed to go live on the Play store.
In addition, the Google Play store will also notify parents if an app approved for family playing includes advertising. This is a development on the existing system which alerts parents to available in-app purchases. Parents will also be able to restrict the purchases and downloads of apps, games and shows that aren’t suitable for kids via updated parental controls.
Kim has said that Lego and Barbie are two of the most popular searches on Google Play and each of the new brand pages will have app, ebook and movie recommendations based on the relevant characters. Kids favourites such as Peppa Pig, Frozen, Thomas & Friends and Star Wars will each have their own page on the Google Play store which children can explore and parents can purchase content that their child is interested in.
In 2013, Apple launched a ‘Kids’ category as part of iOS 7 in its App Store. The App Store categorises children’s apps by their age rating and suggests collections from individual brands. Google’s newest features form part of a wider movement to encourage children and parents to use its services and improve features for those that already do.
February of this year saw Google launch a new YouTube Kids app which was described as a ‘friendlier version of YouTube for families’. The app claimed to provide child-friendly videos without having to log in and with the comment section hidden. However, watchdog groups in the US have hit out at YouTube Kids because of advertising within the app and sponsorships or product placement in the videos of child-centered YouTube channels. The app has also come under fire recently for allowing videos containing alcohol and swearing to be included on the app.
YouTube has funded a new show by Minecraft gamer Stampy in a bid for more child centered exclusives. Four of the top five YouTube channels were aimed at children in March of this year and Google may see such popularity as an opportunity to expand their current kids offerings.
Google has recently acquired Launchpad Toys, a company which develops apps and online toys for children. Launchpad created a collection of storytelling apps called Toontastic and the TeleStory app which allows children to create videos. In addition, Google has patented an idea for an ‘anthropomorphic device’ that can listen to voice commands and detect movement as well as being able to control smart home devices. The device was illustrated as a teddy bear and toy rabbit, but many patents are filed by lots of big companies and it doesn’t mean that the product will ever be developed or come to market.
It will be interesting to see how much further Google and YouTube can tailor their service towards parents and children, especially after the criticism that YouTube Kids has recently received.