Play Store 'Designed for Families' program will feature kid-friendly Android apps

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Google says it’s launching a child-friendly version of the Android app store in a few weeks, and is seeking developers to help build it.

Developers can submit their apps if they meet certain advertising and content guidelines. Google will then display these apps in a “new family experience so that parents can find suitable, trusted, high-quality apps and games more easily,” the company said on its developer portal.

It’s unclear exactly how the Designed for Families section will work, but Google says it will offer apps in six categories: Action & Adventure, Brain Games, Creativity, Education, Music and Video, and Pretend Play. The existing “Family Games” section of the Play Store will be deprecated in 2015.

The story behind the story: Google has been talking about offering kid-friendly versions of its apps and services since last year, and in February the company launched a kids version of YouTube for iOS and Android (though not without complaints). But the creation of a family-friendly Google Play Store section is a bigger deal. It means parents will have a much easier time controlling their children’s activities, especially when paired with user profiles, and will allow Android as whole to better compete with the kid-centric services on Amazon devices.

Stricter rules for children’s apps

According to the program requirements, all apps must have a content rating equivalent to ESRB Everyone or Everyone 10+. Advertisements also need to be kid-friendly, with no depictions of violence, nudity, drugs, or gambling, and no trailers for any film rated higher than PG.

More importantly, developers will need to adhere to strict requirements on how their ads behave, in part because of federal child privacy protection rules. Apps cannot use interest-based advertising, and ads must be distinguishable from the main content. Ad placement must be limited to one per page, and apps cannot use “ad walls” that force the user to interact with it. Interstitial ads are still allowed, but can’t pop up immediately after the app launches.

Google is also telling developers to only include its Google+ Sign-In or Google Play game services as an optional feature, and only if the app is targeted at more than just children.

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